The Movies : A Sensory Guide



(Zootopia date!)

Arizona enjoys watching tv and movies at home, but has a hard time going to the theater. I’ve taken her to a few shows over the years but most of those outings have ended in disaster. It can be overwhelming for her : the extreme volume pumping through the speakers, 25 minutes of random previews she rarely has interest in, and just way too much sensory overload in general.

That being said, whenever an interesting kids’ movie comes out, I always ask Arizona if she wants to see it. Sometimes she says yes, but always with the caveat … “when it comes out on DVD, Mama.”

So, it was to my great surprise when she agreed to see the latest Disney movie, Zootopia at the actual theater. And not just any theater, but rather the most grandiose in all of Los Angeles : the El Capitan.

And, even with the organ player, live show beforehand, loud music and pomp and circumstance before the movie even started, we ended up having our most successful movie outing ever.

Here are some tips (and then some) that helped Arizona get ready for a fun movie experience :

  • BUY-IN : Arizona made the choice to see Zootopia, not me. Previously, I have convinced her to watch movies because I thought SHE would want to. When she makes the decision to do something, there is an ownership that she feels accountable for.
  • Social Story : We made a very simple social story (drawings about the upcoming event) about what Arizona would expect at the show.
  • Reserved Seating : A lot of theaters these days allow for reserving your seats ahead. This is helpful in a few ways : a) you can jump into your seat AFTER the previews to avoid unnecessary sitting around for restless viewers and b) you can select aisle seats in the event that you need to make an early exit (our experience more than not).
  • Sensory Headphones : Arizona feels more comfortable plugging her own ears when needed, but I know a lot of spectrum kids who use headphones throughout the film. These help cancel out some of the noise and help reduce sensory stimulation. Here are some fun ones.

We had a great day, my girl and me.

Would love to hear any additional tips you have for helping your sensory kids through different experiences (shows, sporting events, etc).

4 Comments on “The Movies : A Sensory Guide”

  1. Great post Susanna!! Having reserved seats is key, and waiting outside until the trailers are finished help a lot. Also learning about the movie via watching snippets at home or using Common Sense Media or as a way to break apart the movie.
    So happy that Arizona enjoyed Zootopia & the El Capitan experience (it is an experience)!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks NANCY! Awesome tips for breaking apart the movie — and getting our kids prepared! BY the way : someone over here is now obsessed with Pokemon…. must make a play date soon!


  2. So glad you two had a great time! We are attempting to go next week. Other than headphones, I don’t go into the theater too early…maybe halfway through previews. We always go in the afternoon because there is less of a crowd and we always wait until the movie has been out for at least 2 weeks so there are less people (crowds and noise). Oh and we always get lots of popcorn!

    Liked by 1 person

    • GREAT idea for waiting a few weeks… AND – I totally forgot about the snacks. YUP, we are always loaded up. Did you get a chance to take the kids yet? Hope you enjoyed it! I laughed out loud several times….

      Liked by 1 person

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