By Chet Yarbrough
By Naoki Higashida
Narrated by Peter Tom Picasso
Autism is a disorder of the brain that creates disconnect between thought and action. Autism exhibits in different ways that range from dissociative behavior to extraordinary music, math, and art skill. Naoki Higashida, at age 13, wrote a book about his autism to explain what it is like to be autistic. Higashida excels in the art of storytelling and writing.
Many have heard of Temple Grandin; in part because of a movie of her life, but also because of her extraordinary insight to animal behavior. Grandin is an American doctor of animal science, a professor, an author, and an animal behavior consultant for wildlife preserves and the livestock industry. Grandin is autistic. In reflecting on Higashida’s story, one is struck by how complicated life is for Higashida; and likely complicated for every person afflicted with autism.
Autism exhibits differently for every person but Higashida explains his autism is like being trapped in a body that often refuses to do what he wants it to do.A message that comes through Higashida’s story is that he experiences feelings any 13-year-old may feel. However, autism prevents communicating feelings that can be clearly understood by those around him. Communication with others is a frustrating and maddening cycle of misunderstanding.
Higashida notes that he lives in a world of sounds, sights, and actions that overwhelm his senses because of their cacophonous distraction. He is searching for signs that tell him what others are trying to communicate but is often unable to express his understanding. There is too much extraneous noise.
Sometimes, it is not the sensory noise. Higashida explains, it may be fleeting personal memories that demand attention and appear to others as mnemonic repetitions of nonsense or anti-social behavior. To Hagashida, repeating phrases or acting out repetitively is a comfort because it is predictable in a body that is frequently unpredictable.
Special Education teachers or teachers that have autistic children in their class will be enlightened by Higashida’s story. Higashida explains that autism is a complication of living. He asks that others not give up on him or anyone that is dealing with life in a body that is partly or totally disconnected from a mind.
Hasgashida is saying I am in this body; I am what I am and I want to be a part of everything around me; I, like every moral human being, desire attention, respect, and love for who I am. Keep me safe from harm. I want to grow up. I want to be everything I can be; just like you.