It can be difficult for families with autistic children to enjoy public outings. Strangers sometimes find their behavior distracting or disruptive. But the Theater Development Fund wanted to help these families enjoy live theater, so the nonprofit organized four Broadway productions a year for people who need a little more understanding and a little less stimulation. In November the organization invited families to a special production of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” where ushers handed out squeeze balls to help autistic kids relax. The producers turned the volume down by twenty percent and eliminated strobe lights because autistic people can be sensitive to loud noises and bright lights. In the lobby, experienced volunteers staffed break rooms and quiet areas where theater patrons could take a break whenever the stimulation became too intense in the packed house. The idea of making theater accessible to all people is taking hold off Broadway too—for example, the Lone Tree Arts Center near Denver recently staged a “sensory-friendly” performance of its holiday show. These programs join sensory-friendly movie screenings and restaurant nights in helping families struggling with Autism to enjoy themselves outside their homes.
The sounds and lights of Broadway are overstimulating for some, so this group toned them down.
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