What are sensory-friendly events and who are they designed for?
Register-Guard - 2/6/2020
When her child wanted to move about during a performance in Seattle years ago, Patricia Wigney and her daughter, who has autism spectrum disorder, were kicked out.
"She wanted to sit right in front and rock and dance with them and move with them and participate. And so we were asked to leave," said Wigney, executive director of Bridgeway House, a Eugene-based nonprofit organization that offers support to families affected by autism.
What Wigney and her daughter may have needed was a performance that was more accepting of how a child with autism spectrum disorder enjoys a live event -- a sensory-friendly performance. On Thursday, the Oregon Contemporary Theatre is set to present a sensory-friendly performance of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time."
Here's a look at sensory-friendly events:
Who would benefit from attending a sensory-friendly event?
Sensory-friendly performances are designed especially for people with autism spectrum disorder, sensory sensitivities or other disabilities as well as their families. In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that around 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
What makes it sensory-friendly?
To make something sensory friendly, the audio, visual and light stimulation needs to be adjusted.
What changes were made to make the play performance sensory-friendly?
"In some ways, it's easier than you think," OCT Associate Producer Tara Wibrew said. "What we're trying to do is maintain the integrity of the production that we do from night to night. So the actors are still playing the same parts, there's no alterations to their performances or to the script."
The adjustments focus on the patrons. While the actors carry out a regular performance, loud sounds and bright lights will be lessened. House lights, which illuminate the audience, are usually entirely off during a performance but will remain dimly lit for the sensory-friendly performance. Additionally, the audience will be free to make noises and leave the auditorium during the performance. Patrons can request materials prepping them on what to expect from the performance and their experience at OCT.
How does the play lend itself to it?
The play, which brings Mark Haddon's best-selling novel to the stage, is the story of Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old boy with an extraordinary brain.
While the character is not explicitly diagnosed as having autism spectrum disorder, Boone is often over-stimulated and misunderstood.
"A lot of folks within the autism community feel that his story represents a lot of what they experience," said Jessica Baker, an OCT spokesperson. She added that the play has seen success creating sensory-friendly shows in larger cities.
"We're riding on a very strong precedent of sensory-friendly performances for this particular show because of the content and because of the story."
Where are there other area sensory-friendly events?
The Eugene Science Center offers sensory sensitive evening every other month. The next one will be from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.Feb. 22.
The Eugene Library offers sensory-friendly storytime at 3 p.m. Saturdays in January, March, June and October at the downtown location. Sign up for each session starting one week in advance: 541-682-8316.
Bridgeway House puts on an annual show and ensures the cast and audience -- most of whom are impacted by ASD -- are comfortable.
National movie theater chains, such as AMC and Regal Cinemas, offer sensory-friendly movies nights. A check revealed the closest participating theaters were the AMC Classic 12 in Corvallis and Regal Bridgeport Village in Tigard.
"There definitely needs to be more sensory events in town," Wigney said. "It's the one thing seriously, that has been able to reach a lot of kids that are on the spectrum is theater and music and dance."
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