February 12, 2021 – Probably the best known movie about autism was the 1988 film, “Rainman,” but as far as it may give you an understanding what goes on inside the mind of a person with severe autism, “The Reason I Jump” has it beat.
This documentary movie is based on the book, “The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism,” written by a non-verbal autistic boy, Naoki Higashida. While authorship of the book has been questioned, some of the people featured in this documentary believe the book has helped them understand their own autistic children.
This movie is a globe-trotting exploration of non-verbal autistic young people and the parents who are trying to understand and help them. As a narrator (Jordan O'Donegan) reads passages from the book, we see autistic people live out the scenes described. The film also uses imaginative cinematography in an attempt to let us see and hear the world in a way that an autistic person might see it and hear it.
Perhaps the most remarkable, and controversial, scenes show an autistic Benjamin McGann spelling out messages by pointing at letters on a kind of chart with his finger. The letters he points to form full sentences expressing complex ideas. In another scene shows another autistic person spelling out messages, one letter at a time, using a standard computer keyboard.
The argument being made in the movie is that some non-verbal autistic people can communicate complex ideas through alternative means, sometimes called “facilitated communication.” This looks convincing in the film, but similar communication methods have been called pseudoscientific by psychologists, pediatricians and even some in autism organizations.
For instance, “It is the position of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) that Facilitated Communication (FC) is a discredited technique that should not be used.” Other organizations, such as the non-profit International Association for Spelling as Communication, seem to support it, and this movie, specifically. My research indicates that viewers should be very skeptical about at least some of the facilitated communication shown in this film.
Other parts of the film are less controversial, like the parents of an autistic girl in South Africa fighting local customs and prejudices. Old traditions label those with autism as being possessed by evil spirits.
Parents of Joss (who are also producers of this film) an autistic adult, worry about having to institutionalize him because of his erratic, aggressive behavior, and they worry about what will happen to him later in his life after they die.
There is also an enduring friendship between two kindred autistic people, Benjamin McGann and Emma Budway highlighted in the film. A young boy, Jim Fujiwara, plays the part of Naoki Higashida in scenes depicting the way an autistic person sees and hears the world.
I enjoyed this film as far as its entertainment content goes, but as far as journalism goes, I think it falls short since it embraces some controversial beliefs as facts in a very uncritical way. This film rates a B.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.