In 2009, SM’s Committee on Disability Affairs, in partnership with Autism Society Philippines, gave around 200 children with autism the chance to enjoy kid-friendly movie blockbusters at SM North Edsa’s The Block. These participants were students from various Special Education (SPED) schools in Quezon City.
These sensory-friendly movies, as they have become known as, were organized in order to have a unique way of presenting the movie experience to kids with autism. The parents, guardians, teachers and caregivers were also there to accompany the children in the cinema.
Sensory-friendly movies modify aspects of the regular film showings through the following: • Low lights during the show as opposed to total blackout • Reduced sound volume • No trailers or film previews to minimize waiting time for the featured movie
Attending a regular film showing can become a traumatic experience for children with autism, as they may become frightened by the dark surroundings and the loud sounds. Excessive sensory input through lights and sounds can be too much for these kids.
Also, children with autism may exhibit certain actions that other people might not understand. These include moving frequently, standing up, or flapping their arms, among others.
The sensory-friendly movie campaign also pushed through in SM Baguio as well as in SM City Davao that same year, with 400 kids with autism watching the animated version of “A Christmas Carol.”
This 2011, according to Christiana Caparas who heads the operations of SM Cinemas IMAX Theatre, another wave of sensory-friendly movies will be organized, this time for children with disabilities and illnesses such as cancer, especially those who cannot afford IMAX.
“We want to give back to society by letting these kids experience IMAX, where creatures become alive and leap out of the screen,” says Caparas.
Although partner organizations have yet to be tapped, SM Cinemas plans to push through with the project this April. The participating children get in for free and companions get a special discounted price.