In the book The Reason I Jump, translated into English from the original Japanese by novelist David Mitchell, thirteen year old Naoki Higashida shares his experience of the world, explaining how his autism can separate him from those around him. As the parent of an autistic child himself, Mitchell has described how reading and translating the book, which he says has already been translated by Higashida from ‘autistic’ to Japanese, helped him to understand his own son.
In this extract Naoki describes the freedom he finds in the water.
In the water it’s so quiet and I’m so free and happy there. Nobody hassles us in the water and it’s as if we’ve got all the time in the world. Whether we stay in one place or whether we’re swimming about when we are in the water we can really be at one with the pulse of time. Outside of the water, there is always too much stimulation for our eyes and our ears and it’s impossible for us to guess how long one second is or how long an hour takes. People with autism have no freedom. The reason is that we are a different kind of human born with primeval senses from a distant, distant, watery past. We just want to go back to that distant past, to a primeval era in fact before human beings even existed. We are outside the normal flow of time, we can’t express ourselves and our bodies are hurtling us through life.