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Autism-friendly cinema screenings improve access for children with sensory difficulties

People with Autism can experience certain situations in a different way to those without Autism. They may experience under or over sensitivity to certain stimuli, such as sound and light. Due to this, some events and day-to-day activities, that many people take for granted, can be difficult and cause anxiety.


A number of events that are tailored for people with Autism are starting to become available around the country. Several cinemas run Autism-friendly screenings of films on a regular basis, many of which have worked with Dimensions, an organisation which provides services for people with Autism and Learning Disabilities. The Odeon started these in 2011 and now other cinemas, including The Vue and Cineworld, also hold such events.


These screenings include:

  • Lights being kept on at a low level
  • Volume of the film being reduced
  • No trailers or adverts
  • Staff who are specially trained to assist people at these events
  • Allowance for increased levels of movement and noise


Another event worth noting is the Autism-friendly showing of The Lion King, in London’s Lyceum Theatre. After successful showings on Broadway, London’s West End put on their own event. The theatre worked with the National Autistic Society to make a range of adjustments to the show and theatre to accommodate the needs of those with Autism. These changes include:


  • Designated quiet and activity areas that are available for use throughout the show
  • Specially trained staff
  • A slightly adjusted performance, including the reduction of certain sounds and strobe lighting.


The theatre’s website provides a pdf download with a step-by-step guide to the theatre visit. This gives pictures and descriptions from the moment you arrive at the theatre until the moment you leave, and includes information on when the show will be especially loud and how long for.


Due to the success of this, another event is planned in June this year. The chief executive of the National Autistic Society, Mark Lever, has said “The challenges the condition bring can make it difficult to enjoy activities such as trips to the theatre, which many people take for granted. Making adjustments and training staff can make a huge difference. This will be an amazing day out for people with Autism and their families.” (Learning Disability Today).


Hopefully, seeing the success and need for such events, other theatres and events will begin to follow and these events will become more common.


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Written By Charlotte Baker, Assistant Psychologist