You may be aware that AMC Entertainment (AMC) and ASA have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and other disabilities a special opportunity to enjoy their favorite films in a safe and accepting environment on a monthly basis with the “Sensory Friendly Films” program.
Now read how this wonderful, nationwide program came to be, thanks to the efforts of one determined mother confronting the challenges of her daughter's autism...
Taking a Chance on Families Living With Autism
by Marianne Ross
The sensory friendly movie idea started in the summer of 2007, when my daughter, Meaghan, who was 7 at the time, was thoroughly enjoying Hairspray but was asked to leave a movie theatre because she exhibited self-stimulating behaviors, such as hand flapping and jumping up and down.
This negative experience prompted me to find a way for Meaghan and other special needs children to enjoy a movie regardless of their physical or behavioral differences.
Dan Harris, manager at our local AMC Columbia 14 Theatre, didn't hesitate for a second when I called to ask if he would consider allowing the Howard County Maryland Autism Society of America to host a movie for special needs children.
I explained the challenges that our children face, specifically sensory issues with lights, volume and self-stimulating behaviors. Dan, rather than being dissuaded, embraced these issues with his positive attitude. He envisioned a monthly program that featured current movies with essential accommodations to ensure a successful outing for all families with special needs children.
I arranged to advertise the movies through the Howard County-ASA and the Howard County school system in order to reach each family with school-aged children in the county. Meanwhile, Dan networked with the AMC Theatre's corporate office to create a national program and an official partnership between AMC and the Autism Society of America.
The first movie was a huge success in November 2007, and the program went national this April in 68 theatres in 36 AMC markets. They are also going to start employing people with autism in the theatres, with support from ASA!