Going to the cinema to watch a movie is something most children get to experience during their childhood. We all remember the different movies we watched growing up, and how some of these movie experiences become memories we’ll never forget. Most kids nowadays enjoy trips to the cinema to catch the latest release, and would thereafter share about the movie with their parents, siblings or peers. Movies have become a great source of fun for most children and a popular social activity during the weekends and school holidays.
Nonetheless, children with autism may not share the same interest or excitement when going to the cinema, and this can become a challenge for the child as well as their family. As a result, families with a child with autism may not get to share the same experience that most families would.
Here at at EAP, we have helped some of our kiddos overcome various challenges with going to the cinema. As a result, these kiddos were able to successfully go to the cinema with their family and enjoy the entire experience! This article outlines some tips and guidelines to help you set up your child with autism for a successful trip to the cinema.
SET YOUR CHILD UP TO BE SUCCESSFUL
There are a few considerations to take note of before going to the cinema. We recommend identifying potential challenges, your child’s skill sets, and planning for the trip thoroughly.
1. Identify potential challenges. Find out if your child has any of these fears or sensitivities associated with going to the cinema or watching a movie.
- Loud sounds/noises
- Crowded places
- Bright lights or darkness
2. Consider your child’s skill sets. In addition to the above potential fears, do consider if your child is able to demonstrate the following skills:
- Stay in his/her seat
- Sit quietly
- Attend to a movie
- Whisper if they need to talk to you
- Communicate their needs (e.g. when they need to go to toilet/ when they need to go out for a break)
3. Plan the movie session. Think SUCCESS.
- VENUE: Consider places that are less crowded and less noisy.
- TIME: Movie screenings during the day (e.g. morning and afternoon) would guarantee less crowd too.
- SEATS: When choosing seats, do consider seats near the aisle. This would make it more convenient if you need to bring your child out to the toilet or for breaks.
- MOVIE: Movie selection is crucial for your child’s success. Consider choosing movies that your child has built some interest in. His interest would help him with his motivation to stay in his seat and attend to the movie.
- ENVIRONMENT: Most typical cinemas potentially have some factors that may contribute to your child’s tolerance and inability to cope. Family/Child-friendly cinemas would be a better option if you are concerned about how the cinema environment would affect your child’s success. For more information on family-friend cinemas, you can check out TGV Family Friendly, or MBO 'Kecil' Cinemas.
- PRACTICE: Practice taking trips to the cinema to increase your child’s familiarity with the place. During this time, do not give any unnecessary demands such as having your child to stay longer than expected. Start by going there and staying for a short period of time and gradually building up the time as your child demonstrates success.
4. Communicate expectations clearly.
- Before going, clarify with your child what will happen and the flow of event.
- During the practice/actual trip to the cinema, narrate what is happening and upcoming transitions.
- Utilise a Social Story and Visual Schedule to help clarify expectations to your child.
- Additionally you could use a video model and role play the skills expected when going to the cinema.
5. Prepare the following materials (if necessary).
- Social story: include information like what will happen, when and where will it take place, how will the event flow look like, who will be there (familiar and unfamiliar faces).
- Movie book: You could also introduce the movie to your child in advance through a ‘Movie book’. Include basic information of the movie like the characters and the plot of the story. Have ‘Activity book’ to help boost your child’s interest in the movie.
- Visual schedule: this is critical to aid your child in understanding the flow of the event. Include clear pictures on the flow of the event (i.e.: sit on chair, have quiet mouth, stay with mummy & daddy).
- Token system: every child should have an individualized positive behaviour support plan. This will help them in performing expected behaviours and being motivated to do so before being rewarded for it. Choices for reward time may differ based on your child’s interest.
- Activities: occupying themselves with some simple and successful activities would help your child when they are losing attention on the movie. When they look like they are about to engage in either a self-stimulatory behaviour or wanting to walk away, the activity would help them redirect and rebuild their focus.
- Snack: What would a cinema trip be without some snacks? Prepare some snacks for your child to munch on during the movie. This would also help your child stay on his seat and occupy themselves productively.
PRIOR TO THE TRIP, TEACH YOUR CHILD THE SKILLS REQUIRED
- Responding to “Quiet mouth” verbal instructions or visual. Pair this instruction with reinforcement and social praise.
- Desensitisation (if necessary): Should your child have any tolerance or sensitivity issues (e.g. loud sounds, darkness), we would advise gradually desensitising your child to these sensory inputs before taking your child to the cinema.
- Practice: The actual practice of the full routine will need to be conducted to help prepare your child for a successful movie time. The skills should be broken down to smaller components to help your child be successful. We would typically begin in 1:1 settings. As your child demonstrates consistent success, gradually and systematically build on this. This gradual transition should only be considered once success is observed across a few attempts.
HAVE A BACKUP PLAN
- Have a behaviour plan. At EAP, our Behaviour Plan includes Teaching Strategies, Preventative Strategies and Reactive Strategies. The above points outline all the teaching and preventative strategies. We would recommend focusing your energy on the teaching strategies and preventative strategies to ensure your child has a successful trip to the cinema.
- In the event of a behaviour, be prepared to take your child out of the hall when they demonstrate restlessness, discomfort or when they simply need a break. Be willing to give your child some breaks in between scenes to allow them some time to calm down and redirect themselves.
- Rescheduling the trip. Should your child, due to unforeseen circumstances, feel unsuccessful during the trip, consider taking them away from the environment and rescheduling movie time. Do not worry about the money spent on tickets and snacks. Your child’s success at a different time will be worth more than that.
The above ideas are some of the basic guidelines to help assist your family in going to the cinema successfully. As each child with autism is different, these suggestions will need to be individualized to further meet the different requirements of each child.
We wish you the very best in taking a successful family photoshoot! Please do not hesitate to contact us at 03-20940421 or at firstname.lastname@example.org should you need anymore assistance.