Autism friendly films are a big-screen hit

One of life’s great pleasures is settling down in a cinema to watch the latest release. But many people with autism have been excluded from the experience because standard showings can be unpleasant or even frightening for someone with the condition – until now.

Monthly “autism friendly” screenings are now scheduled at the Odeon in Wester Hailes, thanks to a partnership between disability charity Dimensions and the cinema chain.

Lights are left on low, the volume is turned down, trailers are omitted and viewers can move around the theatre or make noise as they feel comfortable.

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Lisa Hopkins, from Dimensions, said: “Some great work already takes place locally to show sensory friendly screenings, but new mainstream cinema releases have never before been accessible to so many people with autism in the UK.”

Penny Paterson is a team leader at Garvald Glenesk in Eskbank, Dalkeith. The charity offers supported accommodation for people with autism, mental health issues or learning difficulties.

Along with six other carers, she recently took six residents to the pilot screening of Mr Popper’s Penguins.

She said: “Some of the group were so immersed and felt so comfortable with their surroundings that they were able to sit through the whole film.

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“The ambient lighting was crucial and the sound had been turned down as many people with the condition have a problem with noise.

“It’s a different experience and one which people get a great deal of joy from, but many people with autism are not able to go because of their condition.”

Autism is a life-long developmental disorder that affects the way an individual communicates and relates to people around them. Children and adults with autism experience difficulties with everyday social interaction.

Gillian Naysmith, 38, originally from Newtongrange, runs regular camps for the The Horse Boy Foundation, which aims to help autistic children through equine therapy.

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She said: “This project is great. It will benefit families who can not normally take their children to the cinema.”

Roger Harris, chief operating officer of Odeon and UCI Cinemas Group, said: “We were delighted with the success of our autism friendly screening and are delighted to extend our partnership with Dimensions having received some great feedback from our guests.”

The next screening will be Johnny English Reborn at 11.30am on October 18.

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