Top 3 Doc/Fest recommendations – Sheffield 9-14 June

Sheffield Doc/Fest is a film festival comprising; inspirational documentary films from across the globe; controversial discussion panels and in-depth filmmaker masterclasses; a marketplace offering a unique way to pitch new and groundbreaking documentary projects; and world-famous parties. So, with so much on, how do you know what to see? Here at Safe Cinemas, we’re recommending to you 3 of the best looking mental health, neurological, and other related events so you can see the things you’ll find most interesting.

So, here’s our top 3 picks for this year’s Doc/Fest:

The Departure (18)

(trigger warning: suicide)

Emmy-award winning director Lana Wilson (After Tiller) chronicles one Zen Buddhist priest’s difficult emotional labour of suicide prevention. A former tearaway youth with nihilistic tendencies, Ittetsu Nemoto feels a natural kinship with the people he counsels. But it has come at the cost of his own mental and physical health, both of which rapidly deteriorate as he is unable to detach from the deep yet morbid bonds he strikes at work.

Tickets here: https://sheffdocfest.com/films/6260 (9th and 10th of June)

Still Tomorrow (18)

At the heart of director Jian Fan’s filmic portrait lies the melancholy brilliance of poet Yu Xiuhua, a farmer living with cerebral palsy in rural China. In a social climate that is hostile to people with disabilities, she copes with her heartbreaking frustrations by writing poems. One of them, an unflinching portrayal of her sexuality, explodes on Chinese social media and changes the course of her life.

Tickets here: https://sheffdocfest.com/films/6206 (9th June)

Unrest (18) – film

Struck with a debilitating illness and unable even to sit in a wheelchair after a bout of high fever, filmmaker Jennifer Brea took to her camera to make sense of what she was going through. With many questions left unanswered by medical experts, Brea turns to the internet and finds not only that her condition has a name – myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) – but along with it a supportive community of sufferers.

Tickets here: https://sheffdocfest.com/films/6210 (9th and 11th June)

You can also try the VR experience of ME at The Millennium Galleries, to see an insight of what it is like to live with an invisible illness.

 

These are just 3 of the many documentaries on offer at this year’s Doc/Fest, and we’ve only focused on mental health and neurology related films. Other events we’re particularly looking forward to are Grandad, Dementia and Me, Queerama, and The Work. If you’re free in Sheffield from the 9th to the 14th, you’re in for a treat!

 

Stay safe, friends, and happy doc/fest-ing. x

The Curious Incident at the Lyceum: play review

Mark Haddon’s award-winning book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time has been adapted for the stage, and the execution of it is beautiful. The play is the winner of 7 2013 Olivier Awards and 5 2015 Tony Awards, and deservingly so. The book itself was the winner of more than 17 literary awards. Clearly, the story and everything surrounding it, is something spectacular.

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Christopher, fifteen years old, stands beside Mrs Shears’ dead dog. It has been speared with a garden fork, it is seven minutes after midnight and Christopher is under suspicion. He records each fact in the book he is writing to solve the mystery of who murdered Wellington. He has an extraordinary brain, exceptional at maths while ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. He has never ventured alone beyond the end of his road, he detests being touched and he distrusts strangers. But his detective work, forbidden by his father, takes him on a frightening journey that upturns his world. – http://www.curiousonstage.com/about-the-show/

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Christopher has ASD, and the play acts as a Shakespeare-esque play-within-a-play, as narrated by Christopher’s mentor Siobhan. The delicate and intricate details of the play’s structure is wonderful, pulling you straight out of the audience and into the action – from the reference to the audience to Christopher’s post-curtain-call maths lesson. The whole stage design is a work of genius, set out on a grid that is adapted to create houses and other props as needs be with the use of light projection to make realistic but non-existent walls. The cleanness of the set means that the focus is entirely on the action rather than overly elaborate sets. Christopher also uses chalk to show the audience how he distinguishes between happy and sad faces, to great effect. Even sat as far back as I was in the audience, the effect was not lost upon me.

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The play itself will obviously attract the interest of ASD individuals, but I feel obligated to issue a fair warning: take into account sensory issues before going to see it. It’s absolutely brilliant, and gives a really good insight to people not on the spectrum of what a meltdown is like. However, to do this effectively, there is a lot of sensory output, including flashing lights and very loud noise. I coped with just closed eyes and my hands over my ears, but if you’re more sensory than me then earplugs might be a good idea.

If you do get to see it while it tours the UK, I’d love to hear what you think. It’s a brilliant adaptation, and a great play in its own right.

Stay safe, friends. x

 

Why we need to stop using ‘autistic’ as an insult

Recently, I’ve seen a huge rise in the number of people using ‘autistic’ as an insult. Obviously, this is totally unacceptable. Every day on the bus, around school, or in the streets, I hear it thrown around: “Don’t be so autistic and just text her” or whatever. And it makes my skin crawl. It’s so blindingly ignorant. It needs to stop, and let’s talk about why.

It isn’t a new phenomenon, and it certainly isn’t limited to school kids. 50 Cent got himself into trouble a few years ago for the tweeting that “I don’t want no special ed kids on my time line follow some body else” and saying a troll “look[ed] autistic”.

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Similarly, it certainly isn’t the first time people have used something fairly arbitrary as an insult, since anyone on the Internet in 2011 will remember when every other YouTube comment said ‘GAY’ as if this was some kind of cutting insult. But, just like sexuality, neurology isn’t something that works as an insult, because it isn’t something negative.

The dictionary definition of an insult is:

a disrespectful or scornfully abusive remark or act.

But lots of famous people have autism, and you probably wouldn’t associate them with the same negative stereotypes you think of when you use it as an insult. Some of these celebrities include:

(Hover over the images to read captions)

The only reason people think ‘autistic’ is an insult is because of the stigma attached to it that isn’t attached to other neurological conditions, such as ALS or Multiple Sclerosis. Even the stigma around mental health is starting to ease somewhat, because of the huge media push to dispel the negative stereotypes. However, that same effort hasn’t been put into dispelling rumours and assumptions about autistic people, and thus it is still used as an insult. Nowadays, hearing someone use ‘gay’ as an insult is still not uncommon, but most people generally understand it’s a pretty empty insult because there isn’t anything bad about being gay – save for a bigoted minority.

However, some of the assumptions about autistic people focus entirely on the negative and not at all on the positive traits associated with the condition – and utterly ignore the obvious point that every person with the same diagnosis is different. Some of these assumptions include:

  • “they can’t handle the basic things everyone else can deal with”
  • “they have below average IQ”
  • “they can’t be creative”
  • “they don’t want to talk to people”
  • “they all have a savant skill”

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In fact, none of these are true. The word ‘autistic’ is not synonymous with ‘insensitive’ or ‘awkward’. Autistic is only synonymous with ‘person who has autism’, nothing else. And that isn’t an insult, so we need to stop using it as one. Because when we start understanding that words like ‘gay’ or ‘autistic’ aren’t actually offensive, we might start to be able to progress toward something less bigoted.

If you’re one of the people who use ‘autistic’ as a synonym for insensitive, uncool, or whatever, I’ve made you a helpful infographic of what you’re actually saying when you say ‘autistic’:

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Stay safe, friends. x

 

 

 

 

What are fidget spinners, and why are they being banned in schools?

Pokémon cards, loom bands, and spinners; what do they all have in common? You might be wondering that yourself. Well, it turns out they’re all crazes that have swept school playgrounds in the U.K., and spinners are the latest edition to the infamous list of items most likely to be found confiscated.

The propeller-shaped gadgets, which come in a variety of colours, have ball bearings which allow them to spin. Girls and boys alike are collecting them, and – like most fads – they’re being banned for being a distraction in the classroom. Available everywhere online, and even at market stalls, fidget spinners are taking the nation by storm. Their tendency to distract children, and the soft whirring noise they make as they spin, are driving teachers to distraction.

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However, the toys weren’t made to be a popular fad. Originally, they were developed for children with conditions like Autistic Spectrum Disorders and ADHD – ironically – to help them concentrate. Fidgets are nothing new to any person who knows someone with ADHD or the like, and there are hundreds of guides online for DIY-ing homemade fidgets and sensory toys. Things like fidget cubes, kick bands, and stress balls (the latter perhaps being the more popularised) have all been around for a while. I remember being a little girl and my dad bringing me home a tangle toy. But the problem with this is that now, the children who they were originally designed to help, could risk having their fidget tools taken off them because children who find them fun are being distracting in lessons with them.

So, what’s the problem: well, some children with conditions like ASD and ADHD – especially those in mainstream schools – rely on tools like spinners and stress balls in stressful situations to keep them calm, or help them focus on what they’re doing. Generally, a school policy on this is that as long as a fidget isn’t distracting, loud, or the privilege of using one isn’t being abused, they’re perfectly acceptable. A lot of children can be really self-conscious about their fidget toys, and fidgeting in general, having been told off or told to “sit still” by teachers before. You can empathise with them that now it’s a popular craze, something that once seemed to exclude them as different has been adopted into the mainstream in an unusual turn of events.

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However, that’s just where the positive side of things comes in. By popularising the use of spinners, children are now becoming aware of conditions like ADHD and Autism. CBBC’s Newsround talks about it in a statement from this article on their website:

“They were originally designed to help kids with conditions like autism deal with stress, but have now become a popular toy.” – CBBC Newsround

Similarly, something that was once seen as unusual or different is now something that children are interested in. It opens up a conversation for individuals who do use fidgets to talk about them, what they are, and how they help. It can also help individuals who need them feel less self-conscious, breaking down stigma, and raising awareness.

Some comments from the Newsround discussion sum the debate up well:

Emily, 14, from Brentford says:

“[They’re] not distracting I have got autism and it helps me concentrate in all my lesson I got a 6a because of the hand spinner my brain works better”

Jasmine, also 14, adds:

“I think fidget spinners are good for calming. I have one myself but I have it for a reason. So if they get banned I can’t use it when I need it”

Whereas a Year 6 class from Darlington thinks that

“Fidget spinners should only be used for children who have fidgeting problems. Children with autism, ADHD or other special needs. We think they have been banned in schools because children are playing with them and not doing their work. In our class two people like to use fidget spinners because it helps them to concentrate on their work and reading. Fidget toys should only be used at break times, dinner times and home time for people who don’t need them. They should only be used outdoors unless you have a special need.”

(You can read the full Newsround discussion here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/39802246)

The general consensus is that they should be banned in classrooms, use exclusive to lunch and break times. But what are the implications of this rule on the children who need them?

Let me know your thoughts on the debate in the comments, and stay safe, friends. x

 

 

 

Interview: Elly Brewer (Tracy Beaker Returns writer) on why diversity in children’s TV is important

If you didn’t manage to see the last Safe Cinemas blog, you might want to check it out before we get into this. You can click here to see it.

Today, friends, we have a very special guest on Safe Cinemas, who I’m very grateful has taken some time out of her busy schedule to talk to us: the wonderful Elly Brewer. Elly is an award-winning writer, having written for shows. Namely, she wrote for Tracy Beaker Returns and the BAFTA winning show The Dumping Ground. In my last article (see, it all links together – there’s method in the madness of my upload schedule!) one of the characters we talked about was Gus, a character Elly and her colleague Ben Ward created for Tracy Beaker Returns and The Dumping Ground. Her script for the episode What Would Gus Want (The Dumping Ground 5×1) won the Writers Guild of Great Britain Best Children’s TV Script Award. You can read more about that episode on the last post.

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In case you didn’t see my last post, I’ll give you a bit of background before we start the interview about the shows and who Gus is. Tracy Beaker Returns and The Dumping Ground are set in a children’s care home, Elmtree House. If the name “Dumping Ground” rings a bell, you’ve probably heard of Tracy Beaker, a character who starred in her own ’00s show about life in care, and has now returned as a careworker at Elmtree House after publishing a book about her life as a child in care. Gus is one of the children who lives at Elmtree House, who (it is heavily implied) has ASD. This makes him anxious to keep tidy, keep to a strict schedule and causes him to take things metaphors literally. He is also known to ask frequent questions when he does not understand. Now you’re all caught up, let’s chat to Elly!

 

When you were creating the character of Gus, was raising awareness ever an intention, or was that simply a happy by-product?

I just looked back at my meeting notes – Gus is in the list of proposed characters, right from the beginning.  It’s nearly ten years ago, so forgive my hazy memory.  I don’t think we ever specifically said – we have to raise awareness – but there was always an intention from the development team that we wanted to show a diverse group of young people.

 

To create a character like Gus, did you have to do research into ASD? If so, how?  

I know I would have read a lot around the subject.  And once the show was up and running, we had a researcher working on it and she’d find things out for us, when we needed specifics.  I do remember that we never wanted to name or label what Gus’ condition may or may not have been.  

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What do you think of the response there has been to the character?

From the feedback I’ve had over the years, I know the response has been extremely positive which is lovely.

 

Dame Jaqueline Wilson wrote the books on which the original TV show was based. What was it like following that up?

I did the development work for the original Story of Tracy Beaker and was Lead Writer for Series One.  I remember reading the book for the first time and it made me cry.  It was wonderful, getting a chance to bring such a well-loved character to the screen – and a big responsibility.  Then, when CBBC wanted to bring Tracy back as an adult, they approached me to see if I’d like to develop it with them.  And of course, I did!   For the first two series of Tracy Beaker Returns I developed and co-wrote with a friend of mine, Ben Ward (Horrible Histories/Danger Mouse).  And on both ‘Story of’ and ‘Beaker Returns’, I always tried to be faithful to Jacqueline’s original style and tone.

 

I know that I myself identified with Gus hugely when I was younger. How important do you think it is for children to have characters like themselves on TV?

I think it’s really important that young people can watch characters they relate to and who reflect their lives.  Surely it must help, if you’re finding life a bit of a struggle and can see that other people are going through similar experiences.  I also think it’s important for young people to see aspirational characters too.

Image result for gus from the dumping ground

What’s your opinion on the argument that showing conditions like ASD in children’s shows is pointless because they don’t understand it anyway?

That’s not an argument I’ve ever come across.  And I’m a firm believer in never underestimating or patronising the audience.  The majority of shows I’ve worked on – particularly over the last ten to fifteen years – have been very mindful of the need to portray a range of diverse characters.  

 

Gus’s storyline was important from start to finish, when he was adopted by a gay couple. Since then, CBBC has included a lot of diversity. How important do you think that is?

I’d been wanting to do a gay fostering story for a while and when I found out that Noah Marullo, who played Gus, was leaving, it seemed the perfect exit story for him.  I don’t think CBBC including a lot of diversity has anything necessarily to do with Gus leaving TDG.  In the past they’ve had quite a few shows with differently-abled (if that’s the right phrase?) characters.  I just think it’s that people are talking about ‘diversity’ far more these days than they ever did so there’s a much greater awareness – which is definitely no bad thing.  

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How does it make you feel that, for a lot of children (both for those who were like Gus and those who had no experience of the condition) he was probably the first character with a condition like Asperger’s that they’d ever seen?

Ben and I were really proud of Gus.  I always loved writing for him.  And if it helped reassure and/or educate viewers about people on the Autistic Spectrum, then that’s great.

 

Lastly, I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to talk to me, and for writing a character who meant so much to both me and a lot of the other Safe Cinemas friends.

You are very welcome!

 

Stay safe, friends. x

Why Tracy Beaker Returns is revolutionary in diversifying children’s TV

If you were a kid in the early ’00s, you remember Tracy Beaker. Her signature crazy curls, the Jacqueline Wilson books, and the iconic TV show starring Dani Harmer on CBBC. What you might not remember is that, in 2013, the spin-off shows Tracy Beaker Returns and The Dumping Ground were airing, and they were amazingly progressive for a network that has sometimes come under fire for lacking diversity.

You might remember that, in the original series, The Story of Tracy Beaker, Cara Readle played the character of Layla, a girl with cerebral palsy. Since then, the cast has expanded to include a huge range of diverse characters, so allow me to introduce you to them.

 

Like Layla, the character of Frank Matthews, played by Chris Slater, also has cerebral palsy, though this fact is something that none of the children ever really comment on, accepting it as a part of him. He’s a trickster along with his best friend Liam, and the fact he has a disability is pretty secondary to his character’s role in the show: one half of the partner in crime duo that cause mischief and mayhem within the Dumping Ground.

Bailey Wharton, played by Kasey MacKeller, is a keen footballer – though he is often accused of being arrogant for making comments about his superiority on the pitch. It’s revealed in the later series of The Dumping Ground that he is dyslexic, and he eventually lets his act of anger fall away to reveal a kind and caring person beneath the surface of overconfidence.

Finn McLaine is played by Ruben Reuter, and has Down’s Syndrome. After being maltreated by his foster parents, along with Harry (or, as I remember him ‘Giraffe Boy’), and ended up back in foster care at Ashdene House after not adjusting well to his foster home, and being treated poorly by his foster family. Finn is sensitive, and can get angry and upset when he’s frightened. He’s thoughtful and resourceful, and his character’s arc is intriguing.

Kitty (portrayed by Eleni Foskett ), a character who has an only brief role in the series, is extremely quiet and withdrawn, due to the fact she has unconfirmed (but greatly hinted to) autism. She doesn’t like most people touching her, and inadvertently causes Tracy to fall downstairs when she tries to defend herself against a hug. She’s extremely thoughtful and loves sewing, using her talents to make fellow Dumping Ground inhabitant Carmen a pillow out of her ruined dresses. Eventually, she is sent to a different care home that can cater for her particular needs.

Lastly, also on the autistic spectrum, is Gus Carmichael (played by Noah Marullo), who has (again, never outwardly stated but heavily implied) Asperger’s Syndrome (aka, ASD). He asks questions all the time, has a strict schedule, and writes everything down that happens in the Dumping Ground in his notebooks. In the series The Dumping Ground, he has a meltdown in the first episode because everything is too chaotic when the other children start fighting. He is eventually adopted by a lesbian couple (Ronnie and Dawn), another progressive and welcome move from the BBC to include diversity in the form of LGBT representation.

Since then, CBBC has made enormous progress on the diversity front. For one, one of the main characters, Benny, on the network’s show Wizards vs. Aliens comes out as gay to his best friend, who is hugely accepting, setting a brilliant example for children that being different is something that makes us special rather than being something “wrong”.

There’s obviously a lot more to do, but when I think back to my childhood, I realise just how much this show shaped me. I was probably just a little too old to have properly watched it, but I definitely remember watching some of the episodes on a Saturday morning. I was transfixed by Gus, who was so like me. Tracy Beaker was probably my first experience of what cerebral palsy was, my first look at what a panic attack looked like, and I can’t imagine how much it must have shaped my expectations of the world in how wonderfully diverse it was. Tracy Beaker, you deserve more recognition.

Stay safe, friends. x

 

(To see the names of the actors/characters in the photos, simply hover over them with your cursor)

Representation Reads: The London Eye Mystery – Siobhan Dowd

The late Siobhan Dowd brought what is, to me, a novel that transcends the boundaries of age. I am, as far as I have been told, too old to be reading this book. To that I say “rubbish!”, because this book should be compulsory reading not just for the children aged 9 to 11 at whom it is aimed, but for everyone.

A fact about me is that I love mystery novels. I love Sherlock Holmes with a passion, and true crime is as oddly comforting to me as any fairy tale. This story is a mystery novel aimed toward children (but, as I have mentioned, thoroughly enjoyable to those above the target age group) concerning the disappearance of Salim, who has gone up in a pod on the London Eye and has failed to come back down again.

The narrator, Ted, is a 12 year old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome, who is fascinated by the weather. When his cousin Salim goes missing in an unusual turn of events seeming to directly contradict Newton’s 2nd Law, Ted wants to help solve the mystery, and comes up with his own list of possible theories, including his (and, admittedly, my) favourite theory: Salim has spontaneously combusted. Ted is truly one of the most interesting portrayals of Asperger’s I have come across. And, (apologies for the following controversial opinion) it felt like a far better written and more realistic version of The Curious Incident. Sorry, guys. Just what I think.

“‘It’s like my brain is a computer,’ I said. ‘But mine works on a dofferent operating system from other people’s. And my wiring’s different too.'” – Siobhan Dowd ~ The London Eye Mystery

Throughout the novel, Ted’s Asperger’s is referred to as his “syndrome”, and the way it is represented is very realistic. A feature not often shown in novels – particularly children’s novels – about neurological or mental disorders is the way these affect the family of the person with them. Ted is shown to be both infuriating in his pedantry, and brilliant. A lot of the time, we only focus on one or the other. But, as with anyone, people with ASD are usually a mixture of good and bad traits, and Dowd’s portrayal of this makes Ted a real, 3D character, rather than the flat plot device neuroatypical people are often shown to be. Manic pixie dream girls, anyone? What a waste of amazing potential in characters.

“She put down the lilac sheet of paper and ruffled the top of my head, a thing she does sometimes that makes my hand shake itself out.” – Siobhan Dowd ~ The London Eye Mystery

I personally love this book. I’m reading it now, and it’s marvellous. I can’t guess what’s going to happen, but I also feel I’m being given a fair shot to come along with Ted on his investigation and try and work it out for myself. For a while, I’ve been terribly unmotivated to read, and I needed a book like this to get me hooked again, and remind me why I love my endless shelves so much.

If you happen to have/be an older child with Asperger’s, I highly recommend this book. Or if you want to know more about the condition, and the different ways it brings strengths and weaknesses to the fore, I’d also highly recommend this book to you!

Stay safe, friends. x

The Light Cinema Experience – review, and why it’s my favourite autism-friendly cinema right now.

*This is not a sponsored review. All the opinions given here are my own, and I am in no way sponsored by the Light Cinema Experience*

My ASD comrades, gather round. I bring news from The Moor. The Light Cinema, brand new to The Moor, Sheffield, is revolutionary. That sounds like an overstatement. I assure you, it isn’t. They’ve already received rave reviews from The Star, Sheffield Live, and pretty much everyone else who’s been. But I thought I’d weigh in with a review especially for you, the proud Sheffielders on the spectrum. And thus, let us begin:

The Light is amazing. From the second I walked in, I felt comfortable. They have restaurants onsite, it’s wonderfully convenient; a Zizzi’s and Pizza Express, with a Nando’s soon to follow. Now, I’m going to throw this out there: Pizza Express always seems to friendly to me. I don’t eat out. I could count on one hand how many times I have had an enjoyable experience going out for a meal. Three of those experiences were probably at Pizza Express (spoiler alert: the other two are Cosmos). So, imagine my joy upon seeing this. It was akin to the kind of joy that is (I assume) reserved mostly for events such as finding a £20 note on the pavement. Or watching a video of a penguin doing literally anything.

 

Before you even get into the cinema, it’s very relaxing. There are very calm seating areas located near the box office, including The Green Room, the Light’s coffee bar, and a lovely piano to be played by anyone who fancies it. Which, due to the fact I’m tone deaf, isn’t me. You can even order your tickets at machines, if going and ordering them seems a little intimidating. I, however, decided to chat to the people at the Box Office, who were lovely. They have a very accepting policy on CEA cards, even having options to order CEA tickets over their website, and it says they host regular autism-friendly screenings (though, as far as I know, they haven’t yet – though they did only open a few days ago, so we probably ought to give them time!)

The screens themselves are the icing on the cake, and what I especially wanted to tell you about. Before the movie I went to see began, a staff member came out to tell us that, if anyone needed anything, there would be staff outside of the screen at all times to help out. That has never happened at any screen I’ve been to before, and I don’t know if the person who let us know that appreciated just how much it meant. The seats are amazing. Ah-mazing. There isn’t a word to explain my absolute ecstasy when I found that not only were they not all cramped up like in most cinemas, but they had their own tables between them, AND (wait for it)….they MOVE. They can be easily reclined a little, which was perfect for me. I always slide down in my seat and “hide” a little bit, giving myself inevitable back and neck pain. But after 2 hours and 40 minutes of Fast and Furious 8, I was immensely comfortable. Also, there is so much leg room. I am very small, but my legs are disproportionately long for my body. To cross my legs in the cinema, usually I have to almost knee myself in the chin. But there was more than enough room to fully stretch my legs out. What this means, of course, is that there is ample space to get into aisle whenever you need to without having to disturb anyone or having to do that uncomfortable move where you give the people next to you an awkward lap dance in an attempt to shuffle past them without making them stand up.

The Light Cinema Experience is phenomenal. I highly recommend to everyone, on the spectrum or not. However, I do want to point out that, if you do happen to have ASD, or know someone who does, please recommend it to them. I have never been to a cinema that provides such a high quality experience for such a cheap price.

Stay safe, friends, and happy cinema-going. x

 

 

 

Sparkle Sheffield, America, and updates

So guys, what happened while I was in America? Oh, what’s that? Literally everything. Gah. So annoying. And by annoying, I obviously mean amazing, but I’m still sad I didn’t get to be a part of it.

So, the first thing I totally missed was Autism Awareness Week. Well, technically I didn’t miss it, but I did miss celebrating it with all of you lovely people here in the good ol’ country of England. I celebrated with my peers in the U.S., but still! A real shame!

Secondly, America was brilliant! I don’t want to talk about it too much, because I really want to do a post on travelling as a neuroatypical person, but I did head to the United Nations HQ, Empire State Building, and National Air and Space Museum. If anyone else is obsessed with space like me, I highly recommend it. I almost cried with excitement when a certain Starship Enterprise lit up for ten minutes after me waiting for it to for half an hour. Yup, half an hour. Sue me. And the exhibition on the Space Race? Okay, I need to get back on track or I’ll talk about space forever.

Now, let’s talk about the real MVPs: Sparkle. Sparkle is a charity set up by parents of children with autism to help other families with children on the spectrum with the challenges they might face. In Autism Awareness Week, they organised for 15 shops in Sheffield City Centre to open early or dedicate an hour of sales to raising awareness for autism. You might have spotted them on BBC’s The One Show. That’s right. You can find out more about their event here, because I truly can’t do it justice:

http://www.sparklesheffield.co.uk/2017/03/28/sheffield-city-opens-early-and-sparkles-for-autism-event-in-corporation-with-the-lord-mayor-of-sheffield/

But they were kind enough to let me come along to their latest event, a fun play session at Rother Valley Adventure Playground. I spent an hour and a half running around, climbing, pushing zipwires, and generally having an amazing time with the kids. Thank you especially to Leesh for having me, and to my awesome new little buddy, aka Spider-Man for keeping me company and showing me he can climb “all he way up to one hundred”. I can’t wait to come and have a great time again, if you’ll have me back!

I hope this update has given you a bit of an insight into what the last couple of weeks have been like. Back to normal scheduled posts again now, everyone.

Stay safe, friends, and go show Sparkle some love. x

Photo: Polly Killingley  ©

 

5 ways to keep focused when you have Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless Leg Syndrome (aka Willis-Ekbom disease) is a common condition of the nervous system that causes a sufferer to feel an overwhelming urge to bounce, shake, or generally fidget the legs. There are lots of different causes for it, but that’s not what we’re looking at today! Today, we’re looking at a few small modifications anyone can make to their desk, office chair, or elsewhere, to help calm those restless legs while you’re trying to work! Because nothing is better procrastination fuel than that feeling of over-stimulation RLS brings.

HOVR

This, I promise, is the most expensive entry on this list. But it does look worth the money, if you’re looking to invest. With two models (pictured below) there is definitely some flexibility depending on what is most convenient. If you’re moving around a lot between desks, maybe you’d be best with HOVR + Portable Stand ($189.00 – I know), whereas those who have a more permanent position (maybe at your desk at work) might prefer the HOVR + Desk Mount (at a slightly lower $89.00). They’re available here at https://hovr.pro/

DIY – Bungee cord

Kick bands are often really useful (see the Therapy Shoppe’s Fidgeting Foot Bands™ below for more info on some store-bought versions of these) but sometimes you need a quick fix, or simply a cheaper option. I find these work best on traditional four-legged chairs rather than on office chairs, as it’s best to have two legs to anchor the band on. Grab yourself a bungee cord with hooks on both ends (available at most Halfords-style shops) and loop each hook around the chair leg, and then back around the cord itself, to make a tight line of cord between the chair legs. This works brilliantly for me, and here’s a picture of what my own looks like:

Fidgeting Foot Bands™

Therapy Shoppe deserves a huge shout-out here. They have a huge variety of therapy aids and other great products for neuroatypical individuals. But, one of my favourite products of theirs are their Fidgeting Food Bands™. They describe their products best as “a continuous loop of 1.5″ wide stretchy band” and that they are made to “push, pull, or kick” at. They’re really economical at $3.99 (or buy a pack of ten for $38.99) and can be bought from therapyshoppe.com

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DIY Foot Roller

Here’s another DIY for you. If you can get your hands on a couple of spikey massage balls (pictured below) you’re pretty much done with this DIY! Just put a couple under your feet and roll them back and forth, and these can be really relaxing as well as sensory stimulating. The spikey surfaces of the balls can be great sensory exposure, and (being physiotherapy balls) they can be quite beneficial. You can buy them at physioroom.com for £1.99 each (you might need two for this to work best)

 

Wobble boards

Wobble boards, sometimes known as balance boards, are (for want of a better explanation as my notes for this post said) “the spinny disc things that look like Lazy Susans”. They’re often used in physiotherapy to promote core strength and balance. However, they can also be used for fidgety feet. One of the things that I’m guilty of is spinning my desk chair, which isn’t always super convenient or professional. This is a great alternative, and (whilst they can be expensive) can be purchased for very cheap. For example, the one from JLL sports (available at jllfitness.co.uk) is only £9.99 (reduced from £19.99 – so snatch it up quickly!)

 

So hopefully that will help some people a little. The bungee cord trick really helps me, and feel free to tweet us @safecinemas or comment below if you have any tips to share.

Stay safe, friends. x