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  • Lights, Camera, Meltdown!: How to Survive a Movie Night with Children with ASD
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Lights, Camera, Meltdown!: How to Survive a Movie Night with Children with ASD

One of the challenges that accompanies a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is that of participating in public activities. A defining characteristic of ASD is sticking to and completing routines. Many people who have ASD have a difficult time deviating from a specified daily schedule, and if they do manage to deviate from that schedule, it can be overwhelming and anxiety filling. Think of it like when you are going to a party where you only know one person. To some people it is not a big deal, but to others it can causing an onslaught of panic and anxiety. What should I wear? Who will I talk to? What do I talk about? These troubles and many others, can cause a panic attack. This is very similar to the anxious thoughts and feelings that run through someone with ASD’s head when going somewhere new.

How to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
There are many ways to cope with and reduce anxiety in these situations, for yourself and your child. One way to help with these problems is to do a practice run. A practice run involves going to the place with your child without any intentions besides just letting them get an understanding of the place. For example, if you need to take your child to the grocery store with you, take them one day, with no intention of getting groceries; just focus on them and gage their reaction. Some children are overwhelmed with sounds, some with lights, and some need stimulation in order to successfully complete a public outing. In these cases, it is always a good idea to take some noise-cancelling headphones, sunglasses, or some food to ensure they remain calm.

Sometimes it is difficult to know what your child needs and how to help them. Maybe your child has a trigger that begins a meltdown, but you cannot seem to figure out what it is. In these cases (and in any case) it is incredibly helpful to reach out to an ABA therapist. ABA therapists are there to help you figure out how to live your most productive life. There are many reasons that your child could be having a meltdown, and learning what factors could be causing it is difficult. With the help of an ABA therapist, you can determine what those factors could be, and learn how to handle yourself in those situations to reduce the amount of stress both you and your child endure.

Going to the Movies
One very common public outing that causes undue amounts of stress is going to the movies. Many parents of children with ASD will decide to just avoid the movies altogether so that they don’t have to deal with the challenging behaviors that may arise. The combination of loud noise, flashing lights, smells, and the desire to move around and talk is a recipe for an un-fun time. One mother, shared her experience and gave some helpful tips to make this outing manageable! Thankfully, this outing doesn’t have to be un-fun anymore. Many theater chains, such as AMC and Regal, have decided to have sensory-friendly movie nights. These movie nights were designed with people with ASD in mind. These movie nights provide special accommodations such as allowing you to bring your own food and allowing people to talk. They also keep lights on in the theater and keep the sound down to an appropriate level. These accommodations allow for a family night of fun without the usual challenges that may be typical.

There are many challenges that children with ASD have to face at the theater, such as sensory overload, inability to concentrate, and lack of choice. All of these challenges can create a bad time for your child and for yourself since they will likely become cranky and possibly have a meltdown. Thanks to chains such as AMC and Regal, these problems can be overcome much easier. To combat the sensory overload the theater keeps the lights on in the theater, so your child can see their surroundings and not become panicked. Similarly, the theater also keeps the sound down to an appropriate level, since many children with ASD are incredibly sensitive to sounds. When it comes to inability to concentrate it is really up to you and your child to find something to combat this. You know your child, what will they enjoy? It is imperative that you find a movie that your child will be able to focus on and find fun and enjoyable to watch. Sometimes you may want to see a movie, but you know that your child would not like it; in that case, save such movies for a night to yourself. Finally, when it comes to lack of choice, the theater has provided some accommodations to assist you. As a parent you are permitted on these nights to bring outside food into the theaters; this is a great bonus for children who may have dietary restrictions too. Similarly, there is no quiet rule enforced on these nights; so you and your child can communicate throughout the movie.

Now all things considered, the movie theater is not nearly as terrifying of a place to go, but sometimes it is still overwhelming. As a parent you are going to need some help sometimes. That is why ABA therapy is here to help. We want to ensure you, and your child, live happy and productive lives, with minimal breakdowns and challenging behaviors. We at ABA therapy believe that it is within your grasp, if you just reach out. Each child is different, and thus each child has their own tailored regimen. Whatever you need help with, we will do our best to fulfill those needs. Please contact us today at Alliance ABA.

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