More than 6,000 schoolchildren with autism and sensory differences were able to enjoy special autism-friendly film screenings at 66 cinemas across the country thanks to a partnership between charities and a support provider.
Dimensions provides support to people with autism and learning disabilities and is championing autism friendly films through its work with the charities Film Education and Ambitious about Autism. The free school event run in ODEON, Apollo, Picturehouse and Phoenix Cinemas was aimed at students with autism and sensory differences that would benefit from the subtle alterations made to the cinema auditorium, enabling them to attend the cinema with their neurotypical classmates in an inclusive environment.
During the screenings lights were left on low, the volume was turned down and pupils could move around the cinema or make noise as they felt comfortable. London's TreeHouse School, run by Ambitious about Autism, took 40 pupils to watch Disney's The Muppets at the Phoenix Cinema East Finchley.
Speaking after the screening TreeHouse's headteacher, Julie O'Sullivan, said: "Having an autism friendly screening of The Muppets is a wonderful way to enable some of our pupils to go to the cinema and see a film in way that's comfortable for them. Parents and carers have told us that sometimes going to an ordinary screening can be too challenging for their children and it's great they can now enjoy an everyday activity that many other young people do. We are very grateful to Dimensions and Film Education for giving our pupils this opportunity." Dimensions' autism lead, Lisa Hopkins, was pleased with the success of the screening. "We saw some very happy children… who were able to watch a film in an accommodating, inclusive environment. Dimensions is delighted to be partnering with Film Education to make the cinema-going experience more accessible to children with autism and we hope that other organisations will see Autism Awareness Month as an opportunity to look at how they can become more autism-friendly."