Monday, June 26, 2017

58 Questions and 58 Answers

I read Naoki Higashida's 'The Reason I Jump' (2007) years ago in Japanese. (で東田 直樹の「自閉症の僕が跳びはねる理由」)

The 2013 English translation is done by novelist David Mitchell and his wife KA Yoshida (who are parents to an autistic son), so I went through it again, just to look at the nuances. However, in this case, the author's thoughts might not be fully represented in a translation no matter how much of it is kept to the original spirit of the story. Not going to nitpick at whatever though. (Reviews herehere, here, and here.)

Diagnosed with severe autism at age five, the author was 13 years old when he 'wrote' this memoir by spelling words from a Japanese alphabet grid (40 hiragana letters). Ten years later, now 25 years old, and is managing his autism well. This isn't a book about the autism experience or anything medically related. This comes as close as one can to telling the world what Naoki Higashida possibly thinks and feels. Every autistic child and adult is different.

Q32 When you look at something, what do you see first? 
But for people with autism, the details jump straight out at us first of all, and then only gradually, detail by detail, does the whole image sort of float up into focus. What part of the whole image captures our eyes first depends on a number of things. When a color is vivid or a shape is eye-catching, then that's the detail that claims our attention, and then our hearts kind of drown in it, and we can't concentrate on anything else. 
Every single thing has its own unique beauty. People with autism get to cherish this beauty, as if it's a kind of blessing given to us. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we can never be completely lonely. We may look like we're not with anyone, but we're always in the company of friends.

I occasionally work with special needs children, and see autism fairly often in the adults on my care roster. I salute the parents for finding strength and faith in raising them, caring for them often till they're adults as old as I am. As much as some of us are introverted, and heavily so, we're not autistic, so please don't say we're 'almost' autistic. It's a terrible description of ourselves, and of others. Or when dealing with bad behavior or unaccepted social norms from adults, we jokingly try to explain "Maybe she's autistic!" That's really not how we should speak.

Q57 What causes panic attacks and meltdowns? 
But of course, we experience the same emotions that you do. And because people with autism aren't skillful talkers, we may in fact be even more sensitive than you are. Stuck here inside these unresponsive bodies of ours, with feelings we can't properly express, it's always a struggle just to survive. And it's this feeling of helplessness which sometimes drives us half crazy, and brings on a panic attack or a meltdown. 
When this is happening to us, please just let us cry, or yell, and get it all out. Stay close by and keep a gentle eye on us, and while we're swept up in our torment, please stop us hurting ourselves or others.

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