Autism-Friendly Production comes to Boston

Exposure to the arts at a young age is widely agreed to be key factor in a child’s upbringing. Learning to create and appreciate visual aesthetics stimulates motor skills, decision-making, visual learning, cultural awareness and more. However, children with an autism spectrum disorder can be overwhelmed in environments that include art, music and physical activity.

This coming fall, the world’s #1 musical The Lion King is coming to the Boston Opera House. The movies and musical alike have brought music, dance and life in the hearts and homes of families around the world for over 20 years. On Saturday, October 11, Broadway In Boston and Disney Theatrical Productions will present an autism-friendly performance in partnership with Autism Speaks.

According to Autism Speaks, the performance is autism friendly based on several criteria. House lights will be at half capacity and sounds will be lowered in volume and intensity in order to keep viewers from being over-stimulated. A production with full lighting and sound may result in autistic audience members becoming withdrawn and disruptive, similar to how crowded classrooms impact a student’s academic performance.

Courtesy of Norman Z / Flickr

Courtesy of Norman Z / Flickr

Rich Jaffe, Broadway in Boston President, reached out to Autism Speaks New England to explore the idea of modifying the show for an autism friendly performance that would be similar to those the company had put on in other cities. The goal was to make the show more sensory friendly so it would be accessible to families with an autistic child.

In an interview with Fox 25 Boston, Jaffe went on to specify that 60 to 70 modifications were made to the show, including eliminating strobe lights and increasing house lights. Actors in the show are trained on how to respond to an autistic audience in order to ensure an enjoyable show for everyone.

In the event that audience members do become restless, trained volunteers will be available to provide support and there will be quiet space available. Russ Kenn, President of Autism Speaks New England, specified that the show would be a judgment free zone for families. Audience members will be comprised of those in need of a sensory-friendly show and their loved ones, allowing everyone to truly relax and enjoy.

This unique performance is the first of its kind in Boston and will allow the greater Boston community an opportunity to embrace the theater without fear of judgment or discomfort. Tickets can be purchased now and have been specially priced by Autism Speaks.

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Christie Merino