Movies are one of the most popular forms of family entertainment in America; they offer something for everyone. A great family film will resonate with both parents and children; bringing the family together and providing a touchstone experience that lasts generations.
For families with a child (or children) diagnosed with autism, the experience is often very different than that of an average family. Where the the typical child has a short attention span, may tend to talk during the show, and often requires frequent trips to the bathroom, individuals with autism often have sensory issues that alter the theater environment into something that is difficult or impossible to tolerate. Too much contrast (overly bright screen in a very dark room), extreme loudness (average volume in today's theaters), and the need to stay seated for one and a half to two hours (children with autism often have an extremely hard time remaining still for extended periods).
The outing becomes “Autism & Family” are going to the movies; autism alters the way the outing is perceived and experienced by both the child and the rest of the family. A successful experience will depend on the theater's willingness to make certain concessions and modifications to the environment, enabling individuals with autism to tailor the experience in an environment that offers the ability for successful adaptation to each person's unique needs.
There are a growing number of movie theaters that offer films in a sensory friendly environment. Lights are set to a level that enable theater goers to enjoy the movie, but remain high enough to diminish the contrast between the screen and the darkened theater. The soundtrack is turned down to decrease painful noise sensitivity, previews and commercials are eliminated, and the audience is encouraged to get up from their seats to dance, sing, walk around, shout or make any kind of noise as long as patron safety is not jeopardized. Families are also allowed to bring their own caffeine-free and gluten-free snacks into the theater so the autistic child can have the same kind of movie experience as a typical child.
Living with Autism & Family does not have to mean that movies are off limits! Sensory friendly movie programs enable you to share this wonderful experience with your special child and make memories that last a lifetime.