A five-year-old autistic boy who was excited to see Dumbo was distraught at leaving the cinema after his mother claimed she ‘felt pressured to leave.
Vicky Page, 36, took Noah and his two siblings, aged nine and ten, to the Faversham’s Royal Cinema in Kent to watch the new Dumbo film last Saturday.
But she felt she had to leave after just half-an-hour ‘because a woman in the audience mistook Noah’s excitement for bad behavior.’
Ms. Page said the stranger demanded she kept Noah, who goes to a special needs school, at home.
She said: ‘Noah wasn’t being naughty, he just got extremely excited. He finds it quite hard to stand still when he gets excited.
‘He couldn’t believe Dumbo could fly but instead of saying things quietly, he shouts things out pretty loud, and he just said “elephant fly superhero” and then started really jumping.
‘A woman and her son kept turning and giving us quite filthy looks. I ended up apologizing and I said: “I’m really sorry, he has autism.”
‘But the woman said “I don’t particularly care” and that I should keep him at home if he can’t sit still.
‘It made me see red and I think in the end Noah saw me tensing up and I had to leave with my children.
‘We went through to the foyer, where he ended up having a full-blown meltdown and started headbutting the floor.
‘It was very upsetting and I ended up getting quite emotional.’
Ms. Page added the trip to the cinema was a treat for all three children and the family worked hard to prepare Noah for the special outing.
She said: ‘We only got half-an-hour into the film, and it is hard for my other two children, as it was a treat for them too.
‘They need that treat because it is quite difficult for them as well as we are very limited.
‘Our routines have to be quite structured, so they can’t have people round to play.
‘It is all about countdowns with Noah, so we had been preparing him for the cinema for a week, we can’t just think let’s go here, there’s lots of preparation with him.’
But Ms. Page, who works with special needs adults, said she is often forced to deal with unwanted comments from passers-by and even avoids supermarkets following similar incidents.
She said: ‘I get this sort of thing a lot. I try to avoid supermarkets – people out, or come over to me and say “if you walk away from him he’ll follow you” when he’s laying on the floor.
‘Or “if you give him a really hard smack he’ll actually start to have some boundaries.”
‘This sort of thing happens everywhere with everybody, but it just makes you so cross.
‘He does look so normal when he’s not having a meltdown, but if you spoke to him you could tell he’s got needs.
‘He goes to a special needs school, so he is behind for his age.
‘So for him to even shout out I was so proud of him as he has only been able to string a sentence together for the last the year – it shows he’s really coming on.’
Ms. Page said the cinema should hold screenings especially for those with additional needs to avoid similar confrontations from happening.
The Royal Cinema was contacted for comment but declined to answer questions.
Ms. Page said: ‘A group of special-needs moms have been in contact with me and suggested we should all go to the cinema with our children to raise awareness but I don’t think I want to after what happened. Noah will remember and I’d be too worried.
‘If this woman hadn’t have made a fuss or just moved seats, this wouldn’t have happened because Noah was happy, he was jumping around and trying to tell the story.
‘But when we tried to move seats he started to cry so we left and went into the foyer – but he started banging his head on the floor.
‘He hasn’t had a meltdown like that in a long time, it was heartbreaking.’
Ms. Page said Noah, who was born with breathing complications, has ‘been through hell’ and deserves to be treated the same as other children.
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