Theater meets students' sensory needs

Schools honor cinema owner

cebaker@newsobserver.comJanuary 20, 2012 

  • The sensory-sensitive screening of "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked" will take place Saturday at 10 a.m. at Stadium 10 Cinemas at Northgate Mall. Tickets are $5 with a drink and popcorn or $4 without drink and popcorn. Cash only. Sensory-friendly films will be every third Saturday of the month from now until May 19. The title to be shown each month will be released on the Monday before the screening.

— Going to the movies to eat popcorn and watch a new film on the big screen is a favorite pastime for many children and their parents.

But for some families, every day activities like a movie can be difficult, which is why the Durham Public Schools Office of Exceptional Children initiated a series of movie screenings for special audiences.

Last spring, the school system partnered with Stadium 10 Cinemas at Northgate to host a trial run of a customized movie screening for students with sensory sensitivities, such as those with autism or attention deficit disorder. That first showing was such a success that cinema manager Joe Backus pledged to host the events monthly.

Karen Carr of the DPS Office of Exceptional Children said the office wanted to find a way to make children with sensory sensitivities and their families more comfortable going to the movies.Many times these children are bothered by the darkness and loud sounds in the theater, Carr said. Some kids even bring their headphones to minimize the noise.

During the special screenings, the lights are left on and the sound lowered. Students with dietary restrictions are allowed to bring their own snacks into the theater. All movies in the program are rated G or PG and are offered at a discounted price.

The Durham Board of Education will honor Backus on Thursday at the Fuller Building in downtown Durham for his commitment to the project.

DPS's Exceptional Children's Program serves about 4,000 students that have disabilities or conditions such as autism and attention deficit disorder, making it one of the largest programs of its kind in the state.

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