Words are not just a means of communication, but my friends.”
to us’ or ‘ Jesus, that’s what our son does,’” the author, who is based in Ireland, says by e-mail.
“He’s not a guru, and not a saint — but heknowsa hell of a lot about living with an autistically wired brain,” saysMitchell.
Mitchell’s English translation was published in 2013 and soon topped the best-seller list of Amazon’s British and US sites, according toHigashida’s agency.
His book subsequently hit the shelves in more than 20 other countries, including France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Romania, Sweden and the Netherlands, having been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Some specialists say Higashida is not typical of people with autism and caution that others with the condition should not be judged against him.
Toshiro Sugiyama, a Japanese psychiatrist, says Higashida’s talent for writing makes him stand out from others living with the condition.
“He is capable of speaking for other people with autism,” he says.
“His work offers a window into autism for wider society,” says Sugiyama of the Hamamatsu University School of medicine.
Experts estimate that around one in a hundred people are somewhere on the autistic spectrum; however, the ratio varies enormously, with definitions and medical support dependent on the country.
“Levels of knowledge about autism in Japan are still lower than those in the United States or Britain,” says psychiatrist Kosuke Yamazaki, who is chairman of the Autism Society Japan.
Naoki’s mother, MikiHigashida, is only too aware of the battle that autistic children and their families face every day.
“When he was a child, I struggled a lot and tried to force him to be normal,” she says.
“But I have stopped comparing him with (others). I’mhappy to see himfind hisownworld in writing,” she says.
“NowI can thinkNaoki isNaoki. There is no need to compare.”
Her son is now an accomplished author, with 18 books to his name, ranging from fairy tales to nonfiction, and he regularly writes for the Japanese edition of the Big Issue. ForMitchell, this is heartening. “I hope he will continue to write, and turn his experience of the world and his thoughts and his journey through life into words,” he says. “As long as he writes, I’ll read him.”