All of a sudden there's a huge influx of 'autism-friendly' cinema screenings. The idea is brilliant in principle. The sound turned down low. Some lights left on. An understanding audience. There's just one problem with it all from The Boy's point of view. There's other people with autism there.
It's one of the major difficulties with all things tailored towards those on the spectrum. The likelihood that there will be other people on the spectrum there too. The irony is that the one group of people who The Boy is most intolerant of are those who share the same diagnosis as himself.
I don't know the answer - you can see the same problem in every ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) school too. Probably the biggest hurdle many of the children have to overcome is learning to share their space with others who are on the spectrum. Who by the very nature of their diagnosis find social interaction so difficult. The Boy hates noise and to be touched. Yet he will think nothing of creating huge amounts of noise and touching others, often inappropriately and often without warning. Very often some of his less savoury traits are passed on to his autistic peers, and vice-versa.
I suppose the ideal solution would be to make everything more inclusive, to change the rest of the world to be more accepting of those with autism. And it is happening. Maybe slower than a lot of us would like, but it's happening. There have been huge steps forward in the years since The Boy was diagnosed. But even then there are limits to just how much acceptance can do.
I would have loved for The Boy to have been taught in a mainstream school. Even in a specialised unit. But I also recognise that every other child in the class deserves an education as much as he does. And there is no doubt that due to his challenging behaviour other children's education was suffering. No amount of acceptance would ever change that. So, do he and others like him go to an ASD school for their benefit or for the benefit of the other children around them? If we're honest, it's probably a bit of both. And so are 'autism-friendly' cinema screenings really for the benefit of those with autism, or are they just to stop other people's enjoyment of the film being interrupted? It's probably a bit of both as well. But how can we expect people to be more understanding of the condition if they don't experience it day to day? And how can we expect those with ASD to integrate fully into a society where they only mix with others with ASD? What's with all the questions?
I feel like I've opened a right can of worms here - it only came about because some cartoon is on at the cinema... 'Autism-friendly' screenings have to be a good thing - any acceptance can't be bad. But we have to decide who we're doing it for. The last 'autism-friendly' screening I went to was packed... it was far noisier and busier than a standard viewing. And The Boy struggled as a result. The 'autism-friendly' bit felt like it was FOR ME, not for him. It was to make me feel more at ease knowing I was in a cinema with those who understood and who weren't judging. The benefits to him were minimal, if any.
If it was down to The Boy, an autistic-friendly cinema is a very simple thing indeed. It would look very similar to a normal cinema with a big screen. But with just one seat.
This blog is about bringing up The Boy. He's 12 years old and autistic. It's written by The Dad. It's my words, my view. Other people will think differently and have different opinions. Good.