Chapter 1: The Mystery of the Missing Words

In this chapter, Naoki Higashida answers/comments on the following:

Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?

You seem to dislike holding hands with people.

Do you prefer to be on your own?

Why do you ignore us when we’re talking to you?

Why are your facial expressions so limited?

Is it true that you hate being touched?

Why do you wave goodbye with your palm facing yourself?

I found myself being skeptical as I began reading this book, thinking some responses were embellished during the process of translation. For example, when discussing the question ‘Do you prefer to be on your own?’ the author states, “The truth is, we’d love to be with other people. But because things never, ever go right, we end up getting used to being alone, without even noticing this is happening. Whenever I overhear someone remark how much I prefer being on my own, it makes me feel desperately lonely. It’s as if they’re deliberately giving me the cold-shoulder treatment.” Those are complex, descriptive sentences with a bit of figurative language.

At the end of the book there is a postscript chapter and an interview….. pages 147 – 149 are very helpful in understanding how Naoki communicates and page 154 sheds light on the translation process. So, I am now not getting hung up on the syntax and semantics but rather am focusing on the message 🙂

What are your initial reactions to the book? Have you reflected on your students with autism, and gained a new or wider perspective their communication and behavior? If so, please share.

Happy reading,

Carrie (Carrie Kaelin, SLP at Diagnostic Center and the Brown School)



5 thoughts on “Chapter 1: The Mystery of the Missing Words

  1. Karen says:

    I, too, was skeptical wondering if responses were embellished through translation. It was interesting to learn that Naoki recognizes and was able to convey the impulse to dart to anything that looks interesting. It saddened me when she described being lonely, thinking of my own students with autism who seem locked in another world. When she described not noticing as not being the same as deliberately ignoring, it gave me a different perspective oneye contact and I never really thought about imitating movement being difficult. So far, this book has made me try to think from a person with autism’s perspective, which we often do not take the time to do!

  2. Marie Fisher says:

    I made a note in my book about the higher vocabulary used (words such as “circuitry”) and multiple examples of figurative language. These aspects also made me question the translation. I find myself enjoying the way the book is formatted with questions and corresponding answers. I often think about how some of the answers may or may not relate to students that I see. My students with an autism diagnosis are so different so I find myself wondering how many of these answers I can generalize to how someone with autism sees the world/feels. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed the book and find myself rapidly moving through it!

  3. Rachel Lacap says:

    Yes, Carrie! I agree! I was/am feeling the same skepticism in regards to his abstract language use and just overall ability to use language. I guess I’ll have to read the back of the book as well!!

  4. allison forrester says:

    I am really enjoying the book as well, but also wondered about the translation process. I think the messages being delivered are so insightful and it really makes me think about certain students I have had in the past.

  5. Carrie Kaelin says:

    I wanted to just comment about the last question in the chapter…… Why do you wave goodbye with your palm facing yourself?
    I was around a 2 1/2 year-old the other day… normally developing…and when she waved goodbye, it was toward herself. It made me think right away, perhaps some people with autism wave in this manner because their nervous system is immature / under-developed / disordered. (I have never observed this with my students who are on the spectrum, but it likely has occurred and I just didn’t notice.)

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