In the Movie "Nanny Diaries" the main character uses an old African proverb "It takes a village to raise a child" to make the point that in Manhattan, "it just takes a nanny" to raise your child.
Last weekend was our family's first experience attending the sensory/special needs movie at Hollywood theatre in Columbia. Families that have Down's syndrome, autistic or even sensory intolerant members gathered that morning to enjoy a family friendly movie.
The movie was "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" which was a great movie, but that was not the experience that left me smiling in the end. What made this experience extra special, extra memorable was how everyone respected each other.
Rainbows did not come out, the skies did not part and the reason our family got invited to this special screening did not go away. We did, however, have a chance to get out and enjoy some much needed down time - time where we were not on edge and not wary of the crowd around us.
The Hollywood Theater in Columbia knew that our kids had allergies to everything but water from the concession stand. They allowed us to bring whatever snacks and drinks our kids wanted. In fact, when we walked up toting our small cooler of gluten-free food and drink, we were greeted by kind smiles, nothing less - from all employees.
With lights only dimmed and the sound not overwhelming, we made our way to seats to find that the theatre was quite filled. Apparently lots of families used the opportunity to get out and enjoy a good film.
Among the crowd, there were little kids, big kids and even bigger kids who chose to wrap up in blankets with a pillow, find peace in the strange place with a favorite toy, or find solace in walking the aisles - all of which seemed "normal" to everyone there.
In keeping with the theme of the outing, parents let their children walk about, maybe bumping into other families. One little boy came up to us several times. He was interested in our son's talking device. At no time did this little boy's mom feel threatened or socially obligated to keep her son away from us. She allowed him to explore, to interact and to be just what he was, a little boy.
In all ways our outing was as much of a religious retreat as any you could go on. What our local Mid-Missouri special needs community has shown our family is that there can be no doubt that the love of our kiddos, the acceptance of all, and the willingness to help each other is alive and strong.
The African principle that "it takes a village" lives on in modern-day America in a small sector of our community, and it is welcome here.
Brittany Hanson, one of the four founders of the program " Sensory Sensitive Saturdays," can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 417/849-2018.
Kurt and Crissy Becker are the parents of an autistic son, Gabriel.