Let’s be honest: Taking any kid to a live theater performance can be a bit scary, and if you have a child with learning differences it can be downright terrifying. When we went to Imagination Stage for a sensory-friendly performance of Mulan, I realized that sensory-friendly performances are not just for kids with sensory differences—they are for all kids and their parents too. Are you worried about taking your child to the theater for the first time? Wondering if your child will know how to “behave” at the theater? Don’t worry—instead, check out a sensory-friendly performance at Imagination Stage. In fact, their next sensory-friendly show is this Sunday at 11 am. They are performing The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
4 Reasons to See a Sensory-Friendly Performance
1. Judgement-Free Zone
First and foremost, we found that Imagination Stage is a judgment-free zone. What do I mean by that? From the other parents to the staff, everyone was prepared for anything. Will your child scream, yell, or cry during the performance? No worries. The other parents understand and so do the actors, ushers, and other support staff at the theater.
My daughter likes to have a security blanket for new experiences, so she can cover her head during the exciting moments. No one batted an eye when we walked in with a large blanket for her to cover up with during the show.
2. Social Story
When we arrived at the theater, we received a social story of events. This is a great tool to show children what to expect at the theater. If your child is an early language learner or has difficulty with language, this is an easy way to explain what is about to happen. We attended the performance because our 6-year-old daughter has autism; however, the visual schedule was also a great way to explain the theater to our 4-year-old son.
3. House Lights Stay Up and They Cue Startling Moments
During the show, the house lights are half-lit so the patrons can see what’s going on around them. We found this to make the experience more inviting for our children. Imagination Stage also had two ushers placed on either side of the stage with glow sticks to cue the louder or more startling moments. Before the show, the cast went through what the loud sounds would sound like and showed the audience the glow stick cues to prepare them for the show. The cast also showed the audience where to find the break spaces.
4. Quiet Places for a Break
Imagination Stages understands that not all patrons can sit through a full performance, and it provides many locations to take a break if needed. During the performance we attended, there were four quiet spaces set up. One was in the back of the theater, so you can still see the show. Another was in the main hall, and two were in adjacent rooms behind the main hallway. Each quiet space was unique and provided children and parents a place to get away if needed. Some of the spaces provided mats or pillows to sit or lay down and some had sensory-friendly toys if needed.
Lastly, when you go to the sensory-friendly performance at Imagination Stage, be sure to get there early for the interactive kid-friendly experience. And stay late to meet the cast.
My entire family enjoyed our day at Imagination Stage and I would recommend a sensory-friendly performance to any family with small children or children with sensory or learning differences. We plan to attend more performances soon.