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Dennis at the Cinema - Sheffield

Dennis is passionate about movies and coaching football. For him watching movie in cinema, TV, computer, laptop, IPad and phone are different mode of device to experience the film even if he is watching the same film several times.  Dennis is an active member of the Local Cinema since 2018.  What is amazing about the cinema is its small capacity, deco, sitting arrangement in the spacious lounge.  It has the colourful recline seat, small chocolate cart, a bar and the till for nibbles, warm yummy hot dogs and inviting staff. 

The cinema crowd was decent, and I felt, as his mum, that Dennis would be safe in that environment. Several staff were known to Dennis through his college days. Dennis always travelled early to avoid missing the beginning rather than be late. He started to visit the cinema every day and watch the same movie several times if it fascinated him. 

This went on for months, the alarming bit was the amount of popcorn and drinks he was consuming, and it was impossible to stop or discuss the consequence on his health as he avoided the conversation. 

In the earlier 2019 one of the staff mentioned, “You are practically every day in the cinema, why don’t you work here for us.” He took the literal meaning to heart.  That evening he wanted me to ask the Business Manager to give him a job at the cinema, provide him with the staff lanyard and access to the cinema with FOB/swipe card. 

After several months I went for a meeting with the manager who had a passion for cinema and experience with vulnerable adults and was aware of their disability and difficulties. There was no issue for Dennis to work as volunteer.  Dennis met the Deputy Manager and I witnessed the staff being flexible, approachable with vulnerable adults who visit the cinema they were considerate and patient while interacting with them. 

On the day of the meeting, I went along with Dennis, he was pacing to and fro with anxiety.  Prior to meeting I had already forward an Employers Guide to Fragile X, courteous of The Fragile x Society. 

Information regarding Dennis disability and difficulties were shared for them to carry out the risk 



When Dennis lanyard arrived he started his first day volunteering on Thursday 17th March 2022 for one hour. It was also decided that on a busy term time he would be off work due non-availability of staff to support him.  His job involved checking and get ready the screen, brushing in the lounge and screen areas, cleaning tables, stacking the chocolate cart with sweets, preparing popcorn, checking cinema tickets. 


Since he was a volunteer, he had to have the support in place.  Dennis picked up the trade as he is a visual learner, staff assumed that Dennis was coming every day and sitting there as a routine habit in fact he was observing the work of the staff, the way they interacted with the customers. 


Dennis looked very smart in his black trousers, t-shirt, black trainers.  

 During 2023 he suffered an illness for more than 3 months and stayed home and did not go to see any movies, coaching football or volunteer work. At this time the Cinema decided to make some cutbacks on staffing, due to loss of revenue, they no longer had the staff in place to support Dennis. All the economic and political issues were beyond the understanding of Dennis, his only aim and goal was his voluntary work which was taken away from him. This had a detrimental effect on his health and well-being. 

Whilst Dennis initial volunteering experience was positive, unfortunately it all ended in disappointment. It demonstrates the need for employers to make the necessary changes to support neurodivergent volunteers and to be understanding and flexible to support their needs. 


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