I am very pleased that I was tuned in to Radio 4 on a car journey yesterday. As a result I have found out about a great initiative to make films and the cinema more accessible to people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome. You and Yours had a fascinating item about the difference autism-friendly screenings are making to children, young people and their carers for whom cinema visits are usually problematic or impossible. The darkness during screenings creates anxiety for many autistic people; for many the sound level is disturbingly high; too much time is taken up with trailers and adverts; cinema food is laden with additives that have a bad effect on behaviour; freedom of movement is too restricted; responses from other audience members to autistic children’s excitement can be upsetting. At autism-friendly screenings, the lights are not dimmed to the usual extent, the sound level is set lower, adverts and trailers are left out, families can bring their own snacks, and there are no problems with children getting up and down or expressing their enthusiasm.
You can listen to the You and Yours item – scroll through to 39 minutes into the programme. The BBC website has an interesting article about an autism-friendly screening in Richmond.
This has certainly increased my awareness of the issues families with autistic children and young people face on trips out, and has made me reflect on the lessons for museums, libraries and the cultural and heritage sector more widely. I am looking forward to incorporating discussion about this into my courses on special educational needs.