Remember that post about parents being able to take their children to the museum for “autism friendly” programs? If not or if you missed it, click here.
This program began in 2011 with a sold-out showing of “The Lion King,” and has since developed with other plays, including “Mary Poppins.” Both the actors and theater staff are trained ahead of time on autism, and potential occurrences during a production (i.e., outbursts, inappropriate behavior, and tantrums). There are also special accommodations available for families in the lobbies, including coloring books and bean bag chairs for the necessary breaks. These performances are not less than extraordinary though. According to Lisa Carling, Theatre Development Fund director of accessibility programs, the shows are fundamentally the same,
“If there are cases where there are strobe lights or sudden bursts of sound, those might be modified slightly to soften it, but overall, it’s the same wonderful performance, and we always encourage the actors to give it their all.” [i]
This fall, the Minskoff Theatre will stage “The Lion King” at 1pm on September 29 and the Foxwoods Theatre will stage “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” at 2 pm on November 16. March 2, 2014, The Gershwin Theatre will stage “Wicked” at 1 pm.
Broadway shows are something everyone should get to experience, including those with autism, and these productions are being tailored for those with disabilities, explains Chief Psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center here in Brooklyn.
Partaking in musical theater classes has also proven beneficial for the autism community, according to Blythe Corbett, assistant professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, who heads the SENSE Theatre Summer Camp. The program is meant to improve social and emotional behaviors for children with autism, by introducing them to the theater through social imitation. The campers are placed “in roles suited for their needed therapy and surrounds them with peers—with and without autism—to encourage that imitation.” [ii] This program has proven beneficial for the campers in regards to their social and behavioral skills, and Corbett was given a grant to further develop the program by the National Institute of Mental Health.
[i] “CBS New York” 3 Broadway performances set to be staged especially for those with autism. 14 Jul 2013. Web. < http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/07/14/3-broadway-performances-set-to-be-staged-especially-for-those-with-autism/>
[ii] “The Tennessean” Musical theater helps kids with autism develop social skills. 14 Jul 2013. Web. <http://www.tennessean.com/article/20130714/NEWS07/307140100/Musical-theater-helps-kids-autism-develop-social-skills>