6 Tips For Taking A Kid With Sensory Needs To The Movies

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It’s summer! That means it’s getting hot and humid outside. Some of us love that, and some of us don’t. Even those die-hard sun worshippers need to come in out of the heat once in a while, and when they do, they turn to the movies. Summer blockbusters can be an exciting part of anyone’s summer, but for those kids with sensory processing disorders, and especially my son with autism, the movie theater can be a scary place. They’re super loud, have surround sound, and are filled with crowds, weird fold-y seats, and strong scents of buttery popcorn.

How do you take your child to the movies and still have fun?

Here are 6 ways:


            They exist. Theaters are now (more and more) showing films with the volume turned down, and the lights turned up. No longer is the theater a very loud, very dark place that can make the experience that much more difficult for a kid with needs.


            This one almost goes without saying. Don’t try to take your kid to a movie at 8:00 on a Friday night. Go at 2:00 in the afternoon on a Tuesday. Nobody’s there. It’s quiet. There’s nobody to impress, and if your child fidgets, or can’t stay in their seat, nobody cares.


            Sometimes it’s less about how many people there are in the theater, and more about being surrounded by those people. From the back row, you are protected on at least one side. All your child has to worry about are those people he/she can see.


            Jake’s famous for his headphones.  Not a fancy pair of several-hundred-dollar Bose, but a pair of $7 Winchester shooting headphones.  They dull the noise, and make it easier to tolerate the rest of it.  Word of warning: 3-D glasses don’t fit well under them.  Trust me, I know this from experience.  More on Jake’s Headphones.


            Even if you get to the movies on that Tuesday afternoon, your child may still be unable to sustain the attention needed to take in a full 90 minute feature. My son likes to take “breaks” during the film. He uses his floor time (above) to revisit some familiar things. Whether it’s his Kindle (with the brightness turned all the way down, of course), or his Matchbox cars, it’s nice to have something to pull out when things get fidgety.


            This is less a sensory rule and more of a parenting observation of mine. If the kid’s got a 64 ounce big gulp, they’re going to have finished most of it before the trailers are finished, and you’re going to miss the best part of the flick because you’re in the lobby waiting for them to finish peeing. I go big on the popcorn, and light on the sodas. This, if anything, will dry them out, and dry kids don’t pee during the final fight scene.

So don’t be afraid.  Get out there and enjoy yourself.  You could use a break from the heat! 

Are there any ideas that I’ve missed?  How have you succeeded in taking a kid with autism or sensory needs to the movie theater? 


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