Enjoy the Show!

1 Mar

It came up at dinner with my parents on Saturday night.

“I never saw ‘Shrek the Third’,” my dad insisted.

“Not true,” I corrected. “You saw it with Paige and me.”

An unremarkable exchange for most families. Mine? Not so much. Our 15-year-old daughter has autism, landing somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. She does not talk, does not dress herself, has extremely limited social skills but she does not engage in self-injurious behaviors. Nor does she rock back and forth or shriek as many kids with ASD do.

A movie in most settings would be impossible. In fact, I hadn’t taken her to one since “Finding Nemo” back in 2003.

Then the Studio Movie Grill announced an innovative program, pioneered by a manager who has a special-needs child. Studio Movie Grill partnered with Variety the Children’s Charity of Texas to offer free screenings for disabled kids. (Accompanying adults pay regular admission; tickets are available at the box office on the day of the show.)

During the films, the lights are brought up, the sound is turned down and children are free to walk around and make noise. It’s such a hit that they often run the film in two theaters to accommodate overflow crowds.

Check out www.studiomoviegrill.com for locations and details. One more note about SMG: the staff (at least at the Arlington Highlands location where my family attends) has been trained to roll with the punches where the special-needs clientele is concerned. They are wonderful.

A couple years ago, AMC followed suit with a Sensory Friendly Films programs in partnership with the Autism Society of America. As with Studio Movie Grill, the lights in the theater are brought up, the sound is lower (I appreciate that, too!) and “silence is golden” is ignored.

In addition, there are no previews or commercials before the movies, another big plus. Families are welcome to bring their own gluten-free, casein-free food.

Check www.autism-society.org for a schedule and locations nationwide; you can sign up there for email alerts to shows and times.  Upcoming shows include “Mars Needs Moms” on March 12 and “Hop” on April 2. Tickets range from $4-$6 depending on location.

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