Does the thought of taking your child with autism to the movies make you nervous? Or maybe it doesn’t even cross your mind because you plan on holding off until your child is much older? In this post, I will offer several reasons why you should start sooner rather than later and some tips to help you when you do.
My kids love all the animated kids’ movies and we started taking them to the movie theater when my son was about 6 years old. We weren’t sure how my son would do because at this point in our lives, my son was very active and had a lot of echolalia. He rarely sat still for extended periods of time and he had a seemingly fleeting attention span.
If your child enjoys watching movies, consider taking your child to the theatre. It is easier to start when they’re young versus when they’re older. In my experience, strangers are more forgiving when a child is young. As they get older (and bigger and louder), the expectations rise. Talk to your OT or Behavior Therapist about strategies and build a plan. Once your child has learned some coping strategies, it is easier to take them out to try new things.
AMC Theatre partnered with the Autism Society to offer sensory friendly films. AMC’s website states “We turn the lights up, and turn the sound down, so you can get up, dance, walk, shout or sing!” How awesome is that? Kudos to AMC Theatre for supporting individuals with special needs!
I know that not everyone has access to a theatre that does sensory friendly showings. Thus I have put together a list of things to consider as you plan your outing.
8 Tips for going to the movies:
1. Practice going to the movies at home by turning out the lights and watching a movie with the volume turned up higher than normal.
2. Read your child a simple social story on going to the movies. This would show your child a clear example of what we do when we go to the movies; we watch the movie quietly and we sit in our seat.
3. Select a film that has been out for awhile. You don’t want to go to the first week run of a new kids movie, wait until the movie has been out for awhile and lost some of the hype.
4. Choose a small uncrowded theatre instead of a big bustling one. You will have less lines to stand in and can choose a seat with more distance between you and fellow movie goers.
5. Plan to go at a time that would be the least crowded such as an early matinee.
6. Bring a jacket for your child as it gets cold in the theatre. If your child enjoys wearing hoodie type jackets, bring one that has a hoodie as it can help reduce the sound for him.
7. Bring a highly preferred snack. This serves two purposes, it will reinforce your child’s positive behavior for sitting nicely during the movie and it also keeps their mouth quiet during the movie. This works for typical children too!
8. Plan for success but go in with minimal expectations. Your child may only last five minutes the first time you go to the movies, it’s okay as there is a starting point for everything.
Some theaters will give you your money back if you need to leave and the movie has barely started. Call about this ahead of time if this is important to you. Good luck – I hope you and your child have a great time at the movies!
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