Special events abound during the holiday season…and this can sometimes pose a challenge for families affected by disabilities. Fortunately, some organizations are beginning to understand this dilemma…and they’re reaching out in some wonderful ways!
Here in Cleveland, the Great Lakes Theatre Festival’s production of “A Christmas Carol” provides cheer, exceptional acting and beautiful music. It’s a tradition many families enjoy as they usher in the Christmas season. However, attending a live theatre production of any kind can be overwhelming and distressing for kids with disabilities. The lights, loud music, and large space combine to set kids up for difficulty. In addition, going to a show may be an unfamiliar experience, stirring anxiety.
This year, the theatre company is hosting a “Sensory-Friendly” Christmas Carol on Wednesday, November 27 at 11 am. According to the website, “for this special performance, accommodations will be made, including a supportive audience environment, designated quiet areas, (and) adjustments to light and sound.” In addition, several online resources have been created to help families prepare. These include a social story about going to see the play, a simplified, picture version of the story, and information about Charles Dickens.
Community Partners for this event are The Autism Theatre Initiative, Milestones Autism Organization, and the Cuyahoga County Department of Developmental Disabilities.
This event can provide some great ideas for schools and churches during this season. When planning a large scale event, such as a Christmas Pageant or band concert, consider adding a social story or other information to the website, and alert families that this is available. By doing this, parents can help to prepare their children for what is coming, increasing the likelihood for success. In addition, securing a “quiet area” where students can take refuge and calm down can be helpful; mark this area prominently so that folks know it is available. Again, this sends a strong message that you want your guests to feel comfortable. Finally, consider offering a “quiet” option, when lights and sound are muted a bit. This can make the experience manageable, and help kids with special needs to remain calm so the whole family will enjoy their time together.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Sensory-Friendly Christmas Carol, click here.
Do you have ideas that would make this season welcoming for families affected by disabilities? Please share them in the comment section, or send me a message!
God Bless Us…every one.
Photos courtesy aceshowbiz.com; Great Lakes Theatre Festival
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