About 30 autistic children and their parents viewed a special screening of “The Croods” at Cinergy Cinemas on Saturday.

Unlike regular movie showings, the lights in the theater room were kept on and the sound effects were lowered to accommodate the sensory needs of the children.

“Today is about rewarding our children, who work so hard every day to catch up and continue to learn in their own ways,” said Fefee Franklin, co-director of Combatting Autism Through Community Help & Unified Parents. “We’re showing appreciation for all that they go through.”

CATCHUP, a local nonprofit, organized the event and works regularly as an advocate group to increase autism awareness. It also supports and assists families dealing with autism to live enriched lives.

“It makes my heart smile that our children can come and actually enjoy something as simple as a movie,” Andrea Dykes said.

Dykes took her 7-year-old son, Amare, to the movie and was glad they didn’t have leave early, she said.

“We normally don’t get out to the movies much because we’ve had to leave regular showings early a lot of the time,” Dykes said.

The group wants these showings to become a regular occurrence at other theaters in the area, Franklin said. She believes the need is present because of the increased rate of autism diagnoses in the United States.

“So far, this is the only theater in the area that has allowed us to do this,” Franklin said.

Cinergy Cinemas was honored to oblige the group with the modified screening, said Chris Villarreal, general manager.

“I’m always happy to help to accommodate different groups,” he said. “I have no problem giving them a special showing that the kids can enjoy … actually I’m surprised that no one else helps them out.”

CATCHUP will conduct a fundraiser breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m. May 4 at Applebee’s in Killeen. Tickets are $8. For more information, got to www.catchup4autism.org or call (254) 535-0738.

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