Thursday, March 22, 2012

Going to the movies

To say Katie is easily distracted would be putting it mildly. If she is interested in something, I try not to distract her in any way, because when she looses that" connection", there is just no getting it back. She isn 't into books, doesn't like to watch too much TV, and doesn't really sit still to watch a movie. I have been taking her to the movies since she was small, and my mom and my aunt like to take her and all my girls, to watch a movie at the theater and have a nice day out. As you might imagine, taking an autistic child to the movies is a challenge. I am brave ( and a little stupid), but I also don't want any of my children to miss out on anything just because Katie has autism and the challenges that come with it. So off to the movies we go.

Many, many children with autism have sensory issues. For those of you who don't know what these are, think about a time when you have had a really REALLY bad headache. Everything bothers you, right? The lights are too bright, every sound is too loud, sometimes even smells can make you crazy. Not a headache sufferer? Think about when you are overtired or even hungover. A door slamming, a kid whining, all can put your senses on edge. This is what it is like for a lot of children with autism every day, every minute of their life. I don't know how they even function, to be honest. I went to a workshop on autism that a teacher put on, and she played a recording of distracting sounds while we were trying to listen to instructions. It was unreal, and that was just a few minutes example of what these children go through.

Now picture what it must be like for these children at the movies. The sound is really loud. There are other people there talking. They smell popcorn and candy ( some of which they might not be able to have for dietary issues). It is dark. The doors are closed. They are expected to sit still for 2 hours and not fidget and not talk or dance or sing along. The general public does not take kindly to interruptions at movies. My family was actually shushed by an older couple when they were laughing at a rated G Disney movie! Sometimes when you expect a place to be safe and accepting, it is not that way at all. Do you see the difficulties that might arise in a movie theater with an autistic child? Now imagine spending a lot of money on going to the movies, and having to leave half way through because your child is freaking out, or bothering someone, or can't sit still, or the movie is too loud, or they are scared of the dark. Big disappointment.

A few years ago my mother was looking to do a project for her Kiwanis club. The organization is based on helping children in their community, and as the president that year, she wanted to plan an activity for local autistic children. She had asked me what some ideas might be that these children might enjoy, and after a couple of suggestions, we came up with a movie day. What the club did was rent an entire movie theater, and invite all the local autistic children to come with their families for free. Then they arranged to make it more comfortable for autistic children by keeping the sound lower, leaving the lights on, and leaving the doors propped open. Since the movie was free, it eased the guilt a bit if the family had to leave early. Since all the families were familiar with autism, the children felt comfortable moving around the theater, singing or dancing if they wanted, talking and laughing. The club also made up goodie bags for all the children, and were there to greet the families and assist them in any way. This movie day was so successful that the club has made it an annual event.

If you are not familiar with a disability, sometimes you do not know the hardships that can occur because of it. A simple thing like going to the movies can seem so easy, but with autism, it can be a real nightmare. Katie has grown up a lot in the last few years, and we are more comfortable with seeing a regular movie now and then, but it is nice that the Kiwanis club makes movie going easier for those of us on our Adventures in Autism.

1 comment:

  1. I love that! What a great idea to have a movie day for Autistic kids. It would be nice to do more often than once a year. Did you see that some group did the same thing for Autistic kids to go and see the Lion King musical? Awesome. I wish there was more of that going on.