Sensory Friendly Movies: Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist February 4, 2013

I heard about a story recently that made me feel happy and sad at the same time.

Jennifer, a reader from Burlington, Washington emailed to tell me that the movie theater in her town had started to offer “sensory friendly” showings of popular movies to the community.

Wondering what a sensory friendly film was all about, Jennifer inquired at the box office and was told that the special screenings are geared toward the needs of autistic children.  The lights are kept on during the film, the sound is turned down and the kids are free to run around and do whatever they like.

Jennifer had a mixed reaction about the program just like I did. On the one hand, what a wonderful idea for families struggling with an autistic or special needs child so that they can enjoy time out at the movies together in a comfortable environment.

On the other hand, what does this say about the number of children that are autistic today?

This movie theater’s sensory friendly program is not an isolated case.  AMC Theaters has a page on its website devoted to sensory friendly films and describes the initiative as a monthly program offered nationwide for families affected by autism:

The program provides a special opportunity for families to enjoy their favorite films in a safe and accepting environment. The auditoriums dedicated to the program have their lights up, the sound turned down and audience members are invited to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing!

The idea for the program began with a request from a parent with an autistic child for a special screening at AMC Columbia Mall 14 in Columbia, MD. More than 300 children and parents attended the first screening.

We are thrilled to now offer the program at many locations nationwide – please see below for a complete list of participating theatres. As a leading theatrical exhibition company, we are so proud to be making a difference in the estimated 1.5 million Americans living with an autism spectrum disorder by offering families a chance to see a movie together – often for the very first time.

One thing is certain – AMC would not be offering sensory friendly screenings of popular films unless it was financially viable. In other words, if it doesn’t fill seats, it won’t fly.

Jennifer told me that she used to work at a movie theater and knows how slim the margins can be. Yet, upon inquiring with the manager of the movie theater, she was told that the program was indeed filling plenty of seats and was very financially successful with many showings selling out!

The Age of Autism

It’s not news that the rate of autism continues to skyrocket.   Using data from the website vacinfo.org, I constructed the graph to the right which visually depicts the number of school age children in the United States with autism and how it has grown since 1994.

On November 29, 2012, the United States Congress held a riveting hearing on the Federal response to the astronomical and still rising rate of autism in today’s generation of children.

During these hearings, one Utah congressman reported that the autism rate is 1 in 47 in his state.

In New Jersey, the rate of autism is a shocking 1 in 26!

With so many children now on the autistic spectrum with more added each and every day, one has to wonder what other aspects of community life will be altered in the coming years to accommodate their special needs far and beyond sensory friendly films.

What Will Happen When These Children Grow Up?

My big question has always been, “What will happen when these autistic kids grow up in the coming decades and their parents become too old to take care of them anymore?”

My guess is that there will be a new type of extended care facility – Autism Homes similar to the Nursing Homes of today except there won’t be many old people around anymore due to declining life expectancy with the passing of  the pre-WWII generation, the last generation raised without processed foods.   Really old people will become a rarer sight rather than common like it is today.

As a result, these abandoned nursing homes will instead become filled with autistic and other special needs adults cared for by a professional staff because there isn’t anyone able to care for them properly at home anymore.

Sobering thought isn’t it?

There are certainly many more lifestyle modifications and adjustments to be made in communities across America as an increasing tidal wave of autistic children grow up and take their place in society that will require enormous community financial resources.

The advent of sensory friendly films across the nation is the tip of the iceberg.

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Picture Credit

 

Comments (68)

  1. I have another more sobering prediction. If anyone has read through the Obamacare mandate, they will see “end of life plan” and other sinister phrases referring to the ending of surplus lives mentioned several times. I predict that these autistic adults will be euthanized if there is no family to care for them . It may seem unbelievable, but the power to do it is already there.

    Reply
        • This is typical far-right fear rhetoric. I find it amusing the agenda that you guys never seem to cease pushing. Most funny is that the group most supportive of the death penalty and war, which = DEATH, does not bother them in the least. Truth is they are racists, and stop at nothing. Thou shalt not lie!

          Reply
    • There is NOTHING about euthanizing anyone in the health care reform act. To say that you predict the euthanization of autistic adults….well, that’s just sensationalistic and you’re listening to too many sound bites of the American Medical Association (heavily funded by the pharmaceutical industry).

      Reply
    • I have a teenager with Down syndrome. If you could see how drastic the cuts for services have been the last year for such individuals you’d be horrified. We are fortunate to have a loving family for support .. I can’t even imagine how others without safety nets will survive .. and that might just be the point.

      Reply
    • I think you should loosen your tin foil hat, it is cutting off too much of your circulation.

      You think Obamacare is going to do that? How about Gov. Jindal cutting off hospice care to low income people that are dying? The only reason he stopped that is because of the outrage. While you are making things up, the republicans in various states actually are doing things that will trully hurt people. He still is, by the way, cutting off speech therapy to low income kids.. That will do more to hurt autistic kids in his state than Obamacare will. How about sticking to things that are actually happening, than things you “predict” will?

      Reply
    • we have legal suicide in our state now. i can see this happening.
      the story of the deaf belgian twins who elected to be euthenized was hearbreaking.

      Reply
  2. Sadly, too many people will dismiss the warning shot fired here as “extremism”, when it’s nothing short of THE TRUTH. You can’t wake sleeping sheeple who don’t want to be awakened. Sigh…..

    Reply
    • I used to feel the same way about “the sheep”. I stopped blaming them after realizing they’re being kept asleep on purpose (fluoride, GMOs, toxins, poor education system, mindless TV, etc.) It took me 40 years to wake up. People are waking up … slowly … it’s just a matter of what will trigger it.

      Reply
      • No one is “blaming” the sheeple for anything. They are simply part of the end times great deception – it’s spiritual. But, yes, all those toxic foods certainly helped make the sheeple what they are, and help keep them there.

        We know we have a mass of sheeple – our current leadership is proof positive.

        As to you “coming alive”, two things: (1) WELL DONE! and (2) you just proved my point. You CHOSE to wake up! Most of them are CHOOSING to remain in the comfort of the fog. Spiritual deception.

        Reply
        • Society has been self-correcting for thousands of years (not in small part due to the herculean efforts of the non-sheeple). Bad as it looks now, I’m sure it will correct again.

          Reply
        • Elizabeth,
          As to your last paragraph in your reply to destal7 regarding people who choose to wake up: Several years ago, there was a movie made called The Matrix. Unfortunately, this film was given an R rating, which kept many people from watching it, and I was almost one of them. The point is, this movie is a penetrating, trenchant, and incisive allegory for the conditions in the world today. It speaks to the false “reality” that has been pulled over the eyes of most of the world about virtually everything, and shows that most people are perfectly happy living in their ignorance of the evil being perpetrated upon the masses by those who lust for power, money, and vainglory. Not only that, but they will become militant against anyone who tries to wake them up.
          It’s truly a sad, but very accurate, description of the world in which we live. Thankfully, it also offers a great deal of hope at the end, and I highly recommend it to those who think they *might* want to waken from the stupor into which most have been lulled. I wouldn’t say that the movie is anything approaching “spiritual,” but those who are spiritually minded can definitely find parallels.
          One final note, while there were actually three Matrix movies made, only the first one is really applicable to this narrative. I’m afraid the others were made to milk the cash cow.
          Thank you for your insightful comments.

          Reply
  3. Sarah, I agree with your fears about skyrocketing autism rates. However, when your commenters believe that the entire world is one big conspiracy, & THEY are the only ones who “get it”, it doesn’t help the credibility of our concerns.

    Reply
    • PamJ,

      I, too, don’t want to be rude or disrespectful, but “facts is facts,” and “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean ‘they’ aren’t really out to get you!”

      What if the ones who think they’re the only ones who “get it” are right? Look at our nation and tell me that “majority rule” has always been good for the majority. Look at the skyrocketing rates of previously unknown diseases and illnesses and tell me that the fake food that is consistently foisted upon the trusting masses has nothing to do with those. All a manufacturer has to do is slap a “heart healthy” or “high fiber” or other healthy-sounding label on his product and sales are sure to increase: and this despite the fact that the “food” has been highly processed and/or is full of refined sugar and/or has multiple layers of MSG in it (all called by different names to confuse the issue) and/or is full of denatured, degermed ingredients that no longer have ANY food value to them! Of course, I could go on about the things that the greedy do to our food, but it doesn’t stop there!

      Is the “insane” person who is kept on psychotropic drugs truly insane, or do the drugs just keep him incoherent? Are drugs that supposedly help you overcome one condition but whose side-effects list is so long and jargon-laden that it is incomprehensible worth the risk? Should mounting evidence and court rulings that show a direct link between vaccinations and autism be ignored for fear of our being labeled “extreme”?

      I’ll wear the badge proudly and yet without malice toward those who are not willing to accept reality—in spite of the “sticks and stones” some who are less-informed or less willing to wake up may throw.

      Respectfully,
      DD

      Reply
      • I fully agree with all of your comments so far, d.d! I would just like to say thanks for saying it so well… and hopefully your comments will wake someone else up, too! Its very sad howmny people just want to be left in their little bubble… its easier for them that way, I guess… at least the ones I know.
        Anyway, thanks!

        And thanks Sarah I don’t know anyone affected by autism so didn’t know much about it. This was very inciteful…

        Reply
      • Dan – some people have chosen the red pill while others would rather take the blue pill. The red pill is a very hard pill to swallow for a great deal out there. It doesn’t taste very good, and the more you take the more you go down the rabbit hole… I think you get where I am coming from, so great points. ;)

        Reply
  4. It is terrible that severe autism is accepted as normal, and that we have a huge population of people who will never be able to care for themselves.

    People have been cured of Autism through diet, yet the mainstream ignores this and focuses on treatments that are expensive, profitable, and do not cure.

    It is so sad, and so wrong.
    Stanley Fishman\’s last post: Great Traditional Animal Fats

    Reply
  5. We have been to a few of these…mainly they are for my NT kids, my son doesnt have the attention span to watch an entire film…. he has Autism- and its because he was vaccine injured.

    Reply
  6. Sarah,

    According to official sources, GMO’s have been in our food since the mid-nineties. However, genetically engineered “modern wheat” has been around since the mid-sixties. Of course, what made it advantageous to the farmer, is its price and yield relative to traditional wheat. However, it contains something else: A protein called ‘gliadin’ that is, by researchers and doctors estimates, a very dangerous protein and one that’s responsible for, at least, contributing to the obesity epidemic. Who knows what else? GMO’s, in the opinion of many experts, are responsible for a legion of conditions and diseases which, before their large-scale use, were virtually unheard of…..autism being one of them. As a society we’re continuously being bombarded by things in our air, water and food that are completely alien to our microbiology. So, how can we possibly expect a positive outcome unless we quit buying the garbage we’re being offered?
    R Walker DuHaime\’s last post: IS THERE A LINK BETWEEN MS AND FOOD?

    Reply
  7. Heather Mills Thompson via Facebook February 4, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    that is WONDERFUL! It’s so hard to take my eldest to the movies. The noise level always gets to him.

    Reply
  8. Amy Gault via Facebook February 4, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    This would be great!!! I love to go to movies with my kids, but I am extremely bothered by the intensity of the volume and the vibrations in the seats from the loud rumblings (and we have it at home, too, because the rest of the family loves their movies loud).

    Reply
  9. If you look at my daughter’s second grade classroom, the numbers are much grimmer; 2 in 26! And that’s not counting the kids who may be high functioning – that is only the ones who require an aide.
    As far as the sensory friendly films, we really appreciate them and have been to a couple screenings (my youngest has methylmalonic acidemia and severe developmental delays due to a metabolic crisis sustained as an infant). Both times it was a great experience for us, luckily our theatre doesn’t get too full, I’d say 4-8 families per screening.

    Reply
  10. One last thing, I think it’s great that there are companies out there willing to accept and cater to special needs kids, autistic or not. As a parent, I see enough discrimination and misunderstanding as it is. Sensory friendly films allow me to put my guard down for a few moments and not worry about my child “offending” someone because she is incapable of sitting still through the whole movie. There is no explanation needed as practically everyone present has some level of understanding and empathy.

    Reply
  11. I understand there had been a rise in autism, but haven’t we seen a decline in mental retardation? It seems many of these numbers can also be attributed to a change in the terminology.

    Reply
    • i would attribute the decline more to selective abortion based on early screening. many mentally disabled kids are also physically disabled. you don’t see many downs kids anymore, either.

      Reply
  12. The numbers are truly terrifying. And yet how many people still will not even consider the likely contributing factors but only want to go along with what the government or some lemming of a mainstream doctor tells them? This made me cry. Now for more prayer in my day!

    Reply
  13. It’s not a grammar/spelling issue — it’s an issue of it being about people having a condition, not being defined by their condition.

    Btw, I think this is just a terrific idea. My oldest is on the spectrum, and he is not a sensory-avoider, but I know many kids who are, and this is a fantastic way for them to be able to enjoy movies.

    Reply
  14. Kristen Papageorge February 4, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Sara, we have personally experienced Sensory Free movies in North Georgia and it is a much smoother experience to view a film with ASD children with these accommodations! In our area of Georgia we have the support of a non-profit group that actually hosts and sponsor the sensory free movies at no costs for the families of special needs children. It has been a huge success in our local area and has grown to fill 2-3 movie theaters and they are starting to offer the sensory free movies in more areas. I love that my children can go to the theater and not feel overwhelmed and can sit through a movie now. Thanks for sharing the article. I wish more families knew of this alternative!

    Reply
  15. Oh, good grief. I hate PC language. It’s clunky and only used for the benefit of a few people who otherwise choose to be offended by matter-of-fact adjectives. No one is saying that “children with autism” are nothing but their autism just by using the more concise term “autistic children.” Should we stop saying “young children,” too, because our children are “people first” and only then young? That’s ridiculous! (And, no I’m not just being insensitive. We have a number of very dear friends whose children are autistic. Some people just insist on being OVER-sensitive.)

    I think these screenings sound like they could be beneficial for ANY families with young children. (Or must I say, “children who are young”?)
    Rachel R.\’s last post: Conscious Competence

    Reply
    • Thanks, Rachel and D.D!! I appreciate your very well-put, concise comments. Btw, D.D., we’re on the same page with The Matrix.

      Reply
  16. Gooday, I am from Australia, &, I am really concerned as to what has happened to your “Healthcare” system in the U. S., You are being denied the truth by the FDA, FTC, EPA, DEA, &, any other Government-Agency you can think of, in as much, that you are being poisoned by the food industry, you are denied access to Natural-health information, & Big-pharma has control of your health industry, especially with this vaccination crap which is maiming your kids.
    Then, you have these supposed do-gooders like Bill Gates, who advocates a reduction in the
    population via vaccination:- His own words on a Ted broadcast.
    There is also the matter of your Debt, & I don’t just mean the Credit-limit of $16 Trillion, I mean the using of your Social Security Monies, & what has happened there is, that, the Governments
    have taken money from the system & given Bonds to cover those monies, but there is a catch,
    & that is that those Bonds cannot be sold on the open market, & those Bonds are to the value
    of $120 Trillion, there is your true debt, but no one ever mentions it.
    I am a 74 year old who has not had a Cold or flu since 1995, & I still have my Prostate which the Medicos wanted to remove back in 1994, & thanks to Herbs, Vitamins & Minerals I am still fit & healthy & play golf 2 or 3 times a week.
    Fix up your Heath-system, demand freedom of information & the right to know what you are being fed by demanding labeling of GMO’s, & getting rid of Floride from your water-supplies.
    I wish you, the American People, all the best for the future, but, don’t rely on the Government,
    take responsibility for your own health, just as you take responsibility for you marriage, your kids, your mortgage, your car-maintenance etc.
    The majority of your politicians are in it for the money & the perks, & occasionally you will find a good one, like Ron Paul.

    God bless.

    Reply
    • Thank you for your post, Robert.
      We may live in different countries but we all (on this site) have common goals: We care about our children & we want them (and ourselves) to have a life of health, freedom and peace.
      Unfortunately, there ARE others in the world who don’t share these goals. (And to the naysayers, NO WE’RE NOT paranoid. Remember: A conspiracy theory is only a theory until it’s proven fact. Fluoride is the first step … do your research before dismissing people. It’s not about party lines, either!)

      Reply
  17. Another poster from Australia here.

    Thanks for your blog Sarah, lots of people from all around the world are reading it!

    They sure are sobering autism statistics. I too wonder when people will wake up.

    I can attest to the healing power of real food. My 3 year old showed a lot of autistic traits even as a newborn…. she wouldn’t touch me, or make eye contact, new situations brought on massive meltdowns etc etc etc.

    Anyway, almost 1 year into a WAPF diet and the difference is staggering. There is no way anyone would believe me IRL if I told them how she used to be.

    In addition, she has a rare eye condition which is improving significantly every time we go back for a check up – much to the disbelief of the ophthalmologist *grin*.

    Thanks again Sarah!

    Reply
  18. As a parent of a child on the Autism Spectrum, I’d like to chime in with a slightly different angle. Life with our children is overwhelming, demanding, challenging….then throw in the special diet needs, research to find answers, educating other parents and their children, educating our own children…Whew!!! But we also need to plan ahead for their future…to see the forest instead of the trees. I’d encourage other parents (relatives, teachers, friends) to look into the future at what their children may be capable of doing..some type of “job” they can be trained for and still be a productive member of society. Parents will answer this differently depending on their own talents, skills and interests. Our interests happened to be in line with providing our own food, so with this in mind, my DH and I decided to leave the city and move to the country with our 3 boys. To a place where we could teach them to grow a garden, care for chickens, milk a cow every morning, put up fencing, mend a waterhose, muck a stall, move haybales, take care of our egg customers, etc. Our boys needed to learn to work together, to seek out solutions to problems, to take care of each other. Our ADHD/Asperger’s son may never be able to live totally independently, but hopefully one or two of his brothers will always be around on the farm to help out. My son thrives on routine. There isn’t much more routine than the rhythm and cycle of the day and animals. Our son is in charge of our 100+ free range laying hens, and at age 15 he does a pretty good job. He just beams with pride when he gets to wait on a customer who has driven to the farm for his pastured organic eggs! He also beams with pride when I tell him that every single egg on the griddle today had deep orange yolks…he knows what that means and how much work it was! He is not totally independent yet in his job, but we have a few more years to work on that. Has this been easy to change our whole lifestyle? No! Has it been challenging? Yes! Would any of us want to go back to our old lifestyle in the city where we were totally dependent on everyone else? No! The last 4 years on the farm have been harder than anything we’ve ever done…but take a look at our country. It’s not going to get any easier from now on. The things our boys have seen us do and sacrifice to stay on the farm have been lessons learned they will need in their lives. I know moving to the farm will not be the answer for everybody, but I suspect most of us know of someone who is dealing with a child on the Autism Spectrum. There will be many challenging days ahead…for all of us. Let’s strive to find a place for them to be as productive as possible. Thank you Sarah, for asking the questions that make us think… for challenging us to keep working and improving our health (and our families) so that hopefully those autistic numbers will not continue to increase.

    Reply
  19. We’ve had them here for over 5 years. They are almost always free admission – sponsored by local companies – and play at least one kid-friendly movie (currently in theaters) a month. Nice option for those who need it, but in some ways a bit overwhelming anyway for some sensitive kids (the chaos is not unlike the “free” family movies with out of control, noisy kids).

    Reply
  20. yes def to many kids getting hurt but as a nursing mom who has trouble going anywhere quiet with baby, even church i spend most of the time in nursry so she can play, this sounds good. i could take her and if she goo’s and gaa’s even fuss’s i couldmstay in there. but im sure its not just kids in general in there as most could sit thro a movie and be quiet enough for any threater

    Reply
  21. For those (few) of you who don’t know much about autism, you can gain some insight by watching a movie called “Temple Grandin.” It is about a woman who exhibited autism from an early age but was able to (more or less) overcome it and who became a leader in the autism community. It is a biopic based on the true story of the title character, and is very inspirational. If you do an Internet search for her name, you will find a lot of information and even a full-length documentary about this remarkable individual.

    One disclaimer: Miss Grandin was not always treated nicely, and the movie has one brief but particularly graphic depiction of some cattle parts that were splayed across her vehicle’s windshield. Watch the movie yourself, first, before deciding whether to allow children—challenged or not—to view it.

    Reply
  22. Hello,

    not everything is based on the food. The problem with Autism is that it is a genetic thing. Researchers believe that the fact that more and more people start having a family when they are above 30 or even older. If you have child at the age of 40 it is more likely that it will be autistic.
    Before women’s rights were strenghened and when there were not methods for avoiding pregnancy people had children at the age of 18-25.
    I believe that this is the main reason why there are disorders like aspergerson or ADHS or autism.

    We can blame many things on food but not everything.

    Reply
    • Last year, there were several big studies that mapped the genes of parents and their kids on the spectrum. What they all found was most mutations were spontaneous in the autistic children, they were not present in the parents. So, we know now that it is NOT a genetic trait most of the time that was passed on from the parents. It makes sense to look at other changes in our modern world that would cause these spontaneous mutations, and it makes perfect sense to look at the novel ingredients in the food supply. Also, when you say having a child at the age of 40 increases the odds of having an autistic child, that is true for first time parents. There have been plenty of 40 year old moms before our time, the difference today is that it was usually not a FIRST child at 40.

      Reply
    • Claudia,
      No one is claiming “everything is based on food.” One of the reasons for miscarriages and genetic abnormalities for “older” mothers is also related to the “food issue” (which, by the way, also comprises food, water, household and environmental toxins, vaccines, etc.) When we conceive at an older age, we’ve accumulated much more of these toxins in our bodies than when we were young, and we pass them on to our children in utero. Accordingly, this is another contributing factor in childhood illnesses and disorders.

      As far as the genetic component, many researchers have found that some problematic genes can be even be “activated” from these toxins, again proving there is a distinctive link in the level of contaminants we are exposed to in today’s world and the increase in autistic spectrum disorders. So yes, “food issues” are the problem.

      Reply
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  24. We learned of sensory friendly movies almost two years ago and were so blessed to have found them! Because of them our eldest son who is extremely sensitive to stimuli was able to see his first movie theater movie (sure it was several years after his peers, but he got to go). These are great not only for children with autism, but also those with sensory processing disorder, highly sensitive individuals, and anyone bothered by loud noises, flashing lights (minimized by keeping the lights on), etc.

    Yes, it is a sad commentary on the state of things in the US that this is needed, but for those who do, it is such a blessing.

    Reply
  25. I don’t get..should we euthinize the autistic kids or just fill them with drugs so they fit in with normal society..I for one would never even consider “curing” my son even if they found one that worked. My sons autism makes him who he is and I would never change that..we as parents have to teach them and prepare for their futures

    Reply
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