By Alyssa Schnugg
For children and adults who deal with sensory input issues, just going to a movie theater to watch a film on the big screen can be a trying time.
From bright, flashing lights to loud, surround-sound speakers, a movie theater can be too overwhelming for some.
A group in this year’s Leadership Lafayette group wants to offer people of all ages with sensory input issues a chance to enjoy going to the movies, starting with the younger folks in the community.
The group has reserved a theater at Malco Oxford Commons and at 9:30 a.m. on June 30, for a “lights-up, sound down, and freedom to move around” viewing of the children’s movie, “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank.”
Project leader Shanika Ward hopes the sensory-friendly movie showing will be the first in a series of sensory-friendly movies offered at Malco.
Ward has worked with special-needs people in Oxford at the North Mississippi Regional Center for 18 years.
“I’ve run into so many people, with children and adults with hearing impairments that have great difficulty with attending a movie,” she said. “Sensory input reactions occur when the brain receives and organizes information from external sources, such as light or sound. Individuals may not respond to this everyday sensory information the same way most people do. They may feel bombarded by even the smallest bit of stimulation.”
Ward said when parents do try to take their child with sensory-input issues to a movie, often movie employees and others in the theater don’t always understand or have patience with children moving around or getting upset when their sensory input triggers reactions.
“I felt having these sensory-friendly viewings were also important to help educate movie employees as well so they can recognize what’s going on and how they can offer to help,” Ward said.
The Leadership Lafayette program training builds community leaders through shared knowledge, skills and experience. The program emphasizes developing leadership skills through activities promoting community awareness, team building and project development.
Ward’s group was able to reserve the theater for the movie on June 30; however, since it is a special viewing, tickets must be purchased prior to the event. Tickets are $7 for adults and children. The theater lights will remain on but will be turned down slightly. The sound will be turned down and children will be free to move about as needed.
If the response from the community is positive, future viewings for both adults and children could be possible.
The theater must be reserved first which requires funds.
Donations are accepted for those who wish to support the sensory-friendly movies but do not want to attend.
To purchase tickets or make a donation, visit https://oxfordarts.com/scs.