Lights up, sound down.
That’s how “Kung Fu Panda 3” was shown at the recent sensory-friendly movie night for special needs children at Fairfax’s Cinema Arts Theatre.
The event marked the fourth year running that the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia and Washington Group Special Care Planning joined together to present a movie in a way that accommodates children and adults with physical limitations, or who suffer from Down syndrome, cerebral palsy or autism. They may have difficulty staying still for long, and may find bright lights and loud sound disturbing.
More than 65 viewers attended.
During the showing of the movie, the sound was low and theater lights were up, and the viewers were free to run around.
“They are able to make noise, and run around, and no one cares,” said Jerry Hulick, senior planner at the Washington Group. “A lot of the kids with autism are sensitive to the rays of the light, so sensory friendly makes it easier for them.”
The JCC’s Jessica Tischler met Hulick at the Circle of Support Fair in Woodbridge some years back while setting up their booths to promote their goals. They agreed to combine their initiatives to obtain the funds needed to set up a host of free events to help those with special needs. In addition to the movie nights, both organizations offer theater and music programs, as well as educational and social activities.
“I think these things are fantastic. There is certainly a need — especially for children’s events,” said Jennifer
Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowerment and self-advocacy for individuals with disabilities. “It provides a way also for children who need to get up and move around a bit during a film, and to do so without other people giving them a dirty look.”