Many, many moons ago, when VCRs and DVDs were but a twinkle in some mad scientist’s eye and the phrase “sensory integration issues” hadn’t been invented yet, Disney re-released Pinocchio in the theaters. Young and ignorant, my husband and I decided to take our toddler, who’d already had 3 major surgeries, to see his first movie. We thought it would be fun. We. Were. Wrong.
The dark theater, the bright lights on the screen, and the loud sound system sent our little boy into sensory overload. He cried. And screamed. And wailed. And yelled, “Get me out! Get me out!” We got him out, and we didn’t set foot in a movie theater for many years. By the time we did, our son had outgrown his sensory sensitivity. But not all kids do.
If you’re the parent of a child who has sensory sensitivity, you’ll like what guest blogger Ellen Stumbo has to say about how to help your child with special needs acclimate to sensory dense environments, like a movie theater.
At the Movies
Kids love going to the movies. As a parent, I love the anticipation as my oldest daughter, Ellie, giggles with excitement of going to watch a show. The sound, the big screen and the lights are difficult to resist. Going to the movies is really fun, no matter who you are and how old you are, right?
Actually, the excitement of a movie theater is not shared by all children, and therefore, not by all parents. Some of us have children with sensory issues, and a movie theater is an overload of sensory stimulation. Some of our kids simply cannot handle that as well.
A few weeks ago when we went to Lego Land, we decided to try their short movie theater show. It was only 10 minutes long and we thought it would be a good indicator of weather or not Nina or Nichole, our two younger daughters with special needs, could eventually handle going to a regular movie theater. They both made it through the first show, but there was no way they would watch a second. Unlike Ellie who was loving it along with her friends.
The show was in 3D and there was no way they would have worn those glasses. Nina cried hard at the beginning and was begging to leave. It was too loud for her, and it was too dark. The only reason she stayed was because Ellie was staying. She took off her real glasses and buried her face on my shoulder, occasionally peeking at the show and laughing nervously at the funny parts. But it was loud for Nichole too, and her favorite word, “Scary” came out of her mouth every few seconds. Overall we felt they did really well, but those 10 minutes were as long as they could have handled.
Sensory Friendly Films
Chatting with some of my wonderful Down syndrome friends, I discovered that there is such a thing as “Sensory Friendly Films.” Encouraged by the Autism Society AMC has stepped up to the plate and there are several AMC locations where they offer the experience of a movie theater in a non-threatening, non-overload sensory way.
This is what AMC Theaters say at their website:
The program provides a special opportunity for families to enjoy their favorite films in a safe and accepting environment. The auditoriums dedicated to the program have their lights up, the sound turned down and audience members are invited to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing!
That sounds like something that we could try with Nina and Nichole! Do you want to know if there is a theater close to you that offers a Sensory Friendly Film? Click on this link to the AMC Theater’s Sensory Friendly Film locator to find out.
Happy Movie Going!
Do You Give Sensory Friendly Flims Two Thumbs Up?
Have you taken a child to a sensory friendly film? What was your experience like? DifferentDream.com ran a post about sensory friendly films almost a year and a half ago, and a few people left comments then. It would be interesting to see how the movement is progressing and changing, so leave a comment!