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Published on July 1st, 2013 | by What2Learn

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What I learned about autism friendly cinema screenings

Thirty minutes into the latest cartoon movie masterpiece, Despicable Me 2, and things were starting to get tense. Matthew, my four year old with a diagnosis of ASD, had eaten through the crisps, banana and raisins we had brought. With an hour of the movie still to run I only had one two finger Kit Kat as bribery for sitting and staying quiet.

In the subsequent sixty minutes he had a quite a wander around where we were sitting, squeezed out the side of our row to get down to the row in front and spent at least five minutes loudly copying a character that had screamed in the movie.

Do you know what though? It really didn’t matter. Nobody else in the theater minded or even batted an eyelid. The reason: we were in the ‘autism friendly’ showing of the movie. All of the other children present were either somewhere on the Autism spectrum, or the sibling of somebody who is.

The differences in an autism friendly screening are that there is no waiting around through advert and trailers – the movie starts as soon as the curtains open. The theater is also kept a little lighter and the sound is turned down to help those with sensory conditions to cope. The children are even allowed to get out of their seats, take their own food and make whatever noise they want to make.


There is no way that we would have lasted the duration of the movie in a normal screening. The pressure to remain still, quiet and seated would have made Matthew explode sooner or later. The feeling of pressure to prevent him from disturbing the enjoyment of others would have probably made me throw the towel in long before that. So, I’d like to declare a huge thanks to Dimensions for organising this scheme (learn more here). I’d also like to thank Odeon, Vue, Cineworld and Empire cinemas for agreeing to do one such autism friendly screening each month (in particular the lovely staff at Odeon Amersham because that is where we went).

Finally, I’d like to end by saying that there were a LOT of empty seats. Please encorage the cinemas to keep supporting this great scheme by taking your own autistic children to enjoy movies in such a caring and considerate environment. Please also spread the word – tell parents of autistic children, tweet this post or the Dimensions page linked above – whatever you can do.


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