Michael Barber joined Legal Aid of West Virginia (LAWV) in July 2015 as a non-Attorney Advocate with the Family Advocacy, Support, & Training (FAST) Program. During his time at LAWV, Mr. Barber has provided effective advocacy for his clients throughout his 16-county coverage area, throughout the WV Bureau for Children & Families’ Region 1, by assisting dozens of families with obtaining appropriate levels of supports in school for their children who are living with a wide-range of disabling conditions. He has provided annual trainings for professionals and parents on topics including Special Education Law, Youth Mental Health First Aid, and Family-Youth Engagement. Prior to his work at Legal Aid of West Virginia, Mr. Barber was a Metal Health Case Manager, Community Support staff member for an Acute Community Treatment (ACT) Program, and Residential Assistant in a Substance Abuse Treatment facility from 2013 to 2015 with Valley Healthcare System. Mr. Barber has worked directly with both youth and adult clients who have been diagnosed with various conditions affecting their mental, behavioral, and emotional states. Mr. Barber earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from Fairmont State University in 2014.
Ohio Valley SNAPS (Special Needs Autism Parent Support) & Legal Aid of WV FAST Program
Sensory Sensitive Movie Showings
Problem: We were able to provide access to movies that Children and adults who experience sensory impairments and challenges would otherwise not have access to. Families reported great joy and empowerment by having a sensory friendly environment for them and their children with special needs to see current movies without fear or judgment.
Project Description: Basically, we saw the need to have local sensory friendly opportunities for kids on the spectrum as well as adults with PTSD. Often people with sensory issues cannot or will not enter a dark theater to watch a film that may have bright lights and loud sounds emanating from the screen. Sensory sensitive movies can lower the sound levels and brighten the lights of the room to make people with sensory issues more comfortable.
How the project got started: Our wonderful local Family Resource Network Director reached out to our local cinema and reached an agreement to manage RSVPs for certain Sensory Sensitive movie events on days of our choice, for currently released movies, in exchange for a discounted ticket price and modified brightness and audio levels. We were responsible for creating a flyer, publicizing the event, and managing the RSVPs.
5 steps to start this project:
- Contact the manager of your local Cinema and politely inquire about whether they can provide specific days, times, and films for a sensory sensitive movie showing. Be prepared to educate them on the facts about how children and adults who suffer sensory issues may not otherwise have access to current movies released in theaters.
- Politely request a discounted rate for families who may be struggling to support themselves due to the extra costs associated with supporting an individual with special needs.
- Arrange a date, time, and film to be shown.
- Reach out to local newspapers, media, organizations, families, etc. to publicize the event and maintain an RSVP list.
- On the day of the event, coordinate with the Cinema manager to find the optimum level of sound and lights for your families’ and individuals’ sensory needs.
What did you learn? It is important when coordinating to pick a movie that you KNOW is going to be a big hit and also schedule outside of baseball season if you’re doing a Saturday showing. Our biggest showing was Finding Dory (70 people) and we had one where nobody came. Animated is the way to go.
Did you have a “A-Ha or Light Bulb” Moment? My light bulb moment was when a mother told me they had NEVER been out as a family to see a movie until we started going to these showings. That meant the older brother to the child with autism had never been to the movies with his parents. So, the benefit to the family as a whole, siblings included, not just the child with the special needs.
What was the biggest challenge and how did you overcome it? The biggest challenge was and remains trying to determine which movie is going to be a draw for families. We have started surveying families to get a better read on that.
What resources, videos, websites helped you put your project/strategy together?
We formulated many ideas at our Ohio Valley SNAPS (Special Needs Autism Parent Support) meeting held on the 3rd Thursday of the Month at the Children’s Museum in Wheeling, WV.
How have you engaged the following partners in your strategy?
…parents and grandparents? Directly in our meetings and in surveying their needs.
…students? We try to speak with the students that attend to find out their interests and needs.
…teachers and support staff? We share our events regularly with teachers.
…principal/administrators? We share our events regularly with administrators.
…business/labor/community partners? In talking with the local cinema, we have built a strong connection to businesses and have had success in partnering with them to benefit children and individuals with special needs.