Adjustments to lighting, sound, and degree of freedom: that’s essentially how a sensory-friendly movie screening differs from a typical one.
Started in 2007 with AMC Entertainment, sensory-friendly movie screenings are tailored specifically toward people with autism, sensory sensitivities, and other special needs.
As such, they feature several accommodations: dietary restrictions are taken into consideration. Lights are turned down but not off. There are no rules—unspoken or otherwise—about limits on noise or movement; it’s completely judgment-free. The volume is cranked down, and sometimes previews are completely omitted.
So it’s not exactly the most peaceful movie environment, but it’s great if you’re a special needs family!
Luckily, sensory-friendly screenings have been quickly popping up all over the country with more and more cinema chains gradually joining the inclusion party.
As these sensory-friendly movie showings have grown, they’ve also evolved, too. The films shown at these screenings are often older. But in the summer of 2016, several movie theaters promoted sensory-friendly showings of Finding Dory.
While most of these sensory-friendly screenings are aimed toward families, AMC has also provided a few sensory-friendly screenings for teens and adults on the spectrum, including movies with PG-13 and R ratings.
The frequency with which these screenings are available depends on the theater you go to. Some offer them weekly, others monthly, and still others a few times a month.
In any case, it’s an amazing step forward in terms of autism awareness, acceptance, and accommodation. Many people on the spectrum, as well as their parents, are incredibly thankful for it.
“He feels he’s accomplishing something, and he didn’t think he was going to get to that point either,” one mom said of her 22-year-old son. “Something as simple as a movie is changing his viewpoint on the world and that’s amazing.”