By Caroline Garrett, Service Navigator
The 2021 Netflix documentary The Reason I Jump features the perspectives of five autistic people navigating through life: Amrit, Joss, Ben, Emma, and Jestina. Based on the memoir written by Naoki Higashida, a nonspeaking autistic person, the documentary weaves quotes from Naoki’s writing with snapshots of the daily lives of the other five characters. Viewers get a glimpse into their experiences and learn about the struggles and triumphs they face - including the right to access education, experiences of prejudice from their neighbors, sensory sensitivities, friendships, and more.
Naoki explains more than just the reason he jumps. He discusses how he sees the world, his understanding of rain, why he would wander off as a child, his perception of time and memories, and his communication style. “There is a gap between what I'm thinking and what I'm saying....as if I'm drowning In a flood of words,” he wrote about his difficulties with spoken language. “When I learned to use the letter board, it let me anchor my words, words that would flutter off as soon as I was able to speak them.” Using a letter board and other forms of AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) allows many autistic people access to communication and self-expression. As Naoki also stated, “To live my life as a human being, nothing is more important than being able to express myself.” These words and the visuals of the documentary highlight the value and importance of communication in all its forms: spoken, scripted language, visual art, emotional expression, and more.
The film also provides insight into how nonspeaking autistic individuals are too often underestimated when it comes to their intelligence and the desire to learn. Naoki, Amrit, Joss, Ben, Emma, and Jestina show us how they were once overlooked as people who could not learn. However, with the right support and access to communication, their delight and excitement for learning is apparent. “I want to grow up learning a million things. There must be countless other autistic people who have the same desire. We too want to grow.” Through personal insights, they share their journeys from living unheard to being supported and finally listened to as they each continue to pursue their dreams.
The Reason I Jump celebrates the many perspectives and gifts that neurodiversity brings to the world. “I used to think it would be the best thing to live my life like other people,” Naoki reflects. “But now even if somebody could change my autism I would choose to stay as I am. For me...autism is normal.” To learn more about the perspectives of autistic people, watch The Reason I Jump on Netflix or find the book on Amazon, Audible, or your local library or independent bookseller.