Autism Theatre Initiative

Making Theatre Accessible to Individuals with Autism

What makes it 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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The History of The Autism Theatre Initiative

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, 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.


ATI’s Broadway Shows for the 2015-2016 Season


The Lion King  September 27, 2015 at 1pm
Wicked  February 7, 2016 at 1pm
Aladdin  March 6, 2016 at 1pm
The King And I April 24, 2016 at 3pm

ATI Donors

ATI is funded in part by:

  • Adolph and Ruth Schnurmacher Foundation
  • Arts Midwest
  • Bank of America Charitable Gift Fund
  • Bulova Stetson Fund
  • Helene Berger Foundation
  • Holly Cohen
  • New York Collaborates for Autism with the proceeds from Comedy
  • Central’s 2012 Night of Too Many Stars
  • Seventh District Foundation
  • The FAR Fund
  • The Flom Family Foundation
  • The Joseph LeRoy and Ann C.
  • Warner Fund, Inc.
  • The National Endowment for the Arts
  • The Stavros Niarchos Foundation
  • The Taft Foundation

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