I’d considered taking Miss Z to the movies for a while, but never really had the courage.
I just wasn’t sure how she’d react.
Initially, I thought of taking her to one of those “mums and bubs” showings, but they’re only on weekday mornings, so clashed with Miss Z’s school.
I researched the special “autism friendly” shows but there weren’t any near us, and I wondered if the potential noise from the audience might actually upset her more.
What spurred me to action was that Miss Z went on a school excursion to a children’s theatre performance and loved it.
So, I figured if she enjoyed that, she might just enjoy the cinema.
Still, our trip to the cinema wasn’t exactly spur of the moment.
More, it was planned with military precision.
I chose to take her to “Finding Dory” not because of the brilliant message of inclusion, but because of the bright, contrasting colours, which I thought would help Miss Z, who has a visual impairment, follow the story.
Miss Z’s sister was keen to come with us, which was great because I really wanted this to be a fun social outing for both girls.
After all, going to the movies could potentially be something they can share for years to come.
But at eight years old, I wasn’t confident that her sister was old enough to be left alone in a cinema if I had to beat a hasty retreat with a crying Miss Z.
So, we recruited one of her friends and her friend’s mum – people who have known Miss Z for a long time and who understood what we were trying to achieve – to come with us.
That way, if I was forced to retreat with Miss Z, her sister would be happy to stay and watch the rest of the film with her friend.
I studied the cinema timetables.
We were going over the school holidays. I rejected the idea of going on the first week of the holidays, thinking the cinema might be busier that week, and settled on the second.
I chose a Tuesday morning (which seemed like a day of the week that wouldn’t be busy) and deliberated over the timing, finally settling on a 10.30am showing – not so early that Miss Z would be grumpy getting up, but not so late that she’d be starting to fade.
We also watched “Finding Nemo” at home – both so Miss Z was familiar with the characters and to make sure that she was actually interested in stories about plucky fish.
Finally, the planning was complete and all that was left was actually doing it.
Packing for the cinema was a bit like packing for an arctic expedition. I had something packed for every contingency: sick bags, sensory toys, warm clothes, muslins, emergency medications, we had it all.
In the end, it was a success.
Not a huge success – an inch stone rather than a milestone - but a success nonetheless.
Miss Z enjoyed the movie. She decided before the trailers had finished that she was going to sit on my lap, not her wheelchair.
The film was a bit of a sensory overload at times, but she coped by hiding her head on my shoulder when it became too much.
She gave the seat in front of us a few kicks, but that was OK because our strategically placed friends were sitting there.
I could tell she was getting a bit impatient towards the end of the film, but she made it through to the credits.
It might seem like a whole lot of preparation and worry for something that is relatively basic – going to a kids’ movie at the cinema.
After all, Miss Z didn’t even rank in the top five misbehaving kids during the movie session when compared to the toddlers sprinting up and down the aisles and the crying baby.
But for me, our trip to the cinema was HUGE.
It has given Miss Z and her sister something fun they can do together.
It means that Miss Z can be included on outings with her sister and her sister’s friends.
It is the biggest step we have made yet on inclusion.
And that makes all the planning and preparation worth it.
Image Copyright: Sarunyu L
Image Editorial Credit: Sarunyu L / Shutterstock.com