Autism Theatre Initiative

Making Theatre Accessible to Individuals with Autism
On October 2, 2011, TDF Accessibility Program launched the Autism Theatre Initiative (ATI) which makes theatre accessible to children and adults on the autism spectrum, as well as their families. The first autism-friendly performance of a Broadway show was Disney’s landmark musical The Lion King. This performance was so successful that Autism Theatre Initiative has presented many autism-friendly performances of Broadway including Mary Poppins, Spider-Man, Wicked, Matilda, Phantom of the Opera, Aladdin and more.

TDF’s autism-friendly performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was the first autism-friendly performance of a non-musical in Broadway history. TDF’s Autism Theatre Initiative also consults with theatres and presenting houses across the country as part of their National Advisory Partnerships. Previous advisory partnerships have included The Old Globe, Hartford Stage, The Hobby Center, Big Apple Circus, Pittsburgh Ballet, and more.

What makes a performance autism-friendly?

Each show is 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 are made, including the reduction of any jarring sounds or strobe lights focused into the audience. Plus, in the theatre lobby there are quiet and activity areas, staffed with autism specialists, for those who need to leave their seats during the performance. 

Downloadable social narratives (in Word format), with pictures of the theatres and productions, are available several months in advance of the performances. These are designed to personalize the experience for each attendee with autism spectrum disorders. TDF also produced a video social narrative that describes how best to navigate Times Square. 

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ATI’s Broadway Shows for the 2016-2017 Season

The Lion King Sunday September 25th 2016 at 1pm
The Phantom of the Opera Saturday November 19th 2016 at 1pm
Aladdin Sunday March 5th 2017 at 1pm (On Sale Mid-Late January 2017)
Kinky Boots Sunday May 7th 2017 at 1pm

ATI Donors

ATI is funded in part by:
  • The Theodore H. Barth Foundation
  • Helene Berger Foundation
  • Al Berr
  • The Bulova Stetson Fund
  • Dylandale Foundation
  • The FAR Fund
  • The Joseph H. Flom Foundation
  • The Friars Foundation
  • Harry S. Black and Allon Fuller Fund, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee
  • Joseph Gordon
  • Debra Hazelwood
  • McGraw Hill Financial
  • New York City Department of Cultural Affairs
  • New York Collaborates for Autism from the proceeds of Comedy Central's 2015 Night of Too Many Stars
  • New York State Council on the Arts
  • Stavros Niarchos Foundation
  • The SAP Charitable Fund
  • Adolph and Ruth Schnurmacher Foundation
  • Seventh District Foundation
  • The Taft Foundation
  • TJX Companies
This program is supported, in part, by public funds from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

This program is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

If you too would like to support the work of the Autism Theatre Initiative, please click to make a donation.