In 2012, a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that Utah has the nation’s highest autism rate. One out of every 47 children is identified as having an autism spectrum disorder. According to the Autism Council of Utah, autism is a brain disorder that primarily affects communication, social skills and behaviors.
Arianna Allred, a Weber State University social work senior, was awarded the Alan E. and Jeanne N. Hall Endowment for Community Outreach to put on a free movie once a month for at least three months that accommodates Ogden’s families with sensory-disadvantaged children. These disorders include autism, sensory processing disorder, Asperger’s, pervasive developmental disorder and Rett syndrome.
On Feb. 1 at 1 p.m. in the Sky Room of WSU’s Shepherd Union Building, Allred plans to show the animated movie “The Croods.”
“‘The Croods’ is about family,” Allred said. “It’s a movie that empowers families to stay together, to stay strong with each other, to be communicative and be honest with each other and be able to grow.”
Allred’s event, called Flicks 4 Families, is free for any families who want to go. It includes free concessions, which allows for a drink, a bag of popcorn and goodie bags of chocolate and fruit snacks for children. Allred said healthier concessions that don’t contain gluten or high-fructose corn syrup will also be available for children who have dietary restrictions.
“The movie itself is accommodating. The sound will not be as loud as a normal movie theater, and the lights will not be turned off, so they won’t have to worry about a really dark room and a really bright screen and noise that is aggravating,” Allred said. She said the chairs will be spaced out so the children have more room to get down and play if they feel more comfortable doing that.
Allred said her group chose this project for a few reasons. “Here in the Ogden area, there are a lot of poverty-stricken families that have special-needs children, where they don’t get a lot of the same commodities that normal families do. And I know that a lot of people love to go out to the movies. A lot of couples love to go out to the movies as dates. Well, when you have a special-needs child, you can’t have the same little things. You can’t take your child to the movies, either A, because it will stress the children out, and B, they can be loud and you can be asked to be removed from the theater.”
She said all of the movies her group chose for this project are meant to be family-friendly and to relay some type of positive message. Autistic children and sensory-disadvantaged children have a greater difficulty communicating, but Allred said she has learned that children with these disorders are very visual and pick things up quickly.
“I only have a certain amount of money that was going towards this project, so it needed to be something that was smaller,” Allred said. “It was able to still be doable, but still offered a service. Two of my group members and I decided that this was something that was feasible that we could do that still offered a service of empowerment and normalcy and something that is unique and hasn’t really been done often in this area.”
Allred encouraged families to save the money they would spend on purchasing a movie and staying at home, and instead come out for a free movie with free concessions and watch these movies with other families who have autistic children. “I’m hoping to use this event to bring families as a network for each other so that people can feel like they’re not alone and they can meet other people in a normal setting, in a comfortable, accommodating setting, and they can make friends.”