The Reason I Jump

Today I saw the film “The reason I jump” at the cinema…

At the weekend I was pleased to renew my Cineworld pass, and today I saw this film, which I’d been eagerly awaiting.

The film is based on a book written by Naoki Higashida age 13 from Japan about his experiences with autism. It’s introduced by David Mitchell (who also features in the film with his son). Although Naoki is non verbal, he’s been able to share his thinking via a method of communication pointing at an alphabet grid.

Boy 1 is currently near the end of an ASD (Austistic Spectrum Disorder) assessment. He was initially referred by school in June 2019. We had our first appointment with CYPS (Children and Young People Service) in November 2019, and we’ve had confirmation the final assessment – the ADOS test – will take place in July.

My friend had lent me the book over a year ago, and I’d recently spotted it on the bookshelf. It was a quick and easy read, and got the points accross succintly in a question and answer format. A week later, I saw on Facebook that this film was due out shortly. What a great co-incidence.

Some of the stand out sections of the book include:

Q5. Why do you do things you shouldn’t even when you’ve been told a million times not to?

“Us people with autism hear that all the time. Me, I’m always being told off for doing the same old things. It may look as if we’re being bad out of naughtiness, but honestly we’re not. When we’re being told off, we feel terrible that yet again we’ve done what we’ve been told not to. But when the chance comes once more, we’ve pretty much forgotten about the last time and we just get carried away yet again. It’s as if something that isn’t us is urging us on.

You must be thinking: “Is he ever going to learn?” We know we’re making you sad and upset, but it’s as if we don’t have any say in it, I’m afraid, and that’s the way it is. But please, whatever you do, don’t give up on us. We need your help.”

Q55. Why can you never stay still?

“My body’s always moving about. I just can’t stay still. When I’m not moving, it feels as if my soul is detatching itself from my body, and this make me so jumpy and scared that I can’t stay where I am.”

“I’m always struggling inside my own body, and staying still really hammers home that I’m trapped here. But as long as I’m in a state of motion, I’m able to relax a little bit.”

“Everyone tells people with autism, ‘Calm down, stop fidgeting, stay still,’ when we’re moving around. But because I feel so much more relaxed when I am moving, it took me quite a while to work out exactly what ‘calm down’ even meant. Finally I’ve come to understand there are times when I’m not supposed to be moving about. The only way I can learn to do this is by practising, a little at a time”.

Q57. What causes panic attacks and meltdowns?

“One of the biggest misunderstandings you have about us is your belief that our feelings aren’t as subtle and complex as yours. Because how we appear can seem so childish in your eyes, you tend to assume that we’re childish on the inside, too. But of course, we experience the same emotions that you do. And because people with austism aren’t skillful talkers, we may in fact be even more sensitive than you are. Stuck here inside these unresponsive bodies of ours, with feelings we can’t properly express, it’s always a struggle just to survive. And it’s this feeling of helplessness which sometimes drives us half crazy, and brings on a panic attack or a meltdown.

When this is happening to us, please just let us cry, or yell, and get it all out. Stay close by and keep a gentle eye on us, and while we’re swept up in our torment, please stop us hurting ourselves or others.”

Reading the book opened my eyes wide, and I wish I’d been aware of this sooner.

The film is documentary style, and shares examples and perspectives of autism around the world. It cleverly covers points from the book, whilst giving a flavour of the sounds and level of detail people with autism may experience – enhanced by cinema surround sound.

It also shares the ups and downs, and stigma autistic families can experience. In Sierra Leone, it’s common for autistic children to be called a witch or a devil, and to be encouraged by their communities to leave them in the bush or drown them in the river.

Despite this, the main theme is around awareness raising and hope. It’s about how much autistic people have to teach us, including the ability to spend more time living in the present. The more we engage, enable and encourage autistic people to communicate and learn, the possibilities are limitless.

I’d give the film 8/10, and was really glad to be watching it. There are times the pace slowed, and people without first hand experience may find it uncomfortable, and not as enaging as those who do. I’d like for everyone to see this.

Have you seen this film? What did you think? Can you recommend any other good films about autism and/or neurodiversity?

#TheReasonIJump #NaokiHigashida #Autism #Neurodiversity

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