Words are not just a means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, but my friends.”

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

Ja­panese

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.”

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