Today, thanks to the BRB, I did something I never thought I'd be able to do - took my two autistic children to the ballet.... The performance was the Birmingham
Royal Ballet doing Sleeping Beauty at ...the Birmingham Hippodrome. This afternoon they did their first ever relaxed ballet performance, tailored towards people with special needs who might find going to the theatre challenging, especially autistic people and people with sensory and communication disorders. You could tell the organisers had thought hard about how to make it work...
They handed out social stories explaining how a theatre trip works. This Included a short cartoon strip explaining the story of Sleeping Beauty. They restructured the ballet into three 30 minute segments, and removed some scenes that weren't essential to the story line, so that the audience didn't have to sit still and concentrate for too long. There was a narrator at the start of each act to explain the next stage of the story. They left the house lights slightly on and the auditorium doors open, and allowed the audience members to move around the theatre if they needed to. There was a sensory room on the ground floor, there were pictorial signs for the toilets and seating area. There were buckets of ear defenders for anyone who struggled with the noise. And there was no judgement at all, from anyone. From performers to ticket booth staff, everyone made us feel welcome.
Going to the theatre was a huge part of my life until I had children. My Mom used to take me, and I always wanted theatre trips to be part of my kids lives too. But so often, events like this are inaccessible to children like mine who shout out, jump around instead of sitting, and find the theatre environment and it's rules confusing and overwhelming.
Today went BRILLIANTLY. My daughter grinned from start to finish. She brought one of her sensory chew toys and was actually chewing in excitement, which I've never seen her do before. There were many other families there whose relatives had additional needs, so there was no awkwardness or people staring at us. Not even when my son decided that he wanted to lie on the steps to watch the performance with me stroking his back. He initially screamed and ran away from the auditorium, and had a couple of anxious moments after the intervals, but once his anxiety settled a bit, he watched the dancers intently. First from under my coat, and eventually he crawled to the front of the circle and peered over the railings watching the dancers and orchestra at work. He applauded at all the right times, and even called out "dat is too good!!" after some of the dances!!
Thank you so much for what you did today. It was truly inclusive and you will never know how much being able to attend a performance like this means to families like ours. See More