Now playing: Theaters adjust for the sensory sensitive

HUDSON–Movies, space shortages and caregiver shortages received attention at the meeting of the Subcommittee on Developmental Disabilities of the Columbia County Community Services Board February 26.

Michael Cole, county director of Human Services, and Melissa Scheriff, contract manager and planner, raised the subject of movies accommodated to sensory sensitive people. To minimize sight and sound contrasts, these movies are played with the lights on (though dimmed) and at reduced volume.

Chatham’s Crandell Theatre and theaters in Dutchess and Greene counties have already played movies with these modifications. In at least one case, the movie ran at 10 a.m. Saturday, though doors opened at 9:15 to accommodate people who needed extra time settling in. Theater goers were allowed to walk around the room during the show. Dutchess Country reportedly arranges for people to see these movies for free and gives children with disabilities and their siblings money to buy refreshments. The theater staff runs the concession stand.

“I’ve had nothing but positive support from the supervisors,” said Mr. Cole. Right now Columbia County spokespeople are talking with the Crandell and Greenport’s Cosmic Cinema and Spotlight cinemas about showing more such movies.

Discussion included whether the county would pay the host theater rent, whether customers should pay for movie tickets, and which movies to show. “Most of the individuals we work with can afford to pay,” said Carolynn Anklam, chief quality officer of Coarc and co-chair of the subcommittee.

As for choice of movies, Mr. Cole asked, “Who’s the target audience?” Some suggested picking different movies with different age groups in mind.

Ms. Anklam noted that while some people are sensory sensitive, others are “sensory deprived.” When asked about people with hearing impairments in the reduced-volume movies, Mr. Cole responded, “Looks like we’re not targeting that population.”

“I guess they can use a hearing device,” said Christina Fish-Acker, the subcommittee’s other co-chair.

“What about the visually impaired?” asked Ms. Anklam. Participants agreed to bring these topics up when talking to the theaters.

Also at the meeting, Kim Lybolt, director of Student Services for the Hudson City School District spoke about wanting to provide more services for children who need them on site. This would result in sending fewer students out of county for these services, but the district has no rooms for additional programs, she said. Following the consolidation of the school district from three to two campuses, fewer classrooms are now available.

On another topic Ms. Anklam reported, “We get lots of requests for respite and community habilitation, but we don’t have the workforce for it.”

Respite care for clients with disabilities gives their usual caregivers a break or allows the caregivers to go places where they cannot take the clients. The amount of time respite care lasts can range from an hour to a few days. Though some other counties have respite centers, in Columbia all respite care is in homes, said Ms. Anklam.

Overnights take place in “therapeutic foster homes,” Mr. Cole said earlier.

In Community Habilitation, direct support professionals work with clients who live on their own to develop living skills. Related is supportive guardianship, which helps a person with a developmental disability make decisions without a guardian.

Ms. Anklam also asked whether schools could report every year the number of special needs students leaving their system to Coarc “so we can plan for the number of adults who may need special services.”

Ms. Lybolt replied that though she could not speak for other districts, she could do it for her own.

A substantial portion of the meeting focused on services for people with mental health and substance abuse issues, whether or not they also have intellectual or developmental disabilities. Among them are Telehealth and problems justifying to regulators that certain treatments are helping particular clients make progress. (See accompanying story–County eyes use of health services via video.)

The next meeting of the Subcommittee on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities will take place Tuesday, March 26 at 4:30 pm at 325 Columbia Street in Hudson.

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