Treatment center's free sensory-friendly movie creates inclusive event

Marvel's Peter Parker will be on the Texan Theater's silver screen in "Spider-Man: Homecoming" at 2 p.m. Saturday in a free, sensory-friendly screening open to all and specially-tailored for children and adults with special needs.
Marvel's Peter Parker will be on the Texan Theater's silver screen in "Spider-Man: Homecoming" at 2 p.m. Saturday in a free, sensory-friendly screening open to all and specially-tailored for children and adults with special needs.
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Not all children can simply sit quietly in a dark movie theater, regardless of what adventure’s on the silver screen – maybe they’re too young to keep still, maybe they have a special need that makes it hard to keep the wiggles in check.

Whatever the reason, it makes going to the movies difficult, if not impossible, for some families who don’t want to interrupt the experience for others.

No worries, Lauren Cammack says: wiggles are welcome Saturday during East Texas Treatment Center’s free, sensory-friendly screening of “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

It’s safe to assume ‘no dancing in the aisles’ goes right along with ‘no talking’ and ‘no texting’ rules at the movies, but that’s all A-OK too, the ETTC executive director says: the Aug. 18 movie is custom-fit for audience members who need a little more freedom to enjoy a film on the big screen. The show begins at 2 p.m. in the Texan Theater on North Kilgore Street.

“We were looking for an outreach event to bring awareness to the center – all of our services but especially to spotlight the Pediatric Occupational Therapy Program,” Cammack said. “I just kind of came across the sensory-friendly showing,” a modified movie experience that’s gaining traction at numerous theaters like AMC, Studio Movie Grill and Alamo Drafthouse.

Partnering with Reel East Texas Film Festival for the event, “I thought that would be a great idea. I knew there was nothing like that in the community.”

Such shows are often billed as ‘baby-friendly’ in addition to ‘sensory-friendly.’ In addition to relaxing the rules about distractions, the inclusive screenings are a little more subdued so as not to overpower audience members, whether they’re toddlers or, perhaps, on the autism spectrum.

“It’s not about the actual movie that’s being shown, it’s the way it’s being shown – the lights are a little brighter, sound a little softer,” Cammack said, “and there’s also the knowledge of everyone attending that children will be moving around.”

ETTC has expended special invitations to local group-homes for adults with special needs in addition to programs for younger children throughout the area.

“We allow children to move around freely, dance, enjoy the film in their way. It’s specifically aimed at kids on the spectrum, but any child can enjoy it, and adults.”

The Texan Theater is now ready to host all audiences comfortably – with new air conditioning and repaired restroom facilities, in particular. Visitors are encouraged to bring blankets or collapsible chairs Saturday in order to have a more relaxed movie-going experience.

Free and open-to-the-public on the final Saturday before children go back to school, guests are also invited to bring snacks and drinks as they watch Marvel’s web-slinger take on the bad guys in the 2017 film.

Some families might have missed “Spider-Man: Homecoming” in the theater, Cammack added. Their child’s activity or special needs might have made it too difficult to catch the flick amidst a crowd.

“I think it brings some awareness. I personally never thought about the fact it would be hard to go to a movie with a child on the spectrum,” she said. In addition to being inclusive, “it’s just a fun, family event.”

Co-organizing the sensory-friendly film with ETTC Marketing Director Patricia Danley, Cammack noted the facility will have information available Saturday on the center’s available services for adults, children and families.

For more information about the sensory-friendly screening or ETTC, contact the facility at 903-984-5571.

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