The result is a book that acts like a door to another logic, explaining why an autistic child might flap his hands in front of his face, disappear suddenly from home – or jump.Keiko, who met her husband when he was teaching in Japan, began translating the work from her native language into English in the hope that it might help friends also coping with autism, but as work progressed, the Mitchells realised that Naoki’s insights into his condition demanded a wider audience.David got to work, refining the text and pushing for the publication in Britain. The Reason I Jump, which was published on Thursday, is now a best-seller on Amazon and was chosen for Radio 4’s Book of the Week. “I am learning that not everyone agrees with it and some people with autistic kids have sort of said 'hmm’ or expressed disagreement.
The normality of their first child, a daughter, helped raise their suspicions and speed up the diagnosis.
The author David Mitchell and his wife, Keiko Yoshida, have lived with autism for five years now.
The confirmation of their son’s condition was one of those handbrake turns in life, a drastic mid-course correction taking them in a different and initially unwelcome direction.
He head-banged the stone kitchen floor and it didn’t appear to be hurting him as much as it would hurt you or me.” Like millions of parents confronted with autism, Mitchell and his wife found themselves searching for answers and finding few that were satisfactory.
Help, when it arrived, came not from some body of research but from the writings of a Japanese schoolboy, Naoki Higashida.
The Reason I Jump is Naoki’s account of his own autism, a collection of answers to questions about his strange and sometimes disquieting behaviour.
By picking out words from a table of Japanese characters, the 13-year-old outflanked his inability to explain his condition verbally.
“There was this dawning realisation and the diagnosis was confirmation of what you had been suspecting for a while,” remembers Mitchell.
“It does set things in stone a bit and you know life is going to be a little tougher than you thought.” Not least the realisation that your child, the person in this world you should feel closest to, is now a stranger, locked away in a world of his own, imprisoned in solitary confinement by a lack of vocabulary and bombarded by sensory overload.