10 Mar Bright Lights! Sensory Friendly! Action!
Thanks to selected AMC and Regal Cinemas theaters, Sensory Friendly Films are now offered during selected days and times throughout the year. Adaptations are key to providing the tools for an enjoyable experience for our families and kiddos on the spectrum. Child friendly films such as Disney and Pixar include brighter lights, lower sound and free movement to get up, jump, sing and dance along! Children on the Autism Spectrum can have a difficult time at the movie theater sitting for a long period of time due to sensory deficits, self-regulation and lack of attention. Giving sensory breaks such as standing up, jumping, moving around and singing along can help increase desired movie theater etiquette. Check out the AMC theaters, “Sensory Friendly Films,” and Regal Cinemas theaters, “My Way Matinee,” to find out when the next adaptive film is available near you!
Here are helpful tips on making your family movie theater experience an enjoyable one!
Time: Selecting an early movie time can prevent environmental stimuli such as large crowds, that can trigger challenging behaviors. During summer break, large crowds are inevitable during all hours of the day. Contacting your local movie theater to see if there are any summer camps attending the theater that day can influence your planning of fun activities for the day. Some children just need something as simple as a verbal or visual of what to expect when they enter a movie theater such as large crowds. Telling and showing them what to expect can decrease the chances of a potential stressful situation.
Seating: Try choosing a movie theater with the option of select seating! AMC and Regal Cinemas provide select seating options through their apps. Download the app for your preferred movie theater and make your reservation quick and easy! This will avoid any challenging behaviors your child has waiting in line for movie tickets. When selecting seats, ask yourself if your child moves around a lot, speaks frequently or has self-stimulatory behaviors. If you say yes to the following questions, try choosing seats in the back row and corners to minimize distracting other patrons. A benefit of select seating is snuggle room! Recliner chairs give ample of space to move around!
Auditory: Headphones, headphones, headphones! I cannot stress enough what difference a pair of headphones can make! If your child has sensitivities to loud noises, bring a pair of noise canceling headphones to muffle the sound.
Reinforcement: Make a fun “movie theater backpack” with your child! Get them involved in choosing highly preferred snacks, toys and even a blanket! If your child has therapeutic items such as a weighted blanket, a chewy, communication device, PECS symbols and calming items…Bring them! The more comforting and highly preferred items, the better! Another reinforcement can be bringing a friend that your child loves to play with. A friend can serve as a peer model who demonstrates “good choices” during the movie.
Gross Motor: Think of activities your child enjoys such as jumping on the trampoline, playing at the park, taking a swim, riding a bike, etc, in order to release some energy! This can decrease behaviors such as standing up frequently, jumping, kicking their feet and moving around during the movie.
Sensory: Attend an adaptive film such as AMC’s “Sensory Friendly Film,” or Regal’s “My Way Matinee!” The Autism Society of America has paired up with AMC and Regal in order to adapt the movie theater experience for children on the spectrum. Brighter lights, lower sound and sensory friendly could be just what your child needs!
For the most important tip…Practice makes perfect! Patience, consistency and to keep trying are the three key components to your enjoyable movie theater experience! Every child is unique and has different needs; being aware of specifications is the first step to providing the necessary tools for your child’s movie theater experience.
*This article was published in The Autism Magazine of South Florida*