The introduction to this remarkable book begins, "The thirteen year-old authorof this book invites you, his reader, to imagine a daily life in which yourfaculty of speech is taken away. Explaining that you're hungry, or tired, or inpain, is now as beyond your powers as a chat with a friend .Now imagine thatafter you have lost your ability to communicate, the editor-in-residence whoorders your thoughts, walks away without notice.A dam-burst of ideas, memories,impulses and thoughts is cascading over you, unstoppably. Your editor controlledthis flow, diverting the vast majority away, and recommending just a tiny numberfor your conscious consideration. But now you're on your own. Now your mind is aroom where twenty radios, all tuned to different stations, are blaring outvoices and music. The radios have no off-switches or volume controls . andrelief will only come when you're too exhausted to stay awake."On top of that the editor of your senses has also quit and you are now bombardedby all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures of the environmentwithout filters so each clamours equally for attention; your vestibular andproprioceptive senses are disturbed so the floor keeps tilting and you have nosense of where your hands are feet are in relation to the rest of you. Yourmother tongue is a foreign language and you have no concept of time.Such is the life sentence of the person with autism, and it is a life that we,as teachers, need to have some concept of as more and more children on theautism spectrum come under our care. Thus, the importance of this book. In it,Naoki, who is able to use a device which enables him to communicate via writing,provides some insight into what it is like to live in an unfiltered worldwithout the internal connections to make sense of it.He starts by writing, "When I was small, I didn't even know that I was a kidwith special needs. How did I find out? By other people telling me that I wasdifferent from everyone else, and that this was a problem." And one of the mostconsistent messages that comes through his writing is his concern that his needsand inabilities are a problem for those around him. Written in aquestion-and-answer format, this articulate young man tries to explain some ofthe behaviours that are associated with autism so we can understand that theyare not based on defiance, malice, or any intentional motive. Full of quotablequotes, there is an overwhelming sense of isolation and a desire to please, anda realisation for the reader that the greatest gift we can give Naoki and allautistic children is our time and patience. Repeatedly he begs us "not to giveup" on him.The autistic child's fascination with numbers which are constant is explained;their need to order and repeat becomes clear and their connection to nature madeobvious. This latter is underpinned by the most remarkable illustrations -monotone prints which focus on the natural lines, shapes and patterns that we sooften don't appreciate because we don't even see them. Interspersed areobservations and short stories that Naoki has written - he says he aspires to bea writer but it is clear he already is.This book took me about 90 minutes to read; it will take me so much longer toreflect on and learn from, and it will change my understanding for ever.
hbk., ill., 135pp 978081299486
Recommended by: Barbara Braxton, Teacher Librarian, New South Wales Australia