Theaters Nationwide Host Special Movie Screenings for Kids With Autism

Filed under: Medical Conditions, In The News

Parents with autistic children can hit the movies with their kids at Sensory Friendly Films screenings. Credit: Getty Images


There may be a "Silence is Golden" policy at the AMC movie theater chain, but this weekend certain moviegoers are unlikely to be shushed, no matter how loud they get.

The Autism Society, in partnership with AMC Entertainment, has created the program Sensory Friendly Films -- movie screenings designed for children with autism.

According to the society's website, this means lights will be on, the sound will be lowered and there will be no coming attractions or ads, just the movie, itself. In addition, families will be allowed to bring their own food, thereby avoiding the sugar and salt-filled concession stand.

Autism Society Vice President of Constituent Relations Marguerite Colston tells ParentDish the program started in August of 2008 in 10 theaters, and has since grown to include 135 nationwide. On Jan. 8, participating theaters will show "Yogi Bear."

At least one screening is shown each month, always on a Saturday at 10 a.m.

"When you get a diagnosis of autism," Colston says, "your world begins and ends at your front door. It's hard to take a child with autism out. (Sometimes) they have behaviors that disturb other people."

Colston says the Autism Society surveyed parents after attending one of the special screenings, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

"Kids with autism can scream out, touch the screen, do whatever they need to do. That's all allowed and everybody knows it," Colston says. "Parents have said they're not so anxious (because the rest of the audience is) more forgiving of the different ways kids act."

And families aren't the only ones taking advantage of Sensory Free Films.

"School systems are doing this as part of the curriculum," Colston says.

The films being shown, she adds, are current hits, and the Autism Society provides training to AMC staff members so they can be sensitive to the needs of autistic children.

"A kid with autism can see a first-run movie and have something to relate to his peers about," Colston says. "... It's really tailored to our community."

Following the "Yogi Bear" screening will be "Gnomeo & Juliet," scheduled for Feb. 12. To find a sensory friendly screening in your area, visit Autism-Society.org.

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