Autie Birthday

It’s Youngest’s birthday this week. Because I won’t be there on the day (work commitments), we had his birthday treat day today. This is the story of that day.

This year, we all went out to the cinema, with Youngest’s best friend, to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Two of our local cinemas, Vue Cwmbran and Cineworld Newport, both do Autism Friendly showings once a month on a Sunday morning (different Sundays luckily!) They turn the sound down, turn the air con off, don’t show any adverts or trailers, and advertise it as Autism Friendly, so that anyone who attends knows that children (and some adults) with special needs will be attending, and may disrupt the screening somewhat.

Youngest is, admittedly, not 12 yet. But the film is a 12A, and he loved it. Actually, all of us loved it:-) I actually did laugh out loud on many occasions, which I don’t often do in the cinema. (I will now have to go back and watch Guardians of the Galaxy 1. I didn’t like it at the time I watched it, but looking back, that might have been on Netflix while being constantly disturbed by children and cats. So I’ll try to make some space to watch it – not undisturbed, obviously, but with less disturbance).

This is not the first Autism Friendly showing I’ve been to, but I’d forgotten how relaxing it is. The sound is not so loud it’s overwhelming – in fact, at the start of GotG II the sound was so quiet we were having a bit of trouble hearing it, but they turned it up pretty fast, until it was just the right volume. And the lack of adverts and trailers was very helpful, especially because this was such a long film.

But what was so absolutely great was that all of the other people there were parties where one or more of them had special needs. So if the boys went out to the loo several times, fidgeted around on the chairs, moved chairs to see better, ate loud rustley popcorn, and didn’t moderate their voices to a whisper when they wanted something, or wanted to comment on the film, it didn’t matter – because many of the other people in there were doing exactly the same. Including me.

I didn’t realise fully until today how much energy it takes to take my boys out in public. Not because there’s anything wrong with them, but because they are different. Noticeably, flappingly, shoelessly, different. And sometimes their differences do cause a disturbance. In a non Autism Friendly showing at the pictures, we have to shush and manage so that the rest of the audience aren’t disturbed. If someone is disapproving, we have to defend our children – and by implication, our parenting. All of this is usually done non-verbally, with body language and looks. So sometimes we don’t notice it at all until it’s already escalated in the heads of the people doing the disapproving.

All of this is exhausting. But we will continue to take the boys to ‘ordinary’ screenings, if they want to go, because they enjoy it even if we are shushing and managing all the way through.

And we will continue to take them to Harvester restaurants, where the waiters and waitresses are infallibly polite, friendly, and accommodating to our children and their eating needs. Today, despite the exacting instructions from the boys (and parents, and Grandma) about the food and what it can and mustn’t contain, I took the herb butter off the steak (and had to wipe the steak off with a clean napkin), and removed all of the cabbage and green beans from mixed steamed vegetables… but no-one’s dinner had to be taken back or replaced with something else, and everyone had a great time and enjoyed their meals.

All in all, this was a very good day – another unexpected bonus:-)

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