Date published: 2013
Paperback price: £9.99
Link to book on Waterstones website
Reviewer: Salvesen Mindroom Centre team
Reviewer expertise: Directly supporting families of children with learning difficulties, including autism
What is the book about and who is it aimed at?
“The Reason I Jump” recounts the first-hand experiences of a non-verbal teenager with autism, answering frequently asked questions and explaining the reasons behind his behaviour.
This book is aimed at parents of children and young people with autism, however it would give all adults with a connection to a young person with autism an insight into how the condition can be experienced.
A brief description of the book.
The book begins with a relatable introduction from author David Mitchell, who has an autistic child himself, and who found The Reason I Jump to be a lifeline in helping him develop a relationship with his child. The book was originally written in Japanese using facilitated communication, and was translated to English by Mitchell’s wife. It is worth noting however that there is some doubt regarding how much of the book was written by Higashida himself, due to lack of research evidence for facilitated communication as a technique.
Despite this, the book does give some interesting insights into Naoki’s experiences of life with autism, and it is written in a way that is incredibly easy to digest. Each chapter poses a frequently asked question, meaning that the book is easy to dip in and out of. The questions are divided by nice visuals which add to the digestibility of the book, along with short stories which aim to draw parallels with Naoki’s life experiences.
Is the content in line with best practice or research evidence?
The book is based on the author’s own experiences and therefore never claims to be best practice, however there are some pieces of advice given within the book that are contrary to evidence based strategies for young people with autism. For example, at one point the author asks those supporting young people with autism not to provide timetables or visuals, a recommendation that stands in contrast to research and practice evidence that this is a helpful strategy.
It is also worth noting that the communication techniques that Higashida uses are scientifically discredited and research suggests that the person facilitating this form of communication is the real source of the messages communicated using this method. However, ultimately when considering a single case like this it is impossible to be certain about the source, and our goal is not to discredit Higashida himself as an author.
Would this book be helpful for its target reader?
It is clear from Mitchell’s introduction, that the book is helpful to the parents/carers of some young people with autism, however it is worth reminding yourself throughout that the validity of the authorship of the book is up for debate and the advice given should be approached with caution due to this.
Alongside this, as with all personal accounts of a person’s experience of autism, it is important to remember that no two people with autism are the same and experiences can’t necessarily be generalised to all autistic individuals, despite the author’s consistent use of “us” and “we” to refer to all people with autism when describing his personal experiences throughout the book.
Nonetheless, the book does explore and explain various autistic behaviours and experiences, which give the neurotypical reader an insight into sensations and feelings they may not be familiar with, whilst encouraging readers to question the assumptions they may make when supporting a non-verbal young person with autism. The Reason I Jump reminds readers of the importance of patience and providing the correct support whilst always assuming capacity unless proved otherwise. Beyond this, the book practically provides some interesting prompts and questions that might help parents/carers consider the types of discussions they could be having with their young people to figure out the best way to support them, using Naoki’s answers to establish what their child/young person relates with or disagrees with. However, we would not recommend that a young person with autism reads this book unless they have a very secure understanding of what their autism means to them. Naoki’s personal experiences and subsequent advice could alienate autistic young people who do not relate, and prevent them from using helpful strategies based on Naoki’s advice.
What is your final, overall opinion on the book?
The Reason I Jump is a thought-provoking account, which claims to give a voice to a community which is often unheard. For those with experience of working/living with people with autism, the book serves to test our knowledge and question our assumptions. However we would not recommend this book as reading for parents & carers or professionals who are taking their first steps into educating themselves on the topic, despite the easy digestibility of the book. Though the book’s content does serve an educational purpose, the author makes some recommendations that are contrary to best practice, and its contents could be misleading or unhelpful if reading without a foundational knowledge. As with all first-hand accounts, we would recommend that anyone reading this book does so alongside other evidence-based literature.