Naoki Higashida was thirteen years old when he undertook to answer 58 questions about autism, from his own experience, spelling out words on a cardboard alphabet grid made by his mother. He could not express his complex ideas in speech, but by this method, he was able to reveal what was happening inside his head.
Each chapter deals with a question such as, ‘Do you prefer to be on your own’ and ‘Why do you take ages to answer questions’ and ‘What causes panic attacks and meltdowns’.
His answers are beautiful: honest, witty, insightful, and at times painful and challenging. He proves many assumptions about autism are at best over-simplifications, and often quite wrong.
This book has changed lives, perhaps especially for parents who were struggling to understand their autistic child – KA Yoshida translated the book because she found it threw a whole new light on her son’s experience; her husband, the author David Mitchell, called it “a revelatory godsend”.
Higashida explains how hard things can be, and pleads for help and understanding, but he also sees the power in his way of being: “Sometimes I actually pity you for not being able to see the beauty of the world in the same way we do… Every single thing has its own unique beauty. People with autism get to cherish this beauty”
This book is a rare chance to see the world the way he does, or perhaps to hear from a kindred spirit if that is your view too.