Dad’s plans for autism screenings

Ilkeston Scala cinema is launching a trial of autistic friendly film screenings. Toby and Layla with dad John Daly.
Ilkeston Scala cinema is launching a trial of autistic friendly film screenings. Toby and Layla with dad John Daly.

A dad, left out of work after the Co-op department store’s closure, has set to making lives better for autistic children in Ilkeston, like his son.

Just last month John Daly and his wife Lauri, whose five-year-old son Toby suffers from autism and type-one diabetes, set up a support group for local parents on Facebook.

Since then, Awareness for Autism has had nearly 300 likes and the pair’s first event – in conjunction with the Scala Cinema –is a special screening of Monsters University.

There are similar screenings designed around the complex needs of autistic children at cinemas in Derby and Nottingham – but the distance can be a problem for Ilkeston parents of autistic kids.

“It can be a bit of a military operation trying to plan a day out with autistic children,” said John, 35. “But this will bring it right on our doorstep.

“We’ve been inundated with people saying it’s great news and we’re hoping lots of people will be coming.”

The house lights will be on, the volume reduced and children can get up and walk about if they need to. The film – shown at 9am on Thursday (August 22) – will also be in 2D because of ‘sensory issues’ kids can have with 3D.

The idea came from a similar scheme at a cinema in Grantham – run by the same firm as the Scala, Reel Cinemas. If the Ilkeston plan is a success it could become a regular event.

When Midlands Co-op announced it was closing its department store in January, John left to find other work.

When he was unsuccessful he set all his efforts to promoting Awareness for Autism and has never looked back.

“While I’ve been applying for work I’ve been channelling my time and energy to the group,” he said. “But now this is off the ground I feel like this is what I want to be doing – I get such a buzz out of doing it.

“Hopefully long term it will pan out to be something quite successful.”