My son is a big fan of the movie “Cars”, so we know he’ll be a big fan of “Cars 2” as well, but he’ll have to wait for the DVD. My husband was very keen to take him along to see it at the movies, but I sadly had to remind him of why it simply isn’t an option: Our son stims up a noisy storm when he’s very happy; flapping his arms and hands and stamping his feet and humming while his head waves from side to side. Occasionally peeking out to yet again view the item of enjoyment before returning to his stimming. This is particularly true of the first time he encounters something he really likes; if he was re-watching a DVD (for example) of a favourite movie or show, the stimming is less frequent.
We can calm his stimming to a certain extent, though doing so does lessen his enjoyment because he has to then focus on the change in behaviour requested of him. I can handle that, he can handle that. But we can not completely remove the stimming, so it would remain an issue for other movie-goers.
Other than the stimming, there is also the chatter-box factor. If he gets chatty during a film, telling him to be quiet almost always leads to a loud crying session. It’s like he has a compulsion to talk and asking him to curve that compulsion is extremely upsetting for him. Even when he clearly wants to comply, he ends up in tears.
It used to be that my primary concern with attending the movies with him was the knowledge that we’d be lucky to even get him out of the car, let alone into a movie theatre and to sit and stay in a seat. But he can now handle those sorts of tasks; the school he attends has particularly made in-roads with these issues since they go on a fair few outings during the semester, they know how hard and important that set of skills are for autistic children so they actively teach them as part of the curriculum.
It did cross my mind to try to take him to the movies and just having to leave when he inevitably stims or cries too loud and too long. But that seems extraordinarily cruel; taking him away from something he is enjoying because of behaviours he cannot control. It would also make for a very negative first movie experience; it’s very important to make the first experience of something as positive as possible so it can be repeated, and so that new anxieties do not arise from the original bad experience.
With all these issues and upsets in mind, I was so happy to see this story about theatres overseas specifically providing for the autism community to go to the movies (in this case “Cars 2”, but it’s an ongoing service too). I’m not aware of something similar being done locally, but I have decided to make enquiries of the main local Autism charity, and see what I can do to perhaps encourage such a thing to be set up. I will let you know how those enquiries and efforts go. It does look like a wonderful event, and something to bring together autism families – who are otherwise usually so isolated – out into the open for a shared and joyful couple of hours.