April is Austism Awareness Month. A time to promote inclusion and assure each person with the disorder is provided the same opportunities as everyone else.
This weekend the Wharton Center for Performing Arts is offering a sensory-friendly performance of Junie B. Jones.
Loud, unfamiliar noises or flashing lights can often frighten a person with autism spectrum disorder.. so when thinking about taking an autistic child to a dark theatre where they’re asked to stay quiet is a hard task.
Which is why the Wharton Center is working to make it easier.
These are no ordinary performances.
The difference, these are sensory friendly.
Meaning, parents like Cathy Blatnik can feel at east taking her son Dominic to see a show.
“We got him diagnosed through early on with significant speech delay around 2 1/2, and at the same time autism, then ADHD, then about 3 or 4 years ago with epilepsy,” says Blatnik.
These special performances are designed for families like the Blatnik’s.
Welcoming those with autism or developmental disabilities to stand up, move around, or verbalize how they feel.
“We know that those typical theatre rules are a little bit more relaxed on our sensory friendly days,” says Kelly Stuible-Clark, Manager of Musical Theater Programs at the Wharton Center.
Stuible-Clark says during a sensory friendly night sound levels are lowered, strobe lights are removed, and house lights remain on throughout the performance.
“We also offer our audiences the opportunity to bring in sensory objects, comfort items, iPads, drinks, noise cancelling headphones,” says Stuible-Clark.
Designed to create a performing arts experience where children can feel free to be themselves.
“It’s been life changing for Dominic because probably the first 10 years of his life we really didn’t go many places, we didn’t go to the movies, because he would have meltdowns,” says Blatnik.
Blatnik says, as with all children it’s important kids with autism are exposed to new situations to broaden their experiences.
She says sensory friendly events, make it less challenging.
“I like to say it’s a no judgement zone that you can you know, you can just be the way you are,” says Blatnik.
The sensory friendly performance of Junie B. Jones will take place this Sunday, April 28 at 1:30PM.