Kids With Autism Get Big-Screen Break

Today’s mainstream movie experience can be big, bold and loud — driven by 3-D, IMAX and surround-sound technologies and designed to immerse audiences in a fictional world.

But that can sometimes be too much for children with autism, who can have difficulty communicating, reading social cues and tolerating sensory stimulation others take for granted — everything from attending a birthday party to going to the movies.

Renee Hill says the huge screen, darkened room and loud soundtrack often overwhelm her 4-year-old son, Weston, who otherwise loves watching videos.

“You’ll constantly notice him look uncomfortable and cover his ears, but if he really gets overwhelmed, then he’ll just shut down and have a meltdown and start to cry,” Hill explains.

As the national rate of autism diagnoses climbs, parents and advocates have persuaded some theaters to tone it down.

A number of theaters across the country now hold sensory-friendly movie showings to accommodate those with autism: The house lights stay on, the sound remains low, and there are no ads or previews before films. The screenings are beginning to catch on.

The sensory-friendly trend started two years ago, after a Maryland mother got kicked out of a movie theater when her autistic daughter became overwhelmed and disruptive during a showing of Hairspray. The mom got in touch with the Autism Society, a national advocacy group, which in turn contacted the AMC theaters chain about offering a low-key movie option once a month.

via IMAX’d Out: Kids With Autism Get Big-Screen Break : NPR.

Vacations for families with special-needs kids

Families helping families. Nobody understands the special journey of parents raising children with special needs as well as other parents just like them.

That’s why some of the best new travel options for families with special-needs kids have been developed by families who want to make that life easier for others.

The options are increasing for all ages, even at mainstream venues from Disney to Universal and Six Flags to the Schlitterbahn water parks.

Special-needs families preferring to vacation close to home will find local organizations such as the Dallas Museum of Art offering Autism Awareness Family Celebration days, and the Studio Movie Grill and AMC Theaters offering monthly screenings that accommodate kids with special needs.

via Vacation opportunities for families with special-needs kids | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Travel | Dallas Morning News.

A possible early glimpse of autism’s impact on older siblings

Researchers looking at families with an autistic child say they don’t yet know whether the impacts are the result of having an autistic child in the family or if they might be part of a broader genetic predisposition.

A new study suggests a trend toward developing hyperactivity among typically developing elementary-school-aged siblings of autistic preschoolers and supports the notion that mothers of young, autistic children experience more depression and stress than mothers with typically developing children.

While the impact on older siblings was not statistically significant, the trend may indicate the presence of symptoms associated with broader observable autism characteristics seen in previous studies, says Laura Lee McIntyre, a professor and director of the University of Oregon’s school psychology program.The study was published in the March issue of the journal Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities.

Previous research projects have netted mixed findings, but many suggest that families dealing with autism — especially brothers and sisters of an autistic child — also experience symptoms similar to autism: widespread abnormalities of social interactions, communication and behavior.

via A possible early glimpse of autism’s impact on older siblings.