- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2016

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - A movie theater in Sioux Falls and other venues have begun offering entertainment that allows people with sensory processing issues or autism to have a good time.

The West Mall 7 theater recently began a series of movie screenings in which the lights are raised, the volume is lowered and people are allowed to make noise and move around, the Argus Leader (https://argusne.ws/28W3sKr ) reported. An upcoming theater production of the “Wizard of Oz” presented at Augustana University will also accommodate people who have sensory processing issues.

Melissa Top, whose 22-year-old son, Chance, has autism, cried when she heard that her son would be able to go to the movies like everyone else. They were among the 200 people who attended the first sensory-friendly movie screening at West Mall 7 last month.

“He feels he’s accomplishing something, and he didn’t think he was going to get to that point either,” Top said. “Something as simple as a movie is changing his viewpoint on the world and that’s amazing.”

The newspaper reported that businesses in Sioux Falls are looking for ways to accommodate individuals with autism since diagnoses began to rise. Movie theater owner Todd Fragger says he wants the sensory-friendly showings to become a regular event the last Saturday of every month.

The “Wizard of Oz” production, which will be put on by LifeScape and the Black Hills Playhouse, will feature higher lighting, lower volumes, interactions between the performers and the audience, times for the audience to move as part of the show and an available quiet room.

Jamie Richardson, project coordinator with LifeScape center for the arts, said the organization, which serves children and adults with disabilities, doesn’t want “anybody to have a barrier to the arts.”

“We really understand the importance of creating opportunities for everybody,” Richardson said.

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Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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