Strathbogie Shire Council

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Sensory screenings return to Euroa cinema

Euroa Community Cinema volunteers are excited to reintroduce sensory-friendly screenings for families living with autism and other sensory needs.

The sensory screenings, which were on hold during Victoria’s 2020 COVID lockdowns, will return on June 30 during the Term 2 school holidays.

Cinema volunteer Brendan Paterson, whose son Elliot has autism, knows first-hand the gratitude families with special needs have for screenings with lowered sound and dimmed lighting in place of darkness.

“People that come along are really appreciative,” Mr Paterson said.

“It’s nice when a mum says ‘We have been able to take our child to the cinema for the first time,” or ‘This is the first time we have been able to go to the cinema with the whole family.’ ”

Mr Paterson said sensory screenings provided “a relaxed attitude to different behaviours children might exhibit to express themselves during a movie”.

“We are supportive of parents and can offer a hand if needed,” he said.

Mr Paterson said the Euroa screenings had attracted families from as far as Wangaratta and Melbourne since being introduced a couple of years ago.

As a long-time volunteer at the cinema, Mr Paterson said Elliot, 17, had acclimatised to mainstream screenings from a young age.

It was during a previous teaching role with children with autism that Mr Paterson more fully realised the void in community activities which were inclusive for families with special needs.

“Elliot was lucky; he was introduced to the cinema slowly since he was little while I was volunteering. Through my teaching, I learnt that a lot of kids with disabilities are precluded from things that are taken for granted for fear of smell, or noise, or the unknown,” he said.

Mr Paterson said Euroa Community Cinema introduced sensory screenings after he noticed mainstream commercial cinemas had started mums and bubs and sensory-friendly screenings.

He said many families had appreciated the Social Story on the Strathbogie Shire website as a tool to prepare children with autism and anxiety ahead of their cinema outing.

“A Social Story is a helpful resource to use when introducing a new skill, or introducing to a new topic, venue or process,” he said.

“Families can print the Social Story PDF from the Strathbogie Shire website and familiarise their child with what to expect from the moment they arrive at the cinema.

“The Social Story gives everyone a warning what to expect, for example the lights being dimmed or a trailer coming on before the movie – things that may otherwise trigger a meltdown.”

For Elliot, the cinema continues to provide a safe space for him to acquire new skills, now as a volunteer.

He started volunteering last year before COVID hit, and happily resumed his role in the kiosk when the cinema reopened this year.

“Elliot was lucky that he was introduced to the cinema from a young age, and he understands the need for sensory screenings, in that not all kids can go to the [mainstream] cinema,” Mr Paterson said.

“Working in the kiosk has been really useful for Elliot in learning how to meet new people and practise customer service skills. It’s been good for his problem solving and communicating skills.”

SENSORY SCREENINGS

School holiday program: $5 tickets.

Online bookings only at www.strathbogie.vic.gov.au/tourism/euroa-community-cinema/now-showing

Wednesday, June 30, 11am: Tom and Jerry The Movie (G)

Wednesday, July 7, 11am: Cranston Academy: Monster Zone (PG)

You can help your child prepare for their cinema experience by downloading the Euroa Community Cinema Social Story at www.strathbogie.vic.gov.au/tourism/euroa-community-cinema/facilities

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