As we’ve previously discussed, finding family-friendly entertainment and cultural outlets for families that have a child with autism can often be quite a challenge. After all, going to the movies—especially 3D ones—can be extremely overwhelming in both the visual and aural bombast that accompanies most major films these days. In addition, going to musical events and concerts can also be rather fraught as loud sounds and sudden changes in the musical direction can be rather challenging for many children with autism.
However, in addition to the rise of autism-friendly theatre performances in which the lights and visual stimuli are reduced, there are a number of entertaining activities available to families both in and out of the house than can both engage and even help treat a family member with autism to be more sociable while participating in many of the same activities as those of their peers.
One of the more exciting recent developments has been the rise in sensory-friendly films. Cinema chain AMC has been a leading pioneer in this trend where they screen films in a safe and accepting environments with the lights turned up, the sound turned down, and the attendees encouraged to interact with the film and get up to dance, walk, shout, or sing. What began as an initial experiment in Columbia, Maryland has spread across the nation as the theater chain seeks to make a difference in the 1.5 million Americans living with an autism spectrum disorder, showing such family-friendly films as Maleficent, Penguins of Madagascar, and Big Hero 6 that everyone can enjoy.
Another recent trend has been the rise in musical organizations, events, and concerts dedicated especially to individuals with autism, allowing them to participate with music in a way they are often unable to. Similar to the sensory-friendly films discussed above, organizations such as Music for Autism are dedicated to engaging and immersing individuals with autism into the world of music. Audience members are not just passive observers to the performances, but are encouraged to get on stage and interact with the musicians and instruments in a way that fosters positive reactions from the audience. The concerts are held in halls that appeal to people with autism; there is always open space for the audience to react to the music through spontaneous dance and movement.
Finally, when looking for entertaining activities that do not involve leaving the house, families can find a plethora of games and toys around their house that will help to engage children with autism while also helping to improve their communicative and social skills. For instance, classic card games like UNO can prove quite amenable to children and they even make decks that are only colors instead of numbers to facilitate play and enjoyment.
In addition, such activities as puzzles, singing, and drawing can prove extremely fruitful in entertaining children with autism by simply using objects that are readily found around the house. Finally, smart phones and tablets now sport a number of autism-friendly apps that are designed to entertain, educate, and engage children and with over 500 apps currently on the market, there is bound to be one that your child will respond to.
So in short, while entertaining a child with autism comes with its own set of challenges, there are more organizations and technologies that are opening a whole new world of play and education that is rapidly changing the face of entertainment.