Thursday, 15 March 2018

The benefits of a few autism friendly events

Autistic boy at a playgym

Going out with my kids is usually a little challenging, but we are getting better at it.  It's not so long along that the idea of going out on my own with our three kids meant I'd stay inside instead.  After all the kids are fine in the house and it's only later they struggle after being in all day.

Anthony can appear a bit odd to people with the way he talks and jumps about but the main issue is that David doesn't understand some of the basic safety rules about going outside our family home. Up until recently he didn’t understand about holding hands – indeed he completed resisted it. Every road, car, doorway was a dangerous exit point.

More than not understanding about safety, he didn’t, and even now doesn’t, understand about how to act around other people in public. He doesn’t know why people don’t like it when he shouts on in the cinema or jumps up and down by his chair in a restaurant. And even if he did realise, there is no way he could stop.  It's part of balancing his sensory system that means David needs to do this.  So, screaming and unpacking toys in supermarkets makes perfect sense to David.

He's OK at places like some playgyms where they expect kids with autism to turn up.  But other places it's much harder.

Nearly 5,000 businesses across the UK took part 'Autism Hour' last year. This  initiative from the National Autistic Society (NAS) saw lights dimmed, background music reduced, and staff gain an understanding of autism for over 8,000 hours. That’s the equivalent of 336 days, just short of a year.

I'm delighted that autism awareness and acceptance is growing in our country But the truth is, this is one hour of one day. As it was set at 10am on a Monday morning, Autism Hour was probably not used by many parents of autistic children.

There are several autism friendly services - including the autism friendly cinema screenings via Dimensions that I love. Many cinemas across the UK show one film a month understand ‘autism-friendly’ conditions. The lights are on a little so it’s easier to see, the volume is down a bit so it’s not such an impact on the senses. Generally people are more relaxed about what others are doing, more understanding. We can take David to these showings which is great because both his brother and sister love movies.

There are approximately 1 in 100 people who are autistic. At my local cinema there is over 120 showings of movies this weekend – but there is only one autism friendly screening each month in the same cinema.

You might think given my ‘only one hour’ and ‘only one screening’ comments that I’m disheartened.

Perhaps a bit true, but overall, I'd disagree.

Sure, I'd absolutely love more, but every single one of these events increases the chance that my children may end up being able to function in society. And I'm glad for it.

Some people may see these screenings advertised, others heard through the media about autism hour. And these people perhaps get a small clue into what helps my kids. And that might just have an overall impact that means society, slowly, becomes more accessible for them too.


  1. Yes, as the saying goes, every little helps :) x

  2. Every little definitely helps... though I've found that our localish cinemas do have autism friendly viewings, they're usually movies aimed at little ones and not something Max would enjoy. However we're getting there, so it's a step in the right direction for sure! <3 #TheMMLinky

  3. Slowly, slowly, catchee monkey! Hopefully momentum will gather and eventually 'autism friendly' will be almost the norm! #TheMMLinky

  4. It would be lovely if all activities were equally inclusive, but we are quite far from that place yet, so I totally agree it makes for a much more relaxed experience for all of the family when attending these type of sessions! We've been along to a few relaxed theatre performances and really enjoyed them.
    (I have to say I'm not a fan of calling things 'autism friendly' because it feels a little exclusive of those people (like my daughter) who need the same sort of adjustments but who don't have an autism diagnosis. I know they usually mean 'neurodiversity friendly' or 'sensory friendly' but I wish they'd just say that instead, or something like 'relaxed performance' when it comes to the cinema, as I always feel a little awkward, as if we don't fit there either.)
    Thank you so much for joining #accesslinky !


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