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Planning a Sensory Friendly Performance at Your High School

What is a Sensory Friendly Performance?  Loud sounds, darkness and an expectation of absolute silence from audience members can be stressful and overwhelming for people with special needs.  A Sensory Friendly Performance is a special performance especially designed to create a better experience for people with special needs. Here are all the steps you will need to host a successful Sensory Friendly Performance.

Inclusive School Environment- Meet with the Principal and Special Needs Director of your school. Make sure they understand how difficult it is for students with special needs to attend a concert or play at their school. Brainstorm the events that a Sensory Friendly Performance would be appropriate. Meet with the art and music directors at your school and agree on Sensory Friendly Performance dates. Are there loud blasts in the performance that can be eliminated? Is it okay to keep the house lights on dim throughout the performance? Are there scary scenes that can be explained to the audience prior to the performance to ease anxiety.  Feedback from student actors and musicians are always positive as they appreciate the extra performance and the immediate response of the audience.

 

Sensory Room- Create a quiet, separate space, ideally a nearby room, where guests can go if they are overwhelmed. Fill the room with comfy chairs, bean bags and sensory toys such as squeeze rubber toys and spikey balls. Keep it simple.

Signs- Be sure to label clearly signs to indicate where the sensory room, bathrooms and auditorium are located.  Immediately knowing where everything is located without having to ask will lower anxiety levels. 

Advertise- Make sure the students at your high school are aware of the performance. Often, signs hung up around the school go unread. A handout needs to go home with students with special needs.  Posts on local Facebook pages is also helpful to get the word out.  Contact the student leader of Circle of Friends at your school to help.

Welcome- Have someone assigned to welcome families.  Point out the sensory room and bathrooms. Let people know that it is ok to leave the performance at any time if they feel overwhelmed. Noises and singing along is okay and in fact encouraged!
 

Take Pictures and write an article about your experience for the school paper.  Send a Thank You to the music/theatre director and students. Send a letter to the Board of Education.  Have a great time!

Contact darleneborre@gmail.com if you need help with your school's Sensory Friendly Performance.