Going to the movies is a great idea, but sometimes can be challenging. Here are some good tips in making the experience enjoyable for everyone.

A Blueprint

Jill Hudson and Amy Bixler Coffin, in their book Out and About: Preparing Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to Participate in Their Communities, offer an easy-to use Blueprint for parents taking their children on a community outing or for educators preparing a field trip.

The Blueprint offers eleven tools to consider for these outings. Below, they have been adapted for a trip to the movies.

  1. Waiting plan. Waiting is a part of every activity and many children will need some support to wait. For example, if the child is waiting in line to buy popcorn, a wait card or a simple fidget might make the waiting easier.
  2. Communication. For the child who requires support to communicate, his communication system needs to travel with him. His communication device may include special icons that will allow him to request popcorn or make comments about the movie. More verbal children may require prompting to order something from the concession stand.
  3. Social. An important part of any outing is the social interaction. To make the most of the outing, the child may need to role-play what it is like to go to the movie or read a social narrative about what will happen in the movie theater. The child may also need a script to ask peers what they liked about the movie.
  4. Visual. Visual supports help to make an outing a success. A “first … then …” card, a list of what the child will do at the movie, or a wait card can help clarify the order of events or expectations.
  5. Hidden curriculum. Consider what “unwritten rules” are necessary for the child to know at the movie theater. For example, at the movies children can eat their own popcorn and perhaps their parents’ popcorn, but they are not permitted to eat the popcorn that belongs to other families.
  6. Sensory. Many children become overwhelmed by noise or lights. The child attending a movie might need earplugs or sunglasses to minimize sensory input. In addition, the child may need a favorite blanket or small toy to feel comfortable in a new environment.
  7. Motivation. Sometimes outside motivators or reinforcers are needed to helpthe child complete activities. Offering a small reinforcer during the activity or after the activity can urge a reluctant child to try something new.
  8. Behavior. Are any behavior supports needed to help the child experience success during the movie? Before an outing, consider taking a voice volume card and making a plan of action for if the child becomes anxious. For the AMC-ASA Sensory Friendly Films, there will be a space available for children to de-stress. If anxiety or other behaviors are of concern, having this information is invaluable.
  9. Transition. Transition supports help the child move from place to place – from the concession stand to the theater or from the bathroom to the car. Picture cards or scripts can be helpful during transitions.
  10. Siblings or other students. Are any special plans or considerations needed for other children during the outing? For example, if the child with autism becomes anxious and needs to leave the theatre briefly to calm, will the sibling remain in the theater or accompany his brother who is feeling stressed?
  11. Rewind. This tool allows for review following the movie or other event. Rewind can be used to celebrate the family’s success or revisit the plan to ensure that supports are added, as needed.

The Out and About Blueprint is an option for parents who are planning an outing for their family that could become. It takes into consideration the needs of the individual in a simple yet comprehensive format.

For more information about the Out and About Blueprint, visit the Autism Asperger Publishing Company at:


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