Having a child who has difficulty processing the world around them provides a continuous challenge for the caregiver. I know, personally, that I want to give Little Miss M every experience possible so that she can learn by doing and seeing. However, I have tried to take her to events or activities that were mainstreamed and typical and thus dealt with stressful meltdowns and the consequences of pushing too hard. It's incredible the way the world is evolving these days, although not quite fast enough for my liking, but evolving nonetheless.
In searching for an unrelated experience for my mom, sisters, and I -- I stumbled upon a theater experience in New York City. The Theater Development Fund has an Autism Theater Initiative. They adapt Broadway shows to be less sensory stimulating (like lowering the volume and removing strobe lighting) as well as offering them at a more convenient time. What I appreciate is that no one is saying that because you are autistic you must go to this one particular show. Instead, they are saying "we understand the immense mountains people with autism have to climb every single day, and we are just trying to make some of it a little bit easier". Granted the show offerings are limited, but I think it's a truly great start. Seeing this made me want to search out other similar opportunities.
As I continued my search, I stumbled upon AMC's Sensory Friendly Films. All films start at 10:00am local time and are brought to different communities. AMC says that their theaters keep their lights up, their sound down and encourage patrons to get up and move around during the movies. I also discovered the New Jersey Theater Alliance will be performing a sensory-friendly adaptation of the ballet: Sleeping Beauty. This will take place in March 2014.
The list continued to grow as I searched of different organizations and places who have opened their doors and their minds to understanding that people are different. I do believe that music, dancing and other performing arts are a common language that can be spoken by even those who don't have access to words. Just because a person may not be able to sit quietly to watch a production, does not mean that they do not deserve to watch it. When bright lights and loud noises clutter the beauty of a ballet, the beauty can be lost. When sensory needs are taken into account, people who process the world differently are given the keys of enjoyment as well.
What have you come across in your search of friendly events for your person with special needs? Have you been to any events? Please share with us in the comments below so that we can create a more detailed list.
Amanda loves theater and music, and hopes that her daughters share that same love one day.