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 as well as their families.
The program, which is a part of TDF's Accessibility Programs (TAP), presented the first autism-friendly performance of a Broadway show with Disney's landmark musical The Lion King on Sunday, October 2, 2011. This performance was so successful that TDF's Autism Theatre Initiative presented a second autism-friendly performance on Broadway at Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's production of Mary Poppins on April 29, 2012, and a second performance of The Lion King on September 30, 2012. Additionally, theatres around the country are beginning to see the need for autism-friendly performances in their communities as a result of this initiative.
The shows are 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 (ASD) 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 quiet areas and an activity area, staffed with autism specialists, for those who needed to leave their seats during the performance.
Downloadable social stories (in Word format), with pictures of the theatres and productions, were available several months in advance of the performances. These are designed to personalize the experience for each attendee with ASD. Tickets were offered through TDF at affordable prices.
TDF’s Autism Theater Initiative (ATI)'s slate of autism-friendly performances of Broadway shows for 2013 included ELF, The Musical on Saturday, January 5 at 2pm at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre and will continue with Spider-man Turn Off The Dark on Saturday, April 27 at 2pm (during Autism Awareness month) at the Foxwoods Theatre; and Disney’s The Lion King at the Minskoff Theatre and Newsies at the Nederlander Theatre will have autism-friendly performances in the fall of 2013 (exact dates for these matinee performances to be determined). Make sure you "sign up for info on future performances" (link on the right) to be notified when tickets will be going on sale.
Read about "Elf" on Narratively
WNYC Soundcheck on TDF's Autism-Friendly Spiderman
TDF wishes to acknowledge the following donors
for their generous support of the Autism Theatre Initiative:
7th District Foundation
Helene Berger Foundation
Bulova Stetson Fund
The FAR Fund
The Flom Family Foundation
The Joseph LeRoy and Ann C. Warner Fund, Inc.
Robert and Joan Matloff
The Schafer Family Foundation*
The Adolph and Ruth Schurmacher Foundation
Winter Family Fund
*Donation made in honor of Charles T. Locke III and Ronald J. Weiss
In collaboration with TDF, Autism Friendly Spaces provides consultative services for the Autism Theatre Initiative.
In kind support provided by:
If you would like to support the work of this new initiative, please click here to make a donation.
TDF is proud to support The Hobby Center in Houston, Texas for their successful autism-friendly performance of Disney's THE LION KING.
TDF is proud to support The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, California for their successful autism-friendly performance of DR. SEUSS' HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS!.
TDF is proud to support The Ark, a Cultural Centre for Children in Dublin, Ireland for their successful autism-friendly performance of WHITE.