Fall down 7 times, get up 8.

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Fall down 7 times, get up 8, by Naoki Higashida

The author is a 24-year-old man with severe, largely non-verbal autism. Though he cannot hold a conversation, he uses an alphabet grid to build up sentences, which are taken down by a transcriber. It is translated by the novelist David Mitchell and his wife KA Yoshida, themselves parents of an autistic son.

I did not expect to be enthralled by this book, but I was. I have copied some of the writing below that I took on board and thought worth sharing.

Praise is not a fast track to self acceptance. Praise derives from the judgement of others. It is distinct from whether an action truly went well or not and it is separate from how we think and feel inside ourselves.

People, when wounded by words, reply those words endlessly and down they sink into themselves. Wise to remember: words are only words. No need to swallow, too, the feelings that encase them.

It is often said that we people with autism lack empathy and understanding of other people’s emotions. In my view, however, people with neurotypical brains aren’t so fantastic at getting to grips with emotions, either.

It can be tricky, I guess, to make people with autism like mine understand why they are being told off especially when we are very young. The scene in which we did something wrong simply doesn’t mesh with the scene in which we are being reprimanded. No doubt it varies from person to person but I suggest that if a neuro atypical child has done something wrong the best course of action is just to point the misdemeanour out. Coolly and calmly.

Dreams might let us see things afresh, but they are illusions. This world is my world. There is no other.

At the end of the book, Naoki Higashida says “It would mean the world to me if this book could occasionally serve as a gentle nudge in the right direction.” It has done that for me.

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