This past Saturday our family had a big milestone. We went to the movies. Together. And everyone made it through the entire movie. Ev-er-y-one.
The last time we had attempted to see a movie as a family, Tate was 3. Cole was still in-utero. We tried to see UP. Tate shrieked as we entered the theater. We bribed him with candy and he sat on my (quite non-existent) lap. He dozed off. 20 minutes later he woke up, and Hubz and I shared pacing duties. Neither of us got to see the movie in its entirety until we could get it at home.
In the almost-three-years since that flick, we tried, in vain, to go see a show. The mere mention of a movie caused Tate to flap, pace, and become overly anxious. He would wail. He would groan. He would shout. Really made us want to do that again. Additionally, he could rarely make it through a movie at home without needing to remove himself from the viewing area. All signs pointed to “no” for a family movie.
After we got Tate’s official diagnosis, I was perusing the web for some Autism-family-friendly activities. I saw that the Autism Society of America and AMC Theaters partner to offer “sensory-friendly” films about once a month on Saturdays at 10. Often, our schedule did not permit for a showing, plus, Cole was still young, and I wasn’t sure if we could handle two roaming, unhappy children.
Hubz and I were resigned to movies at home. In addition to a too-young Cole, and over-stimulated Tate, Jake had suddenly developed a phobia of theaters. We have no idea why he would freak out, but he did. We suspected that it might be his auditory sensitivities…but he wouldn’t communicate that with us.
I would occasionally check the sensory-friendly schedule. When I saw The Lorax was playing on Saturday as the sensory-friendly option, I approached Hubz. We really wanted to go…as a family. We decided to push everyone out of the comfort zone to attempt this movie.
Anticipating push-back from Jake, we told him we were having a special treat. Jake was sold. Cole was psyched about a “treat”. I did tell Tate about going to a movie, and did a little social story about going. He was not overly thrilled, but didn’t balk at it, either.
We got to the theater at about 10 to 10. No one was there! I asked the cashier for the sensory-friendly showing of The Lorax, and he tried to sell me their preferred customer card. Dude, do you not see the chaos I have with me? Do we look like frequent movie-goers?! Um, no.
I finished up with the ticket purchase, and was
demanded asked to buy treats. I wanted them to have fun, and I knew we’d need bribery, so I gladly spent a near fortune on popcorn, sour gummies and pink lemonade. (That sets the dining out budget back a bit for this quarter–yeesh!)
We piled into our seats, and the “silence is golden” promo was blaring from the speakers. Jake immediately covered his ears and groaned. Tate started to yell that he had to go home. Loudly. I was just about to run out of the theater in a huff to demand quieter sound, but the movie started and the volume went from “will cause permanent hearing loss” to “pleasurable”.
There were very few others at the film. Many of the kids there seemed to be similar to Tate. No one said anything…mostly just nodded and smiled when another child had to stim or take a movement break. Ahhhh, we found our clan.
Tate sat on an aisle. He was able to get up, and did the stairs a few times throughout the movie when his anxiety started to peak…or when he was getting visually over-stimulated by the movie. (They keep the lights on low, which was awesome. I could literally keep an eye on my kids.)
The boys shared popcorn and gummies. They sipped their lemonade. Hubz and I enjoyed a Coke Zero. We shared several glances and a few thumbs-up’s. We were making this work!
Tate’s only struggle was tolerating another child’s vocal stims during the climax of the movie. He whimpered and said he had to go home. I held his hand and gently reassured him that he was ok. And he calmed down, because he wasn’t overdone from the movie or his surroundings.
So, we did it. We had a little help, thanks to the Autism Society and AMC Theaters…but we still did it! I am so proud of my boys. Of us. We ventured down an unknown path, and came through on the other side.
Times like these give me hope for the future. With some modifications, we can partake in typical family adventures. And that, my friends, is progress.
**Special thanks to the powers that be in corporate at AMC Theaters and Autism Society of America. You totally succeeded in helping us feel welcome and aided another family through the murky waters of Autism. Thank you.