Life with autism: A Japanese schoolboy opens the door

    Naoki Higashida was born in 1992 and diagnosed with autism when he was 5. While still in junior high school, using a Japanese language alphabet board to communicate, he completed The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism.

    Brave, smart and sometimes quirky, the book is a mix of stories, reflections and questions-and-answers about life in that alternate reality of autism. It has just been published here in English in a translation by KA Yoshida, wife of famed novelist David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas), who provides the introduction. The couple have an autistic son.

    Here’s an edited excerpt from Higashida’s The Reason I Jump

    Why do you make a huge fuss over tiny mistakes?

    When I see I’ve made a mistake, my mind shuts down. I cry, I scream, I make a huge fuss, and I just can’t think straight about anything anymore. However tiny the mistake, for me it’s a massive deal, as if Heaven and Earth have been turned upside down. For example, when I pour water into a glass, I can’t stand it if I spill even a drop.

    It must be hard for you to understand why this could make me so unhappy. And even to me, I know really that it’s not such a big deal. But it’s almost impossible for me to keep my emotions contained. Once I’ve made a mistake, the fact of it starts rushing toward me like a tsunami. And then, like trees or houses being destroyed by the tsunami, I get destroyed by the shock. I get swallowed up in the moment, and can’t tell the right response from the wrong response. All I know is that I have to get out of the situation as soon as I can, so I don’t drown. To get away, I’ll do anything. Crying, screaming and throwing things, hitting out even . . .

    Finally, finally, I’ll calm down and come back to myself. Then I see no sign of the tsunami attack — only the wreckage I’ve made. And when I see that, I hate myself. I just hate myself.

    Why do you repeat certain actions again and again?

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