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Movie Theaters Offering Sensory-Friendly Showings for Kids with Autism

3098219447_53f93fa0b2_bThe latest kids’ flick How to Train Your Dragon, though delightful, is pure sensory overload.  Colorful, loud, and 3-D, it caused my own kids to take off their 3-D glasses several times just to get a break from the action.

It’s those bright lights and loud sounds that make a trip to the movies difficult for kids with autism or other sensory issues.  But thanks to the Sensory Friendly Films program, a partnership of The Autism Society and AMC Theaters, kids with autism and their families can now enjoy a day out at the movies, too.

In 47 cities across the country, kids with autism and their parents can watch the sensory-friendly version of How to Train Your Dragon in a theater:  dimmed lights that never go out, lower volume, no previews, ads or waiting, and with their own snacks if necessary.

Not only is the environment less stimulating, it’s also more friendly.  The screenings are the brainchild of Marianne Ross, of Elkridge, Maryland, mother of a then 7-year-old daughter with autism. After a particularly upsetting visit to see Hairspray, where her Zac Ephron-loving daughter was evicted from the theater, Ross called her local AMC theater to see if they’d consider holding sensory-friendly viewings. Their first event was sold out.

“Our children are constantly under scrutiny,” says Marianna Pollock of Virginia Beach, mother to 6-year-old Xander. “They look normal, so people often think they’re just misbehaving. It becomes exhausting trying to validate their right to be themselves. At a sensory-friendly movie, we as a family finally get to go to a movie and relax. Boy, does that feel wonderful.” Kids who want to make noise or even walk around can do so without worry of other moviegoers complaining.

The screenings are available in 30 states (an expansion is underway), visit AMC’s theater list to find a participating theater near you.

Photo: ginnerobot, Flickr

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