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Theater performances for kids on autism spectrum


For kids on the autism spectrum, a trip to the theater to see a play or movie can be overwhelming.

Sounds that are quiet to the rest of the audience can be far too loud for them to process, causing them to cover their ears with their hands.  For others on the spectrum, sitting still and remaining quiet through a performance may not be possible, either.

And that's why First Stage offers a special series of sensory-friendly performances, geared specifically toward kids on the autism spectrum.

"A lot of parents have expressed to us that they don't want to feel like their child is just being tolerated," said Jennifer Adams, academy director at First Stage.  "They want to feel like their child is being honored and something is being created for them, and that's what we're hoping to do."

The performances feature smaller audiences, brighter house lights and more subdued sound.  Noise cancelling headphones are distributed throughout the theater for kids to put on in case the action gets too intense, and designated areas outside the theater provide an option to step out for a few moments.

First Stage has two more sensory-friendly performances left in the 2015-2016 season:


  • Just A Little Critter Musical, February 20, 2016, 3:30 p.m. at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center
  • The Snow, March 5, 2016, 3:30 p.m. at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater

Click the podcast player above the photos to hear from a parent and child who recently attended a performance, plus more of our interview with Adams.

Director of Digital Content | Radio Milwaukee