Image by Patrick Fore

Blog Post

 
 

The Reason I Jump

Updated: Mar 9



C.W. - Bullying | Meltdown


My son provided his consent to talk about his experiences today. The pronouns of the people in this film are mostly unknown. Please bear with me as I continue to learn how to write a blog post.


Ben McGann and his mother, Bertra, are folding clothes. Ben is a young adult (23) preparing for life outside his parents' home. They use a spelling chart and communicate beautifully and succinctly with it. Ben and friend Emma enter a mostly finished apartment; Ben looks around and smiles. He's happy. Check out the smile in his eyes. He is feeling mature and optimistic about his future. He leans his face and fingers against a mirror, looks into the eyes of his reflection, and says, "I got one shot in this life; now I can make it count."


I happened onto this movie from an account that advocates for non-speaking autists on Instagram. The Reason I Jump (TRIJ) is a documentary currently on Netflix from the book of the same title, written by a 13-year-old non-speaker (N.S.), Naoki Higashida. Naoki did not appear in the movie and is represented by young autist Jim Fujiwara; Jordan O'Donegan provides the voice for Naoki's narration.


The film is about five non-speaking young autist adults, Amrit Khurana, Joss Dear, Jestina Penn-Timity, Ben McGann, and Emma Budway. Non-speaking means requiring an alternative means of communication such as an A.A.C. device, spelling board, sign language, facial expressions, and more.



Photo of an attractive, Afro-Latino male. They have short, curly, brown hair, brown eyes, thin mustache, and is smiling. They are wearing a gray sleeveless shirt and is indoors.
Keith Bonilla-Leach (he/him)

*CONTENT WARNING - Bullying.*


I see a little of my son, Keith, in all of them. His personality is most like Ben's, sweet, loving, loyal, and deep thinker. Like Ben, my son has a longing to see and make his mark in the world.

I remember when I realized my son's iPad and YouTube was his way of communicating with me about his life. He was ten years old, we were in his bedroom sitting on his bed, he had his iPad, and we watched Youtube videos. He pulled up a video of a primary education schoolyard. There were four young boys, one alone with his back against a wall, and the other three began to point and call him names of which I will spare you the unpleasantries.

My son tapped the screen and said, "This, this," a hot-flush feeling made its way from my face down to my gut, and I asked, "Is this what has been happening to you, baby?" He points and taps again at the screen, "This, this."


When this happened, he would scream for hours in the morning before school for what seemed like out of nowhere (not really, he was responding appropriately and in real-time). We couldn't understand why. Keith always loved going to school. My son's heart was broken, I think not only because of the bullying from those who were once his friends but because I followed the school's recommendations on how to "help" him. They felt he was seeking a way to get into the computer room (it was where they took him when he would act out), so with every "bad day," he would not get his iPad, computer, or other items he loved and relied on (that I now know) to communicate. I allowed this and don't think the guilt will ever completely disappear.


This is hard for me to write.


I looked down at him, kissed his face, pulled him close, and held him. I tried not to cry while I kissed the top of his head and thought of all the times I went against my gut instinct and did not do better for him sooner.


My husband and I decided to un-school him, begin the process of un-learning, and gently support him while he started the process of healing from this trauma. We didn't have much support from friends and family; they believed we coddled, indulged, and spoiled him.

Photo of two self identified males, on the left is a young teenager with brown, curly hair, he is wearing a white striped shirt. The person on the right has a bald hairstyle and wearing a collared shirt. They are both looking at the Austin capitol building, the teenager has his hand on his dad's head, pulling him closer in a tender moment.