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Author of Teen Autism Memoir Grows Up but Can’t Escape Heartbreak

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  • Author of Teen Autism Memoir Grows Up but Can’t Escape Heartbreak

    This article in the Toronto Star provides an excerpt of Naoki Higashida's Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8 which will release in Canada on July 11, 2017. In the excerpt, Naoki explains his behaviours and challenges others’ perceptions.

    Click here to read more:
    Author of teen autism memoir grows up but can’t escape heartbreak
    By Naoki Higashida
    Excerpted from Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8
    Sun., July 9, 2017 The Toronto Star

    Naoki is the non-verbal author of bestseller The Reason I Jump which he wrote when he was 13, and which has been translated from Japanese into thirty different languages. in this new book, he shares his experiences as a 24-year-old man living with severe autism.

    Here's an excerpt of his excerpt:
    Whenever I hear the words “Ah, it’s because he’s autistic,” I feel dismay. That word “autistic” packs a negative punch and this negativity, I think, corrodes the position of people with autism. For sure, functioning in our society is difficult for neuro-atypicals, but encountering difficulties is not the same thing as being unhappy. How has it come about that the word “autism” invokes pity? A part of the answer might be that we see so few role models of people living contentedly with their autism. The fact is, we have no choice but to live in a society where autism is thought of exclusively as a sorrow and a hardship: a fact that triggers further sorrow and hardship.
    Even I, as a child, used to think, “Wow, if only I didn’t have autism, wouldn’t life be great?” No longer. I can’t really imagine myself as not having autism because the “Myself” I’d be wouldn’t be the same Myself that I am now. A Me Without Autism, even one who looked exactly the same, would have an entirely different set of ideas and way of looking at the world.
    It is unfair that even the personalities of people with autism get invalidated because of our differences from the norm. I take it as a given that if I’m no good at something, I’ll have to practise at it. The tough part is when people get riled and reproach us for taking ages to learn what neurotypicals pick up effortlessly. At times like these it really feels hammered into me that I’m a total waste of space. It seems to be not widely enough recognized that there are positives to be found in the neurologies of people with autism. If the world at large would take a deeper interest in how our brains work and research our uniquenesses — as opposed to focusing on our treatment and cure — we could take pride in our neuro-atypical natures.
    There are reasons why people with autism exist in the world, I believe. Those who are determined to live with us and not give up on us are deeply compassionate people, and this kind of compassion must be a key to humanity’s long-term survival. Even when the means of self-expression and/or intelligence are lacking, we still respond to love. Knowing we are cherished is a source of hope — and no matter how tough things get, you can always soldier on as long as there’s hope. Since I came into this world, I’ve benefited from many wonderful experiences. Thanks to friends, family and supporters, I can be grateful for what’s around me and keep a smile on my face.
    Life is precious, so we try to help each other; and as someone who tends to be on the receiving end of this mutual assistance, I feel especially heartened when people stay cheerful and positive as they assist me. Every single time someone treats me with kindness, my determination to live well from tomorrow is rejuvenated. This is how I feel empowered to give something back to my family and society, even if my contribution is modest. Thanks to the people who come to me with questions and ask for my opinions about things — never mind if I can’t always answer — I get to think about what I want. I feel blessed that I’m able to consider what kind of life would bring me contentment, and to exercise choices which might bring this about.
    I love nature, I have an interest in letters and numbers, and I’m fascinated by some things that other people have no interest in whatsoever. If these fascinations are rooted in my autistically wired brain and if neurotypical people are unable to access these wonders, then I have to say that the immutable beauties of autism are such that I count myself lucky to be born with the condition.
    Issues like our obsessions, fixations and panic attacks do need to be worked on, but rather than moaning about problems for which there are no quick fixes, I prefer to concentrate on my self-management skills, even if progress is gradual. To live a life where I feel blessed to have autism: that will be my goal from now on.
    Last edited by Tina; July 9, 2017, 10:51 PM.
    Tina, Forum Moderator, TSFC Staff Liaison

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