AFS began working with the Theatre Development Fund (TDF) on the Autism Theatre Initiative, and in October 2011, AFS’s Broadway debut began with the first ever autism friendly performance of Disney’s The Lion King. Our consultants conducted comprehensive assessments of the show, and worked with the production team, providing them with suggestions about how they could slightly modify certain aspects of the show.
We provided training to the theatre staff and cast to increase their understanding of autism, to better prepare them for some of the behaviors and characteristics they might see on the day of the show, and to enhance their awareness of some of the challenges individuals with ASD may experience when coming to the theatre.
We created an assortment of visual supports and social narratives, and we provided an array of sensory tools, such as fidgets and earplugs to help make the theatre more accommodating for individuals on the autism spectrum. Calming Corners and Activity Areas, staffed by AFS trained volunteers, were set up in the lobby areas, for individuals and their families to access as needed if they wanted to take a break at any point before or during the show.
Following the tremendous success of this special performance that has gone down in history as the first of its kind, AFS continued our collaboration with TDF and Disney to bring about an autism friendly performance of Disney’s Mary Poppins, and a second special showing of Disney’s The Lion King in 2012.
AFS was asked to continue to consult on the Autism Theatre Initiative, playing an instrumental role in the assessment of additional shows, including Elf the Musical and Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. We conducted educational training sessions for the theatre staff and cast of both shows, and we assembled, trained, and coordinated a team of over 50 of our top-notched volunteers who provided guests with support, as needed, throughout the day of the shows.
We are overjoyed to have had such a substantial role in helping to pioneer these inaugural innovative opportunities, whereby the theatre world opened their doors to welcome the autism community!
Additional autism friendly performances are in the works…Please check out TDF’s website for further information about their upcoming scheduled performances.