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'The Reason I Jump' Movie Reminds Us Whose Voices Matter

I read the book “The Reason I Jump” several years ago. The book is written by Naoki Higashida, a 13-year-old autistic, nonverbal Japanese boy. I found it fascinating, heartbreaking and enlightening. I felt the same way watching the documentary, which just came out. I was able to view the movie for $12 on Kino Marquee and have it to view for five days.

I laughed out loud, I cried, I was enraged and once again, I was educated — by actually autistic individuals, not “experts.” One of the young men featured in the movie uses a letter board to communicate. At one point, he communicates to the director, “I think we can change the conversation around autism by being part of the conversation.” Abso-freaking-lutely. We cannot educate, advocate and raise awareness without the voices of those we are advocating for.

There was one particular moment that struck deep in my soul. As a parent, when we are first learning about autism and how it impacts our child, we are doing just that, learning. We make mistakes, we screw up, we are human. In the documentary, a mother was talking about how she was unable to communicate with her nonverbal autistic daughter so she felt like she didn’t know how to be her mother. After pausing to compose herself, through tears she cried, “I’ve tried to stop her from being herself.”

God, did I feel that. To my core.

I know that all of my mistakes were made out of fear and ignorance, certainly not from a lack of love or effort, but I still find myself apologizing to Ryan for my lack of awareness. This is precisely why we must always include autistic individuals in the conversation when we are trying to understand how autism impacts the way they experience the world. No matter how they communicate, they must be heard. They want to be heard. They need to be heard.

There is no right or wrong way to experience the world we all live in, there is only the way that works for each one of us. Yes, there are rules and expectations we must all follow to live freely and safely in society, but how we learn those expectations, the written and non-written rules and apply that understanding varies from person to person.

Neurotypicals aren’t right and autistics aren’t wrong, we are just different. And if you want to better understand these differences, and appreciate the humanity in all of us, check out “The Reason I Jump.”

Image via YouTube.

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