Today, T went to his very first movie! This was such a cool event. A local autism support group and therapy/support clinic rented a movie theater for the afternoon and sponsored a showing of Alvin and The Chipmunks. What did they do to make it friendly for T and the 25 other kiddos there? They never dimmed the lights and the sound was turned down to a comfortable level – nothing to overwhelm our sensory-overloaded little guys.
Previously when I tried to take T to a puppet show in an auditorium and the lights went down and the other children started applauding and cheering, he FREAKED OUT. Screaming, crying, throwing himself around – I literally had to hoist him up by the waist under my arm and haul him out. Poor little guy. I haven't really tried auditoriums since then, and have never – until today – considered going to a movie. Crowds are really tough. When going to fun community events with typical kids, we've had our share of glares and even a few unsolicited corrections from other mommies who were perturbed by T's giggling, pacing and echolalia (repeating words or phrases he's heard)– even when he's perfectly happy. So we've just made sure that wherever we take him, he has a chance in you-know-where of having a successful outing. But back to the movie!!!
He was SO GOOD. He went right into the slightly darkened theater with me, no problem. This theater is also a grill, so you sit at little tables and order food & drinks. Popcorn and drinks were included in the $5 admission, as well as free gluten-free and casein-free snacks. He sat right down at a table with me, nibbled on a GFCF cookie, enjoyed the popcorn, grimaced at the full-strength fruit punch, and didn't make a thing over the movie starting on the big screen. He really seemed to be just fine – no agitation or extra stimming – just sat and kept an eye on the screen. I even saw a few smiles after a while. And I just sat there, thinking over and over, "I'm at a movie theater watching a children's movie with my son." Wonder of wonders. About 75 minutes into the movie, he stood up and looked at me as if he were saying "Okay, I'm ready to go now", so I let him pace around and we were able to stay until the end of the movie.
Many other people there as well. I was struck by the age of some of the attendees – several well into their teen years. I wondered if they minded going to a children's movie when most teens would be so embarrassed to do so…but they happily ate their cut-up chicken tenders and French fries while watching the movie and seemed to enjoy it. How often have they had this opportunity? There were also several kids T's age – some following the story and laughing at the funny parts, others pacing, pacing, others vocalizing unhappily – but there we all were, in a movie theater, creating our own version of normal and our own version of reality, and it was a beautiful thing.
I love our new city.