June 16, 2021
Documentary inspired by Japanese teenager’s bestselling book takes us into the world of young neurodiverse people from across the world
The Reason I Jump review – an empathic study of nonverbal autism
Here is a documentary with something to tell us and something to teach us. It’s inspired by the 2007 book of the same name by the Japanese teenager Naoki Higashida, who has nonverbal autism: explaining why he behaves as he does, when and why he feels joy and fear and why he sometimes jumps, why he responds with great and uncontrolled physical activity. It was translated into English in 2013 by Keiko Yoshida and her husband, the British novelist David Mitchell.
The original book was transcribed by Higashida’s mother by getting him to use an alphabet-grid prompt system, leading some sceptics to claim that the book was basically authored by her: a rendering of what she thinks her son is thinking, or even just a YA fantasy. But this film is actually a vigorous rebuttal to this, and makes an overwhelmingly plausible case that young neurodiverse people really can communicate through the alphabet-grid. The film shows young people with autism from all over the world, from the US to the UK to India and Africa, and brings us into their world, letting us appreciate how they are sometimes drowned by sensory perception and emotion, by memories that they cannot structure and contextualise the way others can.
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