More than 100 parents and their children flooded in to the Scala Cinema in Ilkeston this week to see the town’s first autism-friendly screening.
Dad John Daly who organised the event with wife Lauri has thanked townsfolk for their ’incredible’ level of support on Thursday (August 22), as twice the number of visitors expected turned up to see Monsters University.
Thanks to the buzz created around the showing, Scala owner Reel Cinemas has now agreed to another film screening, designed around the complex needs of autistic children, on Sunday September 1.
John, 35, said: “It was pretty incredible to see that many people there.
“But what was most inspiring was to see how relaxed the parents looked.
“It can be quite a stressful thing going out when someone in the family has autism.”
During the screening the house lights were kept on, the volume was turned down and children were allowed to roam free in the aisles.
“The kids were running about, making their comfort noises – but the parents just had smiles on their faces,” explained John, whose five-year-old son Toby suffers from autism.
“They weren’t being judged by other people, thinking, ‘What on Earth is going on?’”
The former Co-op employee told us all about his support group Awareness for Autism earlier this month.
Made redundant when the department store closed, John has focussed all his energy into improving lives for Ilkeston families with autistic children.
He now wants to expand what the group offers and has big plans for special events for autistic children, giving advice and help to families and fundraising.
He wants to raise money for local schools to pay for special resources for autistic children, such as iPads or even sensory rooms, and also for charity Hearts and Minds – a national charity which is planning to raise £1m to open a Centre of Education for Autism.
John and friend Tony Swatten recently ran the Derby 5k to raise more than £600 for the charity.
He is now looking for parents in the Ilkeston area who can offer ideas and help to his ever-growing group.
Awareness for Autism has now had more than 350 likes on Facebook. Visit it at facebook.com/awarenessforautism to contact John and find out more.
The special screening of Smurfs 2 will be at 9am on Sunday September 1 at the Burns Street cinema.
It costs £3.50 and all children must be accompanied by an adult.