If you are the parent of a child with autism, you probably wouldn't dream of taking your child to a concert hall. The loud noise, distractions, bright lights and sudden movements can wreak havoc on kids who have trouble processing their environment. And the social norms surrounding a typical concert — that kids should remain motionless and quiet in their seats — would create way too much stress for the kids and their parents.
But a new breed of musical concert has sprouted up across the country and it's aimed at making the special accommodations necessary for kids with autism. Dubbed, "sensory-friendly concerts," these shows are springing up everywhere from universities, such as Columbus State University in Georgia, to major concert halls such as the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
At sensory-friendly concerts, the setting is laid-back and comfortable. The lights are kept low and the rows are half-empty to give kids plenty of room to move around. There are none of the typical concert hall rules. Rather, kids are encouraged to clap their hands, sing, yell, dance, run around the room or just sit and listen. Ushers at the Kennedy Center are given special training to prepare for the needs of children on the autism spectrum, many of whom have never been to a fancy concert hall before.
To find out more info about sensory-friendly concerts, and to find one close to you, check out Music for Autism, an international organization with the goal of increasing public awareness about autism while promoting autism-friendly, interactive concerts developed specifically for individuals with autism and their families. They have worked with a number of organizations to bring sensory-friendly shows to concert halls around the U.S. and the U.K., including the New York Youth Symphony, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Princeton Tigertones, Rice University's Graduate Brass Quintet and the Kennedy String Quartet.
You can view their upcoming concert calendar here.
Have you and your family ever been to a sensory-friendly concert? We'd love to hear about your experience in the comments!