A family's story

Posts tagged ‘Sensory-Friendly Films’

I get it

This past Saturday our family ventured out to a local AMC theater for the sensory-friendly showing of Despicable Me 2. We even brought Hubz’s parents along for the ride. Originally, Hubz’s parents had offered to take the boys by themselves, but Tate can be a wildcard, so we decided that we should all go. It was a very enjoyable morning.

Tate has done the movie thing enough now to know the routine. We go through the big doors, buy our tickets by the glass, get popcorn and find a good seat. Tate was beyond thrilled that the movie was being shown in one of the big theaters. He chose seats front and center, right off of an aisle. 

He played with my phone and munched on his popcorn as we waited for the show to start. As we sat and waiting for those 5 minutes, we noticed a boy walking around the theater. He would go down a few steps, or walk across the walk way and rhythmically pat his tummy. Step step step….pat pat pat. Step step step….pat pat pat. There was a very definite pattern to it. He wasn’t bothering anyone, aside from the few times he got a *little* too close to Tate’s popcorn, and Tate shooed him away. His mom apologized as she chased after him the one time. I shook my head as if to say, “no worries”. I smiled. I get it.

After the movie, which got double thumbs up from our boys, we all went to Red Robin. We were seated in a corner booth, and Tate arranged himself so he could have a view of every ceiling fan in the joint. He also had to have the end seat. It’s his thing. 

We asked for some fries to tide us over as we waited for our meal. The waitress brought them out with our drinks. We have found that if we get Tate a little sample of what’s to come, he’s content and much less likely to get overwhelmed by anxiety about when food will arrive. 

As Tate, Jake & Cole inhaled the fries, a mom and her two children were seated at the booth next to ours (behind Tate). They had been there for possibly 5 minutes when Cole announced that he had to use the facilities. As my four guys headed out of the booth, the little boy in the booth next to ours was flipping his knife. Just.like.Tate.

My mother-in-law leaned over with a smile. That looks familiar, doesn’t it? Yes, yes it does. 

I applaud the mother in that booth. She ventured out to a restaurant by herself with her two kids. It was clear that she was overwhelmed. I know that look. It is a big deal to do that by one’s self. I get it

The little boy was fidgeting and moving all over his seat. He was annoying his older sister. She started to whine. Knowing that her son needed a movement break, and knowing that she needed a few moments collect herself, she asked her daughter to walk the little boy over to the arcade games and entrance, where there was a tv in the floor. As her kids were preoccupied, she pulled out her phone and was clearly trying to catch up on email or Facebook or the Interwebz. She caught me looking at her. She got no judgement. She got no stink eyes. She got a smile and a nod. I get it.

My boys came back and we got our food. It was a blur of action for the next 10 minutes. And then…we were done. Cole was sitting under the table. Jake was playing with his french fries and asking if he could get new Beyblades (his go-to conversation when he’s bored and unsure of what to say). Tate was playing with Hubz’s phone and was starting to stim vocally. 

We got the waitress’s attention and started to clear out. As we were finishing up, I was able to sneak a peak at our booth neighbors. Their food had arrived. The little girl was using her mom’s pen and was trying to do some of the puzzles on the kids’ menu as she ate her hamburger. The mom was pouring the lemonade from the Red Robin cup into his sippy cup. As she tightened the lid, her son flipped his corn dog the same way as he had been flipping the knife. He was playing a game on his mom’s phone. As she got a moment of peace as she nibbled a fry. She looked relieved to have that one moment. That split second of quiet in an otherwise chaotic day. I smiled in her direction because, well, I get it.

Let’s go to the Movies…

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.

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