For many of us, going to the movies can be a relaxing experience but for people on the autism spectrum the cinemas aren’t always so pleasant.
Bright screens in dark rooms and loud sounds from speakers are over-stimulating and worrisome for those with sensory issues.
Some Australian cinemas and organisations have filled this void through sensory screening events around the country.
Sensory Friendly Flicks hosts monthly, family-friendly films which are screened under altered cinema conditions suitable for children with autism, sensory processing difficulties and other disabilities.
The conditions include dimmed lighting, lowered sound, volunteers who watch exits for people who need help coming in and out, and an environment where kids are free to get up, move around, shout or sing.
Autism West operations manager Louise Sheehy said the organisation’s social model for looking at disability revolves around how environments can be adapted for the needs of those with disabilities, and the cinema screenings are a great step.
“It’s a bit like putting a wheelchair ramp in for someone who requires a wheelchair. Accommodation for sensory issues is really important,” she said.
“It enables individuals who may not necessarily be able to go to a movie theatre where it’s pitch black or too loud to be able to enjoy a social event without having to struggle in regards to processing that information.”
Ms Sheehy said it’s becoming more common for everyday venues to cater for those with sensory issues, with supermarkets, theatres and sporting events jumping on board and adapting.
“Coles recently launched their ‘sensory hours’, where the lights and volume are turned down because obviously some individuals who have sensory issues are particularly vulnerable to bright lights and loud noises,” she said.
“It’s so important in terms of reducing anxiety in regards to the unknown, or in regards to stuff that may impact on someone’s enjoyment of an event, so there’s quite a lot of it out there now.”
Sensory Friendly Flicks is holding a session at Grand cinemas Warwick this Friday, May 11 and Event Cinema’s monthly sensory screening is on May 20.
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