TAKING YOUR AUTISTIC CHILD TO THE MOVIES
Your child’s autistic condition must never become your sole reason for setting limitations to their outlet for fun and enjoyment. Every child deserves to be happy in their own ways, and that should not exclude those who are on the autism spectrum. While it is true that your autistic child is prone to develop sensory issues and social problems that might discourage you to let them try new things outside of their comfort zone, you must not leave your child in a stagnant phase and settle for a kind of decision that disregards what your child really feels and how they would respond to these new activities and routines. Reading books, skimming online resources and listening to other’s opinions is one step in providing a good developmental environment for your child, and helping them safely explore the unknown and expand their areas of learning is another step in enriching your child’s growth stage. One of the many things that you can try doing with your child is watching movies in the cinema. Although the idea itself already presents many worrying scenarios, there are a good number of ways to make your movie watching experience a memorable one despite your child’s autistic condition. You might be surprised with how happy and grateful you child will be after the activity is through.
Avoid Busy Days
Autistic people would easily get overwhelmed when they’re standing in the middle of a huge crowd of people. This can easily trigger meltdown tendencies if you are not thoughtful enough in scheduling your movie date. The most important thing to remember when you’re planning to watch mainstream and most anticipated movies is to avoid the first two weeks where there’s a huge wave of moviegoers falling in long lines. If you don’t want to ruin their excitement about the movie, you can delay your announcement about the planned activity and reveal it to them when the time is near. Once you get the schedule right, you’ll greatly reduce your child’s stress caused by social anxiety.
However, if the cinema is located inside a mall or any other business establishment, you also need to consider the congestion of people in that particular area during a specific time of the day. There’s no point in waiting for the least busy cinema days when the whole mall is still packed with a lot of people. What you can do is to watch the earliest movie showing during that day, where the people coming into the mall or business establishment is still fewer. To verify your estimation, you can try to contact both the cinema and mall ground hotlines and ask for the peak hours.
Bring another familiar face with you
Seeing more than a single familiar face together with them, your child might feel more confident and comfortable than just the two of you going to the cinema. You may ask your partner, your other son or daughter, their grandparent or another close relative, or even your child’s friend or classmate to join you in watching the movie. Be sure, however, to treat the other person as generous and as nice as you can, so they also feel comfortable and grateful for the opportunity. You can shoulder the ticket and snacks, and even the ride back and forth. Bringing a frustrated or uninterested person by force will only make matters worse, and any atmosphere of awkwardness might be sensed by your autistic child.
Bring your own refreshments if you could
Especially for children who follow a strict diet, bringing your home-made snacks and drinks can help avoid tense situations from happening. You cannot discount the possibility that your child will get hungry while in the cinema, and there’s a good chance that the theater store is not selling any food allowed on your child’s diet. One of the greatest factors in achieving a good movie experience is the presence of morsels that you can just grab and munch while watching the big screen. You might just deprive your child of that if you forget to bring their special snacks.
Don’t forget to bring other essentials
Like any other public places, the cinema can be a source of different overwhelming sensory stimuli for your child. It is never encouraged for parents to bring their autistic child at the movie theater without equipping them with the necessary calming tools and outfit. If you fail to do so, you might just ruin other people’s cinema experience on top of cutting off your movie date with your child abruptly due to a sudden tantrum caused by sensory issues. As much as possible, let your child wear the appropriate calming clothes, with weighted jackets and shoes, as well as accessories. Also, don’t forget to bring their favorite gaming device or toys that are allowable inside the cinema. Noise-canceling earphones, sunglasses, and handkerchief might come in very handy in most situations.
Simulate theater experience at home
This is one of the best ways to prepare your child for the actual thing. Set up a cinema-inspired theme in your living room or bedroom, by turning off the lights, turning up the volume, and decreasing the room temperature. You can play a movie of your child’s choice, then tell them to keep quiet and stay calm as they can. Train your child to behave and sit patiently throughout the whole duration of the movie. If they got questions or concerns, tell them to whisper it to you or make signaling gestures.
For parents who are afraid of bringing their autistic child to public places like the cinema, it must be a relief to know that there are plenty of ways to make this happen. However, before actually planning to bring your child with you, it is of utmost importance that you ask their own opinion about it first. If your child is not particularly interested in such a proposition, it is much better to cancel your plan and avoid forcing your child to go with you.