In 2007, 13 year old Japanese boy, Naoki Higashida, published his memoir. Called The Reason I Jump: One Boy’s Voice From The Silence Of Autism, the book describes Higashida’s experiences of living with severe autism.
In 2013, the book was translated into English by Keiko Yoshida and her husband, author David Mitchell. It went on to become a best-seller and something of a global phenomenon (the book has been translated into 30 languages).
Using Higashida’s book as both narrator and guide, Jerry Rothwell’s outstanding documentary, The Reason I Jump, examines the reality of autism and explores how it is perceived around the world.
The Reason I Jump follows the experiences of five young people - Amrit in India, Joss in the UK, Ben and Emma in the US and Jestina in Sierra Leone. Each, like Higashida, have been diagnosed with non-verbal autistism. Each has a compelling story to tell
Through Rothwell's observations of Amrit, Joss, Ben, Emma and Jestina, we discover that, while day to day life can be distressing (an often overwhelming assault on their senses), their world is also full of joy, promise and beauty.
The brilliance of The Reason I Jump lies in how the film combines these intimate observations with stunning visuals (full of colour and light) and immersive sound. Challenging what we think we know, Rothwell’s documentary gives us a wonderfully cinematic insight into autism.
The Reason I Jump also examines the limiting narrative surrounding autism. The film highlights the benefits of developing a greater understanding and warns of the dangers of ignorance and prejudice.
Jestina’s parents, Roland and Mary, reveal the stigma facing autistics in Sierra Leone (and many other places around the world). A lack of understanding has led to discrimination and hatred - something they hope to tackle via education and awareness.
Joss’ parents, Stevie and Jeremy, describe their experience of living with an autistic child. It is a heartbreaking account. However, by recognising how Joss processes his memories and his surroundings, they are able to understand his actions and reactions better. As a result, they can anticipate his frustration and share experiences that bring him joy.
Finding a way to communicate is key. We see how Amrit uses art to process her world. Her paintings are both beautiful and haunting. They allow her to communicate with her family, expressing feelings that were previously locked away.
Ben and Emma spent years without being able to communicate fully. Then a speech therapy technique (involving pointing to the letters of the alphabet) gave them a voice. In moving scenes we understand the significance of this newfound ability. It means everything - educational opportunities, increased independence and the freedom of expression.
Watching Rothwell’s immersive documentary is an incredibly powerful and insightful experience. The Reason I Jump opened my mind and stole my heart.