An awkward and embarrassing moment for parents of two sons with autism and the Goodrich Oxford 7 Theater will turn into a lesson in disability awareness and a special outing for the family.
Melanie Laine of Oxford Township, her husband, Steven, and sons, Matthew, 7, and Aidan, 5, went to the Oxford Township theater Saturday afternoon to see the 4:30 p.m. showing of “The Lego Movie,” Melanie said.She said Aidan is obsessed with legos.
“He was not a little saint,” she said “During the movie he got excited and people complained to the manager.
“We were in the back of the theater by the entrance where we could make a quick exit if necessary and we’d be less obtrusive there,” Laine said. “The manager came over to me and said three people complained” her youngest son was disruptive.
She said she asked if the female manager was kicking them out of the show. “If we get another complaint, you will be hearing about it,” Laine said the manager said.
So Laine took Aidan and left the show. She then texted her husband and told him and their other son, Matthew, to leave, she said.
“The staff at the show was wonderful (but) I should never have been told that three people complained,” Laine said.
As they left, the manager refunded the cost the four had paid to attend the movie.
Laine then asked to speak to a regional manager, Reed Simon, of the theater which is owned by a company in Lafayette, Ind.
The mother posted what happened on Facebook after the family got home. “We have lots of friends in the autism community who called the regional manager to ask ‘Is it the policy to kick out autistic kids?’”
An executive from the theater group called Laine on Sunday afternoon, she said.
“Now Matthew, Aidan, myself and my husband are going to a private view of “The Lego Movie” at 10 a.m. Saturday at the theater,” Laine said. “They said they also would train managers in disability etiquette and go an extra mile” to properly treat those people with disabilities.
Laine said she believes her sons should be taken out into the community – to movies, amusement parks and other places where there are high stimuli.
The theater also is going to have a 10 a.m. “sensory” showing of future movies that children with disabilities might watch at the beginning of each month, Laine said. The movie house also said it would lower the sound and lights and allow the children to get up and yell.”“I am very pleased with how this ended because ultimately the big winner is the Oxford 7 Theater because the sensory friendly movies” is likely to attract more business.
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence/advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586 263-8950.