Two ladies applauding in theatre audience

At The National Autistic Society we work with theatres all across the country to make the magic of theatre more welcoming to autistic people and their families, carers and friends. We are already working on a number of performances happening soon, and you can sign up to our performances mailing list to find out about future shows.

But what makes a performance 'autism-friendly'? The National Autistic Society works with theatres according to a set of criteria which have been developed in consultation with autistic people. Here Chris Pike, our dedicated staff member for our work with theatres, tells us about these criteria, and how we ensure that when you see that a theatre is working in partnership with our charity, you know you are getting a truly inclusive experience.

The show

For every show we work with, I or another autism expert will attend a performance to assess every part of the experience. We will then make suggestions of how the show can be technically adapted for an autistic audience - whether that's changes to lighting, sound, music, percussion, or even movement. Theatre lovers can be reassured that the biggest priority when adapting a show is that the story itself is not affected, so you can be sure you are travelling through the same magical story as for any other performance.

The theatre

We will also look at how the theatres hosting the shows - no matter how big or small  can make the most of their space to provide as many quiet spaces and chill-out zones as possible for autistic people to use when they are feeling overwhelmed, or just when they want a break. We ensure that no matter how busy the theatre is, there's always somewhere to get away from the hustle and bustle.

The cast, crew, and staff

Absolutely essential to every autism-friendly performance is the training we provide for everyone involved in the show. We train the cast and crew on what to expect on the day of the performance, and we ensure that the front of house, merchandising teams, and security are ready to welcome you to their theatre. Our training works from the basis of teaching people what autism is and what autistic people and their families say they want people to know, so staff members get a good understanding of the wonderful people coming to see the show, rather than just a list of dos and don'ts. 

The pre-show information

One of the most challenging parts of coming to a theatre performance can be not knowing what to expect when you get there - all the new thigns to see and the strange conventions which come with seeing a show. Every autism-friendly performance we work with will produce a visual story which will give comprehensive information for you on what you can expect all the way through your time at the theatre, from arriving for security checks to leaving after the show, and everything in between. You'll get this months in advance, so you can start preparing for yourself, or with your child, ready for the big day.

The experience

Many people tell us that the best part of coming to an autism-friendly performance is the feeling that you don't have to apologise for being yourself - that you are free to be yourself without fear of judgment. At an autism-friendly performance, theatregoers should feel comfortable to talk, sing and even dance - and you are free to come in and out of the auditorium as you need. Every autistic person is welcome at an autism-friendly performance.

 

So what are you waiting for? We can't wait to see you at an autism-friendly performance in the near future. Be sure to sign up to our mailing list to find out what's coming up.

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