For many of us, it can often be a struggle to communicate precisely what we’re trying to say. Whether that’s due to a lack of self-confidence, a speech impediment, lacking sufficient vocabulary or something else, it’s always terribly frustrating when you can’t fully vocalise what you’re thinking. Imagine then what it must be like to be nonverbal. Somewhere in the regions of 25-50% of all children diagnosed with autism never fully develop spoken language.

At the age of five, Naoki Higashida was diagnosed with severe autism spectrum disorder. It’s extraordinary then that at thirteen, using facilitated communication, he wrote The Reason I Jump. Jerry Rothwell’s documentary of the same name uses the Japanese teen’s 58 questions as its foundation. Following five nonspeaking young people from around the world, it affords the viewer a glimpse into their lives. As we float in their universe, we’re given some idea of what it must be like to live with this lifelong developmental disability.

The Reason I Jump doesn’t simply play out like a standard non-fiction film. As we meet and start to begin to understand these unique individuals, Rothwell relates their experiences to passages from the book. This journey engages all the senses, immersing us in their world through sights, sounds and textures. Indeed, it feels almost tactile in nature, at times. The Reason I Jump is remarkably empathetic, empowering these remarkable characters to show us their sensory landscapes.   

The Reason I Jump screened at London Film Festival.