Most children love going to the cinema, but while
movie-going is a pleasant experience for many families, it can be difficult for
families with children with autism.
The bright screen in a very dark room and the loud sounds from
surrounding speakers is often over-stimulating and frightening for children
with autism, and they often have to leave before the movie is over. Still other children find it difficult
to sit still or stay quiet for an entire film, leading to the disruption of
The Autism Society and AMC Theaters have teamed up to
present “Sensory Friendly Films” for children with autism and their
families. The movies are
family-friendly, and the traditional “Silence is Golden” philosophy is thrown
out the window.
During these screenings, the lights in the auditorium will
be brought up, and the sound will be turned down. Families are encouraged to bring their own gluten- and
casein-free snacks, and the audience is allowed to stand up, walk around, dance,
shout, or sing. Basically any
behavior is allowed unless it presents harm or danger to the other audience
For those who do not know much about autism might not
understand that children with autism are extremely sensitive to the sights and
sounds in a typical movie theater, and this stimulation often leads to distress
or discomfort, or the stimulation is so thrilling that a child with autism
might screech with excitement. The
accommodation of simply turning up the lights and turning down the volume of
the speakers is an easy gesture with a big payoff. For those of us who really love going to the cinema, we
should be more understanding that children with autism also want to enjoy a
movie with their families.
These Sensory Friendly Films are presented about once a
month, depending on your area, and they provide all children with that special
movie-going experience, which is often a rare occurrence for individuals with
The idea is not much different than a mother attending a
movie with a baby, and autism advocates suggest these events will help
transition children with autism into the ability to get used to the cinema
environment and even become comfortable in typical movie theater situations.
Most families with children with autism often simply wait
for films to be released on DVD, where they can enjoy the film in their own,
safe environment and with food that fits their diets. However, these Sensory Friendly Films encourage children to
experience an event within their community, which helps build social and living
skills children with autism can use later in life.
Photos by hoyasmeg and Takver