Sensory Friendly Movies for Children with Special Needs


Parents with sensory kids know the drill. Everybody wants to see the latest family friendly flick. You get to the theater early so you can make sure to get a set at the end of the row so your little one doesn’t feel cramped and you can make an easy exit if needed. You plunk down $10 or more a ticket, get comfy in your stadium seats and wait… and wait. The theater fills, the lights go down and your kids start squirming. They’re already overwhelmed and the movie hasn’t even started. Fortunately, there are a few Indy theaters that can make this experience a little easier.

This guide and all special needs and adaptive resources on Indy with Kids have been made possible with support from Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation.

Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation has the philosophy that ALL programs are inclusive. If your child wants to use the Monon Community Center or participate in any of their many programs, just drop them an email and they can make accommodations to specifically fit your child’s needs. They can even facilitate a staff member to work directly with your child one-on-one if deemed necessary. But you can also find adaptive programs designed specifically for special needs children of all ages by searching their program guide with the key word “adaptive.” Some of these include sensory friendly family nightfishing and archery, kids night out, swim lessons, t-ball, and more.

Moorsville Showtime Cinema holds a “Sully’s Weekend” for kids movies on the third weekend from opening. During the noon showings, the movie is presented with the lights up and the sound lowered to accommodate kids with Autism and sensory challenges. The 3D function is also eliminated for these shows. Plus, because it’s geared toward special needs families, you probably won’t get the stink eye if your child needs to get up and move around. Occasionally the timing varies, but it will always be announced on their facebook page and on their recording line (317-834-9156.)

AMC has partnered with the Autism Society to present sensory friendly movies on the second and fourth Tuesday and Saturday of the month. Tuesday showings will play at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday shows will play at 10:00 a.m. According to their website, they turn up the lights, turn down the sound and encourage guests to get up dance, sing or walk around. It’s a place you can “feel free to be you!” Click here to see a schedule and reserve tickets.

While UA Circle Center and UA Galaxy Stadium 14 don’t necessarily have sensory friendly showings, I have found them to be a good fit for our family. It’s the king size reclining seats that make the difference. The company website touts the luxurious feel of the seats, but it’s the space and coverage that appeal to us. Because the seats are so large, there are a limited number of tickets sold for each show, therefore reducing the feeling of being over crowded. Plus, you can reserve your seats in advance, so you can pick the best seat for your family without having to get there super early. Finally, they are roomy enough for little ones to move around or snuggle, and tall enough that it won’t be a distraction for other guests.

The Noblesville branch of the Hamilton East Public Library hosts sensory friendly family movies periodically throughout the year. With a goal of hosting a movie quarterly, they have one planned for Feb. 15. The movies will show in their children’s programming room within the children’s department and are free. The lights are dimmed slightly and average attendance is about 10 people, keeping the events low key. Popcorn is provided, but families are welcome to bring their own snacks as well. For more information on these events, contact Roberta O’Boyle at or 317-773-3216.

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