Monday, December 9, 2013

Cookie Cutter Accommodations

The kiddo loves going to the movies.  Honest to god, it could be a screening of Patton and as long as I bought the big popcorn, he'd be all in for going.  Because I know some of you are thinking it, no, we haven't been to any of the Sensory Friendly screenings that the AMC theater chain offers.   It's nothing against it.  We just started going to flicks before it was even offered in our area.   The kiddo does pretty well at the movies so to us it wasn't something we needed.

I write this autism blog and like it or not, some folks seem to want to know my opinion of such things cause I've got some sort of autism tenure.  So I thought, well, why the Hell not?  I don't want my autism street cred questioned.  Also, the sensory friendly showing time worked out well with our action packed schedule of going to see Granny after and then to the pancake house for the early bird dinner.  (Hey I had a coupon!) Plus, I'm getting blog fodder from it.  This wins all around.  I was really on a fact finding mission when you think about it.  I can totally write this off on my taxes right?  Business expense?  No?  Well I did observe a thing or two and I started to think who are these sensory accommodations for really?  Not just the kids really. 

The house lights stay on.  That's cool. Made looking in my giant Mom bag for my Chapstick easier.  Plus if you had to get up for a bathroom or snack run, you could actually find your seat and not be those hoovering folks that seem to have lost all sense of direction when they return to a theater.  That was a Pro.  However, it does bug the eyes after a while depending where you sit.  We were right under a light fixture.  Maybe next time depending on the movie, I'll bring a magazine. 

No previews or ten thousand commercials to sit through before the show.  It was just BOOM! MOVIE!  I liked that.  I liked that a lot.  Have you noticed they show movie previews for flicks that won't even be out till next summer??? You know how annoying it is to have to tell my kiddo every time that it will MONTHS before that bad ass Lego Movie will be out.  So thank god they yanked those.  Big Pro there. 

The sound is lower.  Like a lot lower.  To the point where I thought at first "Damn, I really need to get my hearing checked. The kiddo blasting his iPad while watching TV has taken it's toll."  Then I remembered that this was one of the Pros of this arrangement.  However this coupled with a lot of autism kids making well autism noise made it hard to hear the actual film at times.  Now honestly, this didn't really bother me but my rule loving son got ticked off!  Started "shhing" people left and right.  Oh the irony of a kiddo being intolerant of those with autism when he in fact is autistic himself. I grabbed the chance of this being a "teachable moment" and told him to ignore them.  I could tell this confused the crap out of him.  Up to this moment movie theater equated silence and here I was rocking his world and changing "the rules". You know how an autistic kiddo like him loves him some rules baby!  I found myself having to correct him correcting others.  At first I worried my talking would annoy others around me but I had a kid next to us that had gotten up and walked around the whole theater no less than ten times during the show.  I remembered I was with my tribe.  I'm understanding of their ways.  They get ours.  So I stopped panicking. 

All in all, we were certainly the less rowdy of the bunch but all of us there seem to enjoy being in a room full of families just like our own.  No dirty looks.  No Sanctimommies and their exasperated signs while seeing my kid eat his body weight in popcorn soaked in some sort of yellow "butter" type liquid while feeding their lovey precious babies organic micro biotic kale chips.  That was certainly a nice accommodation for me.  If I had to correct my kid (and I did) nobody really seemed to care.  They were probably just happy it wasn't them at that moment. (we all seemed to take turns)

I'll be honest though. I'm not sure if we'll go again to a sensory screening.  The kiddo, after the movie, was scripting many of the "movie rules" to me on the car ride home.  It was quite clear to me that based on his prior experience, the talking, the lights, the lower volume, the getting up and quirking around, all of the sensory accommodations offered, bugged the ever living crap out of him.  I guess having so much experience the other way was almost chaotic for him.  For us, we probably won't go out of our way to do it again.  I think if I had started this is as his first movie going experience, it would be different. I am not going to lie.  Sitting there with a room full of my autism homeboys and girls was awesome.  We were all just trying to enjoy an activity we all thought as new parents that one day we would do, taking our kids to the movies.   Not thinking about therapy, IEPs, insurance and doctor appointments.  So yeah, these accommodations kind of rock for us neurotypical parents.  However not all autism is the same and these really weren't working for my kiddo.  Kind of reminded me that cookie cutter accommodations don't always mean success.  Some tweaking will be needed.  Maybe a good social stories.  Autism parents love them some social stories.

You see, I got to thinking about it last night.  I can't be blogging for acceptance and tolerance and embracing all the quirks if I got my boy thinking he shouldn't have to do so.  While we won't go all the time to a sensory friendly screening, we will go now and then.   I want to teach him about accepting others and how their autism might present itself.  The kiddo of mine has an ego and I'm betting a large popcorn I can probably explain to him that he's setting a great example with his good movie going behavior.  So many neurotypical kids are wonderfully accepting of him and I want him to be the same of others, no matter what their neurology.  It will be tricky but I think we can do it. 

Next Smurf or Alvin and the Chipmunk nonsense I got to sit through, I'm definitely bringing a book! 


  1. Terrie Hortman HumphriesDecember 9, 2013 at 9:43 AM

    My son though sensative to loud noises would be just like yours. We take ear plugs to the movies and he too eats his weight in

  2. We've taken out ASD almost three year old son to two of these. Where we live they handle it just like any other movie, loud, trailers, dark theater.
    My wife and I are fairly isolated in the world of all this (diagnosis arrived in Sept '13) and it was humbling to go to this (our son seems to be doing better so far than a lot of other youngsters in attendance).

  3. I'll be honest, I have mixed feelings about sensory screenings (full disclosure: I've never been to one). On the one hand, the idea of bringing F. anywhere really and having his quirks not raise an eyebrow is appealing. Having said that, as a general rule I don't expect or quite frankly want a lot of his behaviours to be 'accepted'. He is capable of learning what is OK and what's not, so even if he needs more time and more help learning the rules of society, it is my job to teach him. In the long run I think I'd be doing him a disservice if I didn't. I might feel differently if he were more severely affected and there have certainly been places we haven't gone because he's not yet ready steps forward.

  4. hello this is keegan again from the Sluis Academy.I am wondering what kind of movies your son is into? is he afraid of scary violent movies that far surpass his age or do they interest him? certain children with autism that i have known actually have a real adept grasp on reality and are able to watch movies that children their age normally wouldnt be able to watch.