Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘cinema

A Life Less Ordinary

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I haven’t blogged much lately.  Ordinarily I don’t have much time: I’m a working mother raising two extra-ordinary children overseas.  But then the last few weeks have been far from ordinary.  In case you missed my last Wordless Wednesday, we had a visit from President Obama.

Leading up to that weekend, our regular life was put on hold, and working late and weekends became the norm.  We’d flown in the grandparents to take care of the kids, but even that is a change of routine.  All the things that typically punctuate our everyday lives were temporarily suspended.

The kids handled most of the disruption well.  Indeed, I’m always surprised when Pudding gets described as inflexible.  She handled the disruptions to her routines far better than her brother did.  I dare say far better than most 6 year-olds would. 

When my event was over and I gratefully shook President Obama’s hand, I was the one who wanted things to get back to normal.  I craved just spending time with Pudding and Cubby.

 When I asked Pudding what she wanted to do, she told me she wanted to go away on holiday.  Lately she and her brother have become interested in maps of the world: Botswana has become a favourite, for reasons they haven’t shared with me.

Cubby also wanted to do something different: to go to the movies.  We hadn’t done that since living in the US, where sensory accommodations meant it wasn’t just comfortable for us, but a place where we belonged.  Without sensory-friendly showings, I wasn’t sure we could get through a whole film.

We went to see Monsters University, and deliberately picked a 2D showing as early as possible on a Sunday morning, and as it turned out only one other family had the same idea.  I loaded my bag with the ear-protectors, snacks, drinks, and a Nintendo DS.  If you were watching me pack, you’d swear we were going a lot further than to the local mall.  

Once inside, I’d asked the kids to behave like they were on a plane.  It occurred to me that our children have flown many, many more times than they’ve been to the movies.  Somehow, our routines are the extraordinary.  We move every 2-3 years to a new home, school, country, even continent- and we take that in our stride.  Yet somehow every day activities are challenging to us.

Pudding was not at all interested in the movie, but she mostly sat, and was mostly quiet.  This particular movie was very loud, but she soon discarded her ear protectors, as did sound-sensitive Cubby.

We made it through the whole film.  Cubby loved it, and Pudding even watched parts of it in between playing her Hello Kitty game.  Spectrummy Daddy and I felt that we had earned a celebratory coffee at a nearby place that had just opened and we hadn’t tried before.

This is where Pudding baulked.  All her reserves were used up, her tolerance at minimum.  She wasn’t going anywhere near the café kiosk.  Believing the discomfort to stem from the noise of the machines, I offered her back the ear protectors, but she threw them in disdain, and the meltdown became very public.  Was this an autistic child being inflexible?  Or was she communicating to us that she has had enough?!

Spectrummy Daddy led her away to soothe her, while Cubby and I placed our orders to go.  Pudding returned and told me she didn’t want to go home- caught between enjoying the change of routine and not being able to handle it.  She really is my girl…

Thrilled by the excitement of a Presidential visit, I’m much happier to have it over and done with. Unable to go to a new coffee shop, she is perfectly happy to go on vacation to an entirely new place.

Maybe our routines are about living the extra-ordinary life, and we have to find our own ways to get comfortable with them.  Once again, I can’t help but notice that we are a lot more alike than we are different.  One adventure over, we are ready for the next.

 

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

July 8, 2013 at 10:10 am

Sensory Showing

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Last week we were visiting family in Florida, but the timing coincided with something I planned on doing one last time before leaving the country: attending a sensory showing.  Here in the US*, AMC theatres provide a monthly sensory showing of a film for those on the spectrum and their friends and families.  It. Is. Awesome.  The normal rules of the cinematic experience are suspended.  You are free to move around and talk, bring your own allergy-free snacks, and the volume is lowered and a light kept on.  Instead of the usual commercials and trailers, the film begins right away.  They even put a special price on tickets, so a family living here outside expensive Washington D.C. pays the same amount as those living in more affordable parts of the US.

The downside to the sensory showing being only once a month, and catering to the entire population (not just children) meant that the two films Pudding would most have enjoyed were not sensory showings.  We went to see The Princess and The Frog anyway at a regular showing.  We deliberately waited until it has been out for a couple of weeks, and went to a Sunday morning screening where there would be other kids.  Pudding enjoyed much of it, but the sounds was a little loud, and some scenes were scary.  She needed to make a couple of trips to the bathroom.

Towards the end she was a little overwhelmed, and I gave her my iPod (volume off) to distract her.  A woman sitting behind us quickly told us it was distracting her, and asked us to switch it off.  I wanted to tell the woman how well she was doing, that she just didn’t know what distracting was, but she’d soon find out.  But the normal rules applied there, so I did as she asked, fully expecting a meltdown.  But Pudding coped, she just asked to leave again.  Her Daddy took her for another walk and they returned for the final scene.  I was soured by the experience, and when Tangled came out and we found it was not the sensory showing that month, we decided to wait until it came out on DVD.

Finally Toy Story 3 hit the cinema and it was a sensory showing, and we had no other plans that day.  I don’t recall a time when we have felt so welcomed as a family.  There was a real sense of community, and I knew no matter what my kids did, we would be accepted and respected.  There are few times we’ve been out in public when I could say that.  Pudding really only identifies with female characters (read princesses and fairies) and Toy Story 3 became a bit overwhelming for her, so that time we took advantage of being able to wander around safe in the knowledge that we weren’t bothering anyone.  A child behind us began the film by reciting every line after it was spoken.  His parents soon urged him to stop, but it didn’t annoy me in the least; rather it cemented the fact that we were with those who understood.  Pudding had just started in her preschool autism class, and a classmate found her and cupped her face and spelled put her name.  I didn’t know she knew him (though I guessed), but marveled at how relaxed she seemed with somebody touching her.  I wonder if she was so calm because we were, because the normal rules that are so constraining for her just didn’t apply that day.

Our family already had plans the day of the sensory showing of Cars 2, but I persuaded them to join us for it.  Cars 2 definitely isn’t a Pudding kind of film, and it also went over Cubby’s head, but just being free to move around, play in the iPad, and speak is a freedom that they enjoyed, and so did we.  All the cousins got to enjoy the movie together.  Though we were away from home, it was still touching to see moviegoers hugging each other at the end.  That sense of community and belonging is a real gift.

Thank you to The Autism Society and AMC for making these accommodations and giving my children such enjoyment, and making us all feel like we belong.

*UK readers click here for information about an autism-friendly screening.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

July 8, 2011 at 7:35 am