By Erica Patino
Going to the movies can be a challenge if your child has learning and attention issues. Use these tips to help make the experience more fun for you and for your child.
If your child tends to get wound up at the movies, it may be better to go to a matinee instead of an evening showing. By going earlier in the day, you’re less likely to encounter serious film buffs who might be bothered by your child’s whispering, giggling or fidgeting.
Parts of the movie may slow down and your child’s interest may start to drift. Bring a favorite toy or two that your child can play with in her seat, such as her teddy bear. Don’t bring electronics like iPads. Sound effects and glowing screens might annoy other moviegoers.
Your child might not realize she’s annoying other people by asking questions during the movie. Before you go, work out a hand signal that means “We’ll talk about that after the movie.” Explain ahead of time who some of the movie characters are. Talk about the scary or amusing things they might say or do. You can also practice “going to the movies” at home by turning off all the lights at night and sitting quietly as you watch a show.
Just because a movie is “for kids” doesn’t mean your child will be interested in it. For example, your child might be getting too old for animated movies and now only wants to watch live-action. Does she like going to 3D movies, or does she get annoyed by having to wear those special glasses? Think about which movies are likely to sustain her interest in a theater.
Movies nowadays can be very loud. If your child is sensitive to loud noises, this might be distressing. If that’s the case, bring headphones that can muffle the sound.
If your child has trouble following what the actors are saying, she might enjoy a movie with subtitles. Many theaters have special screenings with subtitles of first-run movies. Check the listings or call the theater to ask. But keep in mind that if your child has trouble reading, subtitles may not be helpful. You might want to try watching a movie at home with subtitles to see whether it makes a difference.
If your child has sensory issues, loud noises and bright lights during a movie can be confusing or overwhelming. Check to see if any theaters near you have “sensory-friendly films.” At these screenings, the sound is turned down a bit and the lights aren’t dimmed all the way. Kids are allowed to walk around and talk during the movie. This might be a good option depending on your child’s needs, especially if she’s new to the theater scene.
At family gatherings, relatives who don’t understand learning and attention issues may make negative comments about your child. These remarks can sting, even if they’re well intentioned. Here are some typical comments—and ways to respond.
Visiting people’s homes is stressful for many kids. But for kids with learning and attention issues, not knowing what to expect or how to behave can be especially difficult. These simple strategies can help.
Erica Patino is an online writer and editor who specializes in health and wellness content.
Sheldon H. Horowitz, Ed.D., is senior director of learning resources and research at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
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