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'Sensory-friendly' movie screenings for children, families with autism

June 29, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Do you know what a 'sensory-friendly' film is? Going to the movies could be fun for kids with autism this weekend.

Even a cheerful animated feature can turn into a scary and frustrating ordeal for 5-year-old Brendan Ayer.

"He's got a lot of sensory issues and things are too bright or too loud and when there's a lot of noise, he kind of loses it a little bit," said Gia Ayer, Brendan's mother.

Brendan has autism, so when his mom takes him to the movies, people don't tolerate his behavior.

It's the same for Kay Holliday's teenage son.

"People will look, and you know, kind of stare and wonder 'Well what's wrong with him,' and then they realize, 'Oh, he does have a disability,'" said Holliday.

At several locations Saturday, families who have children with special needs will get to sit together and enjoy a sensory-friendly showing of Disney's "Brave." It's a collaboration between the Autism Society of Los Angeles and AMC Theatres.

"We have nine locations in Southern California that do these showings," said Caroline Wilson, Autism Society of Los Angeles. "We started off with one, so it's been growing."

In a sensory-friendly screening, the lights aren't turned down as low, the audio isn't as loud and there aren't any trailers. But most importantly, the environment is friendly.

"This gives them the opportunity to be a part of the community, and be outside, because many times parents, particularly if their kids are older, if they're not behaving a certain way, they keep them at home," said Wilson.

And even though there will be a lot going on-screen and off the screen Gia Ayer says it's the one place where she feels her son can relax and focus, and so can she.

"It enables parents to be able to have a normal, somewhat normal life, and go to functions, and go to something, you know, some entertainment," said Ayer. "It's nice."

Parents are allowed to bring their own gluten-free and casein-free snacks.

Disney is the parent company of ABC7.

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