On Saturday at 1 p.m., children with autism and other disabilities will be able to do something that for many of them was impossible until recently: go to Ashley Square to see a movie. The lights will dim but remain on, the volume will be lowered, families with special dietary needs will be allowed to bring snacks from home and if the kids yell or even stroll around the theater, no one will complain.
Sensory Friendly Films have recently become popular nationwide, marking a public awareness of the need to help families with sensory difficulties enjoy a family outing to the movies, something that would be impossible without sensory adaptations.
Amy Cofer of Greencastle and her 6-year-old son Ben are looking forward to this special movie screening.
"We attempted a regular movie a few times," Cofer said. "We always ended up having to leave within the first 15 minutes because he gets so excited that he runs around and makes noise. He does a lot of stimming when he is in a new environment or excited. It was very stressful for us, and seemed to annoy the others who were trying to watch the movie."
Ben's behavior at the movies is typical for many people with autism, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates affects one in 110 children. In Indiana that rate has been cites as one in 94, and in boys, the rate is one in 70.
"One of the challenges for people with an autism spectrum disorder is coping with strong sensory stimulation," said Cathy Pratt, director of the Indiana Resource Center for Autism. "They may be overwhelmed by loud sounds, bright lights and crowds of people. A person of any age with an ASD may flap his or her hands, twist her fingers, call out or rock when she is excited by an event such as a movie."
The idea for the films first came about in 2007 when a frustrated Maryland mother took her then 7-year old daughter, who had autism, to see a movie, but when the movie began she became overexcited and danced, twirled, flapped her hands and jumped up and down. Several patrons complained, and the manager asked the family to leave.
"I was so frustrated, angry and upset," the mother said, "because my daughter had been so happy. I thought, there's got to be a lot of children in the same situation."
The event was a sell-out and soon sensory-friendly movies were offered nationwide. Even families of children without autism but with other special needs, like those with physical disabilities, have started attending the screenings, citing the sense of acceptance they feel there.
The event will be a first for Putnam County. This is a great opportunity for all kids who have never been to see a movie or need special accommodations. The event is sponsored by Ashley Square Cinema and PARTNERS, the autism support group that meets the first Tuesday of every month at the Greencastle McDonald's.
For more information about the showing for about autism, contact the PARTNERS Group at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 655-3502.