Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

May 12, 2013

Movie showing offers unique experience

Bill Grimes Daily News
Effingham Daily News

---- — People, especially children, on the autism spectrum do not always function well in a darkened movie theater.

But at Helen Matthes Library in Effingham, The Autism Program has been sponsoring monthly film showings designed for families with a child on the spectrum.

“Some children with autism are still learning to stay in a seat, and the stimulation of fluorescent lights flickering can affect them in different ways,” said Kristin Gharst, family and community resource coordinator for The Autism Program (TAP).

The films at the library, which resume in August, are designed to be sensory-friendly. The room lights stay on and filmgoers can get up and sit down whenever they want.

“With the lights on, it’s not disturbing to other people if they have to get up and move around,” Gharst said.”This also gives families a chance to interact with one another.”

James Flinn of Wheeler found out about the films online and drove to the film showing Saturday with son J.D. The 7-year-old hasn’t been diagnosed with anything on the autism spectrum, but his dad says he exhibits behaviors similar to those who have been diagnosed with a spectrum disorder.

“He gets scared in the dark,” Flinn said. “The lights don’t bother him as much.”

Gharst said TAP and the library started partnering last fall with the monthly film series.

“We have the benefit of free resources at the library,” she said, adding the library also offers visual aids for those on the spectrum. No library card is needed for those items.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.