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Why Don't We Jump?

A look inside a different mind.

When I was in the Boy Scouts, the organization introduced a Handicap Awareness Merit Badge. To promote this new badge, they gave campers at the National Jamboree a chance to try sports that had been modified so that they could be played by people with physical challenges. This included playing wheelchair basketball and trying to catch a beeping baseball while blindfolded. Participating campers, by temporarily stepping into another’s shoes, were given the opportunity to gain some empathy for those who deal with these challenges on a full time basis.


Unfortunately for those on the autism spectrum, it is not as easy to replicate their experiences for those who are neurotypical. The communication difficulties that people on the spectrum experience often prevents the most severely affected from even describing how they experience the world. However, advances in technology and understanding are helping to close the gap. One result is The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida and translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell.


Higashida, who was diagnosed with autism when he was five, has little access to communication through speech. However, through the perseverance of an educator and his mother it was discovered that he could communicate through the use of an alphabet grid. At first a caregiver would translate this pecking into sentences, but now it is accomplished more efficiently through a computer. The wall between the autistic and physical worlds was broken.


In the The Reason I Jump, Higashida invites the reader to “a nice trip through our world.” However, as the father of two autistic daughters, I did not always find the reading to be pleasant. A recurring theme throughout the book is the deep sadness the author felt at not being able to please his caregivers. He would often know what was expected of him but could not get his mind or his body to conform. It was a harsh reminder that no matter how frustrating it may be to care for someone who is on the autism spectrum, it is nothing compared to living on the spectrum.


Thankfully, the book does offer practical solutions for improving relationships. For example, under the heading of “Q14 Why do you ignore us when we’re talking to you?,” the author explains that he does not always recognize that someone is talking to him and that this is not the same as deliberately ignoring. His simple solution is that it “would help us a great deal if you could just use our names first to get our attention before you start talking to us.” Under “Q53 Why are you obsessive about certain things?” he explains that it is in response to a need and makes one simple request. “When our obsessive behavior isn’t actually bothering anyone, I’d ask you just to keep a quiet eye on us.” In situations where these behaviors must be stopped, he says “we may well make a terrible song and dance about it, but in time we’ll get used to the idea. And until we reach that point, we’d like you to stick with it, and stick with us.”


I found hope in the fact that Higashida has indeed found the “special” in “special needs.” He says at one point that given the option to wipe away his autism he might not take it. “But so long as we can learn to love ourselves, I’m not sure how much it matters whether we’re normal or autistic.” In another he explains the detail in which autistic people experience the world and how they have the ability to see the unique beauty of every object. Wouldn’t we all like to break free of our constraints and jump until we feel lighter as if we could “change into a bird and fly off to some faraway place.”

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Carl Petersen III January 06, 2014 at 10:34 AM
John David January 06, 2014 at 12:03 AM "I wish you and your daughters well." ___________________________________________________ Thank you. The same to you and your family.
John January 06, 2014 at 02:06 PM
Carl, Thanks! I missed the second part, so I appreciated watching it. I'm going to add the book to my wish list and must read list...
John Mews January 06, 2014 at 02:07 PM
Hi Carl, thank you for a great post. I've been debating on posting a blog about this book also. We have so many misconceptions of autism and this book makes it very clear and helps the unautistic person be more graceful and understanding. I'm also curious is there parents who have adults with special needs in the area? If so I would love to know what resources are out there. I'm starting a choir program for adults with special needs and looking to collaborate with organizations in the SF valley area/Agoura Hills, etc. thank you for getting in touch with me: john@mewsicmoves.com
John Mews January 06, 2014 at 02:11 PM
Here is a link to a documentary on the choir program that I created in Canada and want to bring here. Thank you to anyone who can help or who is interested:)http://youtu.be/hvdH56MBrIQ
Dale Murrish January 06, 2014 at 05:40 PM
Good article, Carl. Thanks for taking the time to write it. No doubt you’ve seen the movie Temple Grandin, about the autistic lady, now a college professor, who persevered and ended up designing the cattle slaughtering equipment for half the beef produced in North America. Her mother was tenacious for her, like no doubt you and your wife have been for your daughters. Temple Grandin is an inspiring movie for everyone who has a handicapped child, or who struggles with a chronic disease or a lost limb. She has a can-do spirit that allowed her to excel despite her limitations.
Steve Mrtl January 07, 2014 at 09:36 AM
Carl - my best wishes and prayers for you and your family in your struggle with autism. God Bless.
John David January 09, 2014 at 12:04 AM
One thing I must mention.  As Carl points out the capabilities of Naoki were brought out by the perseverance of his mother.  Dale mentioned the tenacity of Temple Grandin's mother. As a father of an autistic adult, my wife and I have always been and are still our child's advocates and support.  I also have a younger sibling with severe cerebral palsy, who despite having use of only one hand, who never walked and has speech difficulties, was supported by our parents as long as they lived, enabling a career with the US Dept of Education and the abilities to live independently.  But Carl pointed out the perseverance of an educator was key for Naoki.  I will tell you that a parent's advocacy alone is not enough.  To raise a disabled child requires the help of many professionals, doctors, teachers, physical, occupational, speech and psychological therapists, researchers, aides, counselors, neighbors and friends, family, civil leaders who have enacted laws supporting and assisting the disabled, and many more, including taxpayers who fund many services.  All of these resources give opportunities for the disabled to succeed and live.  For every Helen Keller there has to be an Anne Sullivan, or a team of Anne Sullivans.
Carl Petersen III January 09, 2014 at 10:21 AM
Thank you, Steve M.
Carl Petersen III January 09, 2014 at 10:25 AM
John David January 09, 2014 at 12:04 AM "To raise a disabled child requires the help of many professionals, doctors, teachers, physical, occupational, speech and psychological therapists, researchers, aides, counselors, neighbors and friends, family, civil leaders who have enacted laws supporting and assisting the disabled, and many more, including taxpayers who fund many services." ___________________________________________________ Well said. The only thing that I would add is that it also sometime requires the kindness of a stranger who is willing to offer a smile instead of judgment.
John David January 09, 2014 at 03:03 PM
Carl, absolutely.
Dale Murrish January 09, 2014 at 05:28 PM
Agree with Carl and John David’s comments about a large support team being necessary for parents with special needs kids. They have a rough road and deserve support, especially kindness from strangers and caring doctors, etc., which doesn’t anybody cost anything!
Charles Murray January 12, 2014 at 11:49 AM
Great article, and thank you for sharing! As an adult with high-functioning autism myself, I can certainly relate to the communications issues, and the special interests and obsessions bothering or not bothering anyone else. It's embarrassing when I finally figure out someone is talking to me, and I have seemingly ignored the first half of whatever it is, because I had no clue it was intended for me to hear. Talking; even if addressed to me directly with eye contact, can be nothing but additional background noise, if I'm not prompted ahead of time to listen. And it was also awkward for me to explain to the Ventura County dept of Building &Safety, that I must have a Cold War era air raid siren on the roof of our new garage because I like and collect them. And it is awkward to ask people to change seats with me in a restaurant so that I won't be obsessed with a burned-out light bulb across the room, and thus space out while dwelling and obsessing over it. Tragically, sometimes we are so misunderstood by others; such as police, that it costs our lives (I can cite recent incidents where several police officers stand accused of killing autistic adults. These include Kelley Thomas, as well as a friend of mine for 30 years; Robert Bandler, age 75, who was shot and killed on his own balcony in Bel Air by the LAPD, when they could not understand his behavior in September last year. The bottom line here, is EDUCATION and UNDERSTANDING. It goes so far beyond embarrassment or struggle in social situations. I fear on a daily basis that I could be the next Robert Bandler or Kelley Thomas, if a young and inexperienced cop misunderstands my body language. Given that any particular police offcer, TSA agent, or whomever armed, may see a 190-lb bodybuilder coming at them fast to ask where the mens room is, and they may read something inaccurately in my body language or in my eyes, which scares them into firing on me. The bottom line is that a little education goes a LONG way!
Steve Mrtl January 16, 2014 at 01:49 PM
you are very welcome carl.
Steve Mrtl January 16, 2014 at 01:50 PM
Komfort - while i may agree with you a lot, this particular blog/article is no place for political posturing.
Komfort January 16, 2014 at 04:22 PM
I agree, Patriot. I am deleting them now.
rubberband January 26, 2014 at 01:25 PM
Charles Murray:"The bottom line is that a little education goes a LONG way!"-----------Damn straight. Just read this....In my family, there are three of us who are varying degrees of high-functioning autistic/aspies.....I too have written about being quite frightened of law enforcement/EMTs/ Security personnel at various public places or venues misinterpreting my body language, behaviors or assuming I am hostile or "suspect"...of course I take responsibility for training myself and my son to be aware of how we might appear, and have adopted a "palms out" approach and talking slowly so I don't alarm them...It's really quite daunting, because often we can seem a bit odd (some of my stimming behaviors include pacing and being in almost constant movement or the EXACT opposite, which can include intense staring and rigid body..) either way, a bit of education on autism is very much appreciated and needed. I adjust to survive in a largely neurotypical society and do not feel victimized...I work hard to understand NT culture and behaviors so I can adapt...AND making the effort to understand autism is neurological, our brains work differently....we are bright, useful, unique and important parts of this world....Include us and learn!----------- (Sorry that you lost your friend, Mr. Murray.)
Dale Murrish January 30, 2014 at 08:56 PM
Hi Carl - Sorry that this neutral article didn't get more comments. It was a really good one. If you're interested in posting any of your articles on our club website, too, please contact Marcus Chen at marcus@USAmeltingpot.org. http://troy.patch.com/groups/dale-murrishs-blog/p/layoffs-at-patch-changes-coming
Carl Petersen III February 16, 2014 at 10:52 AM
Thank you, Dale. Yes, comments do seem to die pretty quickly when there is nothing to argue about. I do appreciate the fact that you liked the subject of this blog.
Carl Petersen III February 16, 2014 at 10:58 AM
Thank you Charles Murray and Rubberband for sharing your experiences.
rubberband February 16, 2014 at 02:39 PM
Charles Murray's comments were sorta like having someone watch and then report to the world...I have SO BEEN THERE. Watching my son figure out how to "be" in the world largely inhabited by NTs and the lack of understanding about spectrum individuals is......sometimes very stressful and sometimes endearing and can heart punch me faster than anything. With as literal as we can be, and as curious about NT behaviors that make no sense whatsoever to us, the conversations we have as aspies/high functioning auties CAN be rather amusing, poignant, painful, and almost always helpful...I appreciate blogs like this, and others sharing their experiences...Thank you. (Monrovia patch is where my thread about aspergers/autism and ADD are......it seems if there isn't an argument, stuff dies pretty quick...such are NT humans, eh?)
Panglonymous February 16, 2014 at 03:05 PM
I recently used this clip: ___________________________________________________ A recurring theme throughout the book is the deep sadness the author felt at not being able to please his caregivers. He would often know what was expected of him but could not get his mind or his body to conform. It was a harsh reminder that no matter how frustrating it may be to care for someone who is on the autism spectrum, it is nothing compared to living on the spectrum. ___________________________________________________ to evoke a little understanding for an elderly family member. It worked. Wonderful.
rubberband February 16, 2014 at 03:24 PM
^ O Panglonymous...so true, and such perfect the use of this information. Dementia and Alzheimers frequently has moments of perfect clarity and self-awareness, and the crash back into the reality that they are trapped in a world where they actually KNOW that current events and memories will slip away AGAIN is probably one of, if not the sometimes cruelest aspect. Compassion and understanding trump anger and willful ignorance every time...Looking at this statement both ways from autistic point of view: imagining my "NT ambassadors"/few friends might be surprised on how much I appreciate their patience and mindfulness around my "spectrum stuff"...It is time to express that to them; they keep me informed and show tremendous patience when I do not understand NT world, even at this age. I do HEAR/SEE them trying...really. I'm trying, too...it gets lost in the weird ether between how brains work and communication is normally expected. If I could just share a single slice of my brain like a CAT scan or a instant picture, they'd see what it looks like from here, and that I am capable of caring. Thank you, I will write to them and express my gratitude.
Panglonymous February 16, 2014 at 04:10 PM
Rubberband, is an inconstant/erratic compassion better than none at all? Because I fail and have to apologize and retract a fair amount. It sucks to be us at those times (when I fail.)
rubberband February 16, 2014 at 04:29 PM
Yes. Better I think to work those muscles out....Funny, I just became aware I had my "somewhat sardonic BEEN THERE smile on." O.K. BIG MENTAL SIGH.... My outbursts and typical lack of filter get me into moments I find myself needing to apologize for. ( gotten better with the filter thing; it is an exercise of constant mindfulness.) So , I researched "apology/sorry/compassion/empathy....This is normal for me to handle "i don't know" type of issues in THIS way...I research the complete and utter hell out of something...Became very informed about apologies, how and when they are appropriate, how to word them, how to express effectively, being sorry, and not wanting or meaning to hurt or annoy another human should be mirrored in how I treat them... Sometimes NT's can get very hurt or angry by things/events/moments I do not comprehend...turning my attention to understanding them and be mindful is the only real way I know to express this. Sucky-ist part is not really knowing what I missed or "did" that hurt someone....it takes a lot of work pushing aside my weird hyper logic or lack of emotional nuance and black and white thinking and hopefully an honest person on the other side to tell me what was hurtful, as I do not like and have little patience for hints/passive aggressive/guilt trips as communication...It won't be effective when dealing with a spectrum individual. Sure you know what I mean.
Panglonymous February 16, 2014 at 05:02 PM
"...an honest person on the other side to tell me what was hurtful, as I do not like and have little patience for hints/passive aggressive/guilt trips as communication..." ___________________________________________________ Yeah, folks pay beaucoup bucks for professionals to mediate toward that kind of communication. :-) I've told people "what makes me calm makes you anxious and vice versa." They get it but are not often persuaded to compromise.
rubberband February 16, 2014 at 05:28 PM
Mediated for others for various compensations, both financially and bartered. Much easier to do when one is the mediator and not a participant-Ha Ha....As far as the "calm vs. anxious" thing, that is my reality, as well. I have two people in my life that will compromise, differently, for specific issues. Two. Two is pretty good...Find some new NT's/friends. They exist. I felt compelled to explain it this way..."What you are wanting me to do with regard to fun/social time is like asking someone in a wheelchair to go jogging, with no accommodations...it's not gonna work...Now, my brain can seem like a wheelchair to YOU, and maybe it is, but I CAN go rolling and do A LOT with it and can be very capable, don't need your pity..I cannot GO JOGGING the way YOU DO, but we can still have fun.... Meet me in the middle...If you want my company, I cannot sit in the front row at the movies, however I CAN go to the movies....I need to avoid that restaurant with the florescent lighting, as it makes me bat$hit insane distracted, however I do like Italian food, maybe we can eat outside or get it to-go...Deal?" ...Bears and honey badgers have really close but very few friends :)
Panglonymous February 16, 2014 at 05:35 PM
lol, yep, and they persist...
rubberband February 16, 2014 at 07:07 PM
Very true: ".... What this means is that, when it comes to achieving goals, an extremely determined and persistent bear is effectively more intelligent than a lazy human being....." http://www.forbes.com/sites/yishanwong/2011/06/04/how-to-accomplish-difficult-goals-be-persistent-like-a-bear/
Panglonymous February 16, 2014 at 09:35 PM
Cheers, brother bear :-)
rubberband February 16, 2014 at 09:38 PM
/....*clink*

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