For some, going to the movies can be an overwhelming experience. The lights, the sounds — it can all be too much to handle. That’s why the Owensboro Autism Network partnered with the Malco Owensboro Cinema to create a movie-going experience pleasant for everyone.
Whitney Logsdon, founder and executive director of the Owensboro Autism Network, said the group hosts monthly sensory-friendly movies to provide a comfortable environment for individuals who are unable to attend a regular movie showing due to their sensory sensitivities, such as those with autism.
While most children with autism are affected with sensory issues, the movie is open to individuals of all abilities.
Logsdon said they always try to schedule the movie the same week it is released so the individuals get to see it as soon as possible.
“The movie theater is open to just our organization and the lights are left on and the sound is turned down,” she said. “Individuals may move around the theatre as necessary. They are not confined to stay in their seat as most are during a regular movie showing.”
This month’s sensory-friendly movie is “Small Foot,” which is playing at 9:30 a.m. and is about a group of yeti who come across a human, with each species thinking the other was just a myth.
Jennifer Case is an Owensboro mom of four, including two who have been diagnosed with autism and photosensitive epilepsy. Case and her children attend the sensory-friendly movies because it is a way for her whole family to get to do something together.
“We do run into a lot of obstacles finding things to do that we can all enjoy,” she said. “It’s on a Saturday morning when the theater isn’t crowded which can be very overwhelming for my kids on the spectrum, which then becomes overwhelming for me.”
Case said typical movies which include loud sounds and dark rooms can be scary and overwhelming for kids with sensory issues.
“If my kid needs to jump up and down and pace during the movie, he can do that without me worrying about ruining others experience,” Case said. “My kid might even shout out in the movie when upset or excited and its okay.”
She said it’s nice not having to worry what others will think of her or her children during these events since they are surrounded by families who understand autism.
“It’s a great way for me to network with other parents,” she said. “We all get so caught up in our daily lives of therapy appointments, doctors visits, picture schedules, IEP and 504 plan meetings, that we may not have time to socialize ourselves. It is nice to be able to go somewhere where other similar families are and not have to explain my children have autism. The best part is everyone is welcome.”
Karen Melton, vice president and director of marketing for the Malco Theatres, said the feedback from these events is always very positive, which is why they have been successful building the program Owensboro Autism Network.
Aside from Saturday’s movie screening, there will be two more chances for families to participate in a sensory-friendly movie — 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 10 will be the “The Grinch” and 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 1 “Ralph Breaks the Internet” will be shown.
Malco Owensboro Cinema is located at 5333 Frederica St. Admission is $6 per person and must be paid at the door. Cash or debit card is accepted, but they cannot take Malco gift cards. Concessions will be open during the movie.