Essential reading for parents and teachers who work with individuals with autism who remain non-verbal
Once again, the invitation to step inside Higashida's mind is irresistible . . . Higashida challenges the common belief that people with severe autism are exclusively literal-minded. Time and again he uses metaphor to help readers understand his world . . . if any author can help us get a grip, it's Higashida.
There is much to be learned from it about this mysterious condition that Higashida regards as both a blessing and a curse. The book's single most important function is to drum into the sometimes thick heads of us neurotypical readers that people with autism experience a genuine and usually insuperable disconnection between what they want to say or do and what their brain allows them . . . Higashida's writing opens my mind to all sorts of possibilities for interpreting the behaviour of both my sons . . . a defining characteristic of autism is held to be lack of empathy, yet Higashida shows a delicate regard for the difficulties his condition creates and is adept at explaining his experiences in language that makes sense to neurotypicals . . . we should look with gratitude through the porthole he has cleared on to a submerged world.
Wise and witty, it offers a second insider's insight into the mysteries of non-verbal autism . . . The evolution of Higashida's insights is at times almost unbearably moving . . . Ultimately, though, his self-awareness is uplifting, reminding us to take joy in life's simple pleasures . . . sage and subtle . . . [a work] of illuminating beauty.
Higashida's books belong in the small but intense canon of "locked-in" memoirs, such as Awakenings or The Diving Bell and the Butterfly . . . Higashida reveals himself to be far more conflicted than before. The titles show how much the years have changed him. The Reason I Jump had joy shimmering through it. Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight - the title is taken from a Japanese proverb - is about persistence.
Readers are invited to observe the world from Higashida's perspective - and what a startling perspective that is . . . Higashida is wise beyond his years and constantly expressing his gratitude towards his family, above all his resilient mother. His pronouncements often ring with Yoda-like depth. He sounds like a village elder and it is impossible not to listen . . . challenges, even ones as seemingly insurmountable as those presented by severe disability, are negotiable. Hope - Higashida's favourite word - prevails.
The book rightly challenges the methods and attitudes that prevail in supporting people with autism. It is rich in metaphor . . . Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight should be read by many beyond the circle of parents seeking to understand their child. It places Mr Higashida among the first rank of gifted writers, not just writers with autism.
The Reason I Jump was a game-changer, not only for those with a special interest in autism, but for anyone interested in the sheer diversity of human brains. In short essays using crystalline prose, Higashida made a gentle but devastating case that autism had been entirely misunderstood: it was not a cognitive disability at all, but a communicative and sensory one . . . This follow-up may not have the same surprise value, but it does something just as inspiring: it shows us how, with a little luck, plenty of support and a huge amount of determination, a "neuro-atypical" person can forge a happy and fulfilled path into adulthood . . . Higashida's observations across a whole range of topics are moving and thought-provoking - all the more so for coming from the perspective of a social outsider.
Higashida's words are surely a vital message for all those who love and care for autistic family members or friends . . . his writing is poetic, with an inspirational tone that reveals wisdom beyond his years and an acceptance of diversity that we should all aspire to . . . Higashida holds up a mirror to conventional assumptions about autism, including those of health professionals, and challenges us to do better . . . The extraordinary impact that he is making on families across the world continues.