Monday, July 1, 2013

Stimmer and a Movie: Our First "Sensory-Friendly" Film

The boy had been to exactly one movie before this weekend.  It was two years ago, and I took him to see Winnie the Pooh.  I planned that outing like cat burglars plan heists.  I made lists and checked and double-checked them.  I made charts and diagrams.  I had a game plan.  It was like The Italian Job, or perhaps more like The Great Muppet Caper.

"Peanut butter?" 
"Animal ate it!"

Winne the Pooh is only an hour long, and we went on a sunny Wednesday afternoon about two weeks after it was released.  The only other people in the theater were families with small children, a group of special-needs adults, and one adorable couple in their early twenties.  And us.

We sat in the section in front of the balcony that has seating and spaces for wheelchairs.  Once I was assured that nobody else needed those seats, we settled in and I unpacked a huge array of snacks from my big mama purse.  The seats in that section were good because he couldn't kick the back of anyone's chair.  It did however, make it easy for him to run.  I prepared for this by having him wear his monkey backpack with the little leash.  (You know the one I'm talking about?  The one that people see and either say, "How cute!" or sneer, "You put your child on a leash?"  The people in the latter group can suck it.)

He was pretty good during the movie.  He loved Pooh and I was plying him with snacks.  He got up a few times and I lured him back with the monkey leash.  At the end of the movie, I let him get up and dance during the credits.  It was a great success!  I've been afraid to try it ever since.

Well, this past weekend, we decided to give this another shot.  Monsters University was playing and AMC Theaters had a sensory-friendly viewing.  Basically, what this means is that the lights aren't down all the way and the movie isn't as loud.  It also means that it's full of our people, which made it the coolest.

The boy didn't behave nearly as well for this movie as he did for Pooh.  First of all, unlike the rest of the family, he's not obsessed with Monsters, Inc.  (I love this movie.  I'm a Disney Dork.)  Secondly, the movie was longer than an hour.  Finally, he'd outgrown the monkey backpack.  (Oh, how I miss putting my child on a leash!)

But you know what?  It was fine.  He talked during the movie and asked for snacks, and nobody cared.  He got up and changed seats, and nobody cared.  He ran out of the theater, and as I chased him back in, he was laughing hysterically, and nobody cared.  In fact, one dad smiled at me and raised his coffee cup in salute.  (Sensory films are shown at 10 a.m.)  Even after the show, when he took off for the arcade so fast his too-big shorts dropped around his ankles, nobody said a thing.  These were our people. 

(A word of warning--the only thing that wasn't sensory-friendly was the extremely loud hand-dryer in the bathroom.  Some patrons were a little unhappy about the noise.)

But all in all, it was just so nice to go out as a family and do the type of thing that other families take for granted.  It was a cute movie.  It was a great crowd.  The kids laughed loudly and yelled at the bad guys and applauded when good things happened to Mike and Sully.  It was a little slice of our normal, and no dirty looks.

Here's the link to participating theaters and the schedule for upcoming sensory-friendly films.  Maybe I'll see you there!


  1. Thanks for this post. Our city doesn't offer sensory friendly films so we raised some money to rent out the theatre and we are having our own this Saturday morning. You're right too. The lights up and the sound down is good but the main thing is the people. We will be right at home and the kids can stim or move or make noise as needed!

  2. I so wish that they had sensory friendly films when my boys were younger. We used to go to the movies weeks after they opened, mid week and as early in the day as possible so the boys could move about and be loud if they wanted to. During one movie, my husband and all three boys were dancing up front under the screen while the characters were singing. For the life of me I cannot recall the title!
    We still go to the early shows with my middle son to avoid the big crowds and I can sooooooo relate on the planning! I feel like a criminal with all that I smuggle in my big purse but if I forget something then it's hell to pay LOL
    Glad that your experience was an enjoyable one!!

  3. For my now 14 y/o daughter (Asperger's), it's the loud hand dryers but the even louder auto flush toilets are the worst. So nice of your theater to provide this outing!