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Tayson, 3, watches the movie "Zootopia."

Photo by Ida Irby

Lights up, volume down: No more sensory overload

14 Apr 2016 | Ida Irby Marine Corps Base Quantico

EFMP hosts first sensory-friendly matinee

Marine Corps Community Services coordinated with the local theater staff to show Disney’s animated film “Zootopia” as the first sensory-friendly movie on April 9 at 2:30 p.m. in Little Hall Theater. The event was held to provide helpful solutions and a positive environment to families.

Three-year-old Tayson visited a movie theater for the first time. He was able to sit though the movie with his parents, three siblings and a large popcorn.

“This environment removes uneasiness of [maintaining movie courtesy] while other people watch a movie. When people visit today, they understand there will be kids playing and being kids during the film,” said John Smith, Little Hall theater manager.

The military special needs national network began a trend in the U.S. of sensory-friendly shows organized by the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). Smith called the “friendly” environment ideal for children in the EFMP program.

The event accommodated newborns and children with sensory issues that limit their ability to watch a movie in a theater. The room remained dimly lit and the movie played at a lower volume than usual. The special environment is especially for children who are overly sensitive to light and sound, but it is open to the military community. Parents have the opportunity to bring refreshments for children on special diets or have snacks from the concession stand.

“I knew there would be kids talking through the movie, and I don’t mind. As a matter of fact, I think they should offer it more often,” said Sgt. Stephen Dillon, road master in Headquarters and Service Battalion.

Quantico’s EFMP Facebook page from March 29 posted that “guests are allowed to get up, move around, dance and sing.”

“We are not limiting the event to the EFMP community. We all love going to the movies. But, for some families a child’s diagnoses won’t allow them to sit quietly for the duration of a movie,” which may create a panic-frightened child or anxiety in a frustrated parent, said Amy Watson, EFMP training education and outreach specialist.

So this year, check the Little Hall Theater movie schedule for the next sensory-friendly movie.

— Writer: iirby@quanticosentryonline.com

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