There are many ways of looking at the world ‒ and people with autism have minds which look at it slightly differently and often in great detail or with new insight.
An award-winning film, The Reason I Jump, based on the book by Naoki Higashida of Japan who is autistic, examines the lives of those with autism and the need to recognise diverse ways of interpreting the world.
Higashida wrote the book when he was 13 years old.
Watch the trailer
In it, he describes the experiences of being autistic ‒ from the difficulties in social communication to the joys of being able to think in a way which is neurologically atypical.
The movie, to raise funds for Durban-based Action in Autism, will be screened on Sunday, November 21, at Cinema 3, Gateway, in uMhlanga.
Film-maker Jerry Rothwell won the Sundance 2020 audience award: world cinema documentary for the film.
A review in The Guardian by writer Adrian Horton described it as being “explicitly didactic, a missive to explain one person’s neuro-divergent experience and broader call to expand one’s imagination of the human condition”.
Action in Autism chairperson Liza Aziz, whose 19-year-old son is autistic, said this week that the autism spectrum was traditionally measured at three levels: level 1, where high support is needed for a person who is non-speaking; level 2, where some support is needed but the person can be independent to a certain degree; and level 3, where the person can live an independent life but still need social support.
“But people with autism are saying very clearly that at any level, support is needed for social situations, interactions and communication.
“A person with autism finds social interaction very difficult. We can understand social cues such as an eye gaze, but someone with autism struggles with simple intuitive social goals and it’s very difficult to navigate a social situation, so they need social support,” said Aziz.
She said that while there was a huge diversity of people with autism, one of the major misconceptions was that they were intellectually impaired.
“This needs to be debunked because there are very few people with autism who are intellectually impaired. Most have an average or above average intelligence and the belief that they cannot learn is a travesty of justice,” she said, adding that alternative methods of communication needed to be provided, such as a keyboard.
“Around 50% of people with autism are non-speakers and as soon as they have access to a different means of communication, such as a Qwerty keyboard, they have a means of communication.
"For young children with autism, from early on this allows them to communicate and articulate their wants, feelings and desires in such a tough talking world,” she said.
People with autism can find too much sound painful on their ears, and touch can also be painful, so they prefer a quiet place without too much interruption, while they find safety in routine.
People with autism do especially well in careers which require complex detail such as the IT industry.
Aziz said while autism could be picked up in a child younger than a year old, it was often diagnosed between the ages of 2 to 4 years.
“From early on, the mom will know something is different about her child, such as different eye contact or movements and can appear to be deaf. In South Africa diagnosis is getting better.
“Autism is primarily a social communication disability and in the same way blind people will use a white cane or Braille, a person with autism needs an alternative method of communication to grow and thrive, and contribute to the world,” she said.
Funds raised from the film will go towards two of Action in Autism projects: the Early Intervention and Therapy Centre and the Shahuma Centre which is a skills transference and business hub for adults with autism.
Videovision Entertainment has partnered with Action in Autism to bring The Reason I Jump to Durban, with Videovision’s distribution and acquisition director Sanjeev Singh saying: “In the film, Rothwell examines the lives of five young people who live with autism spectrum disorder and is a perfect tool to educate people on autism.”
Tickets are R120. To book, call 031 563 3039 or email [email protected]
The Independent on Saturday