For children with autism or severe sensory disorders, movie night usually means a DVD in the living room.
“Parents don’t want their child to act out and disturb others, so they end up just staying home,” said Bob Nooe, a counselor at Greiffenstein Alternative Elementary in Wichita.
Now, thanks to Nooe’s efforts, Warren Theatres will offer a screening of a first-run family movie in a theater adjusted for children with special needs.
The first one, “Wreck-It Ralph,” will be at 11 a.m. on Nov. 17 at the Warren in west Wichita, 21st and Tyler. Tickets are $7.
“We’re glad to do it,” said Dan Gray, general manager of Warren Theatres, who worked with Nooe (pronounced NO-wee) to schedule the screening.
“If we have a good response for this, this is something we can hopefully do on a monthly basis.”
For children with certain forms of autism or sensory disorders, movie theaters can be scary. The dark environment and ear-splitting audio, combined with policies that require patrons to stay seated and quiet, can make movie outings impossible for them and their families.
During the Warren’s “sensory friendly” screening, the theater house lights will be turned up a little more than usual and the sound turned down, Gray said. Audience members will be able to move around, talk, dance or sing. They also can bring their own snacks or other refreshments.
“So many of these kids have never watched a movie on a big screen because their parents don’t feel comfortable taking them,” said Nooe, who works with special-needs children at Greiffenstein and at Central Christian Church in Wichita.
“They’re missing that whole experience, and a lot of times their parents are, too.”
Nooe said he’s already heard from families with autistic children who are thankful for the opportunity and plan to attend.
“I’ve had parents tell me over the years that it’s a challenge just taking their child out to Walmart or even to church,” he said.
“This (movie) opportunity will be a great socialization experience. It’s not only a place where they can see a movie, but just get out in public in an environment where they can feel comfortable and be around others.”