I previously wrote a post about Autism Friendly Theatres and the push towards creating a movie experience that families with autistic individuals could enjoy without it being too overstimulating. Well, the Theatre Development Fund recently used this same idea in the world of musical theatre on broadway.
The Lion King is a disney story that stretches across time and everyone is able to enjoy. With the magical production brought to life on broadway, it was yet another enjoyment seemingly out of reach for families with autism as it lends itself to bright lights, loud singing, and lots of people. By identifying certain factors to tone down, yet still produce the full scale production, the group was able to create a mystical experience for those with autism. Autism specialists were on site as well handing out relaxation techniques and toys, and there were quiet areas available if breaks were needed. A social story was also created and downloadable from the website so that the autistic individuals would know what they were going to encounter and what events to be prepared for that would occur such as arriving at the venue, engaging with the ushers, and what would happen during the show.
Here is what the website had to say on the performance initiative-
“On October 2, 2011, Theatre Development Fund( TDF) launched a new program, Autism Theatre Initiative, to make theatre accessible to children and adults on the autism spectrum, and their families.
The program, which is a part of TDF’s Accessibility Programs (TAP), presented the first autism-friendly performance of a Broadway show at Disney’s landmark musical THE LION KING at the Minskoff Theatre (200 West 45th Street, NYC) on Sunday, October 2 at 1pm.
The show was performed in a friendly, supportive environment for an audience of families and friends with children or adults who are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or other sensitivity issues. Slight adjustments to the production included reduction of any jarring sounds or strobe lights focused into the audience. In the theatre lobby there were staffed quiet areas and an activity area, for those who needed to leave their seats during the performance.”
–Autism Theatre Initiative
MSNBC also wrote a nice article on the production which can be read here, as well as a nice news segment on nightly news: