Inclusive Performing Arts – Is It In Your City?

Families attend an autism-friendly performance on April 29, 2012 in this photo released by the Theatre Development Fund.
Families attend an autism-friendly performance on April 29, 2012 in this photo released by the Theatre Development Fund.

With an increasing number of children being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, more organizations are acknowledging the need to offer an adaptive program for children with special needs.

Three years ago, we initiated an autism/disability friendly Santa at the Millcreek Mall.  As our numbers continue to grow, I became a vocal advocate for the inclusion of children and adults with disabilities in cultural events.

Erie Playhouse AladdinThe Erie Playhouse responded with an autism/disability friendly performance of Disney’s Aladdin, Jr. on January 18th.   Tickets are available for purchase now.

What makes this performance special?  Students attending the performance can read a social story on Aladdin.  Written by BNI faculty and artist Jude Shingle, the social story prepares students so they know what to expect when attending the play, appropriate behavior at the theatre and what to do if they need a break.  Lights and sounds will be at a safe and comfortable level and a sensory break area will be provided in the lower lobby.  All the members of the cast attended a seminar on autism to help them better understand the challenges experienced by some children on the autism spectrum.

In addition, BNI partnered with ArtsErie and Very Special Arts of PA to provide a workshop for local cultural organizations and artists interested in learning how to prepare an environment for children and adults on the autism spectrum.

I’m thankful for the Erie Playhouse for this initial production and I’m hopeful that this will become a new trend that we see in all local productions.

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