Yesterday morning, CJ had the privilege of attending a Music for Autism event!! This interactive, autism-friendly concert took place in the DC metro area, at the Ivymount School. Though CJ has been a fan of Music for Autism since 2007, and she’s also had the opportunity to meet US founder, Robert Accordino and other Board Members back in 2011, this was her first experience attending one of their sensory-friendly performances.
First of all…wow! Glenn Donnellan’s performance was amazing, and everyone loved his custom Louisville Slugger bat electric violin. Music for Autism is doing really awesome work and we highly suggest becoming a fan of this organization if you are not already. You can sign up for their newsletter RIGHT HERE. And, if you live in DC, NYC, LA or Houston and have a child on the spectrum, we highly recommend these events as an accessible and worthwhile family outing!
But is there really any surprise we’d be fans of Music for Autism? Of course we’re fans! There are so many similarities with our own organization’s mission and vision: accessibility to live music, welcome and acceptance of anyone who is neurodiverse, hand-flapping was definitely “allowed” in yesterday’s concert. : ) The more we work together to improve accessibility to the arts to those who might typically be excluded because of a disability, the better we are in society as a whole. That is the ultimate goal and objective. Audience members yesterday were respectful and understanding of folks who find it difficult to sit still and people were even encouraged to get up, move around and dance to the music, as in Sensory Friendly Concerts. Our organizations share these common values! The difference primarily lies within our efforts to create platforms for self-advocacy, and the fact that Sensory Friendly Concerts® are developed and organized by Board Certified Music Therapists.
CJ had the opportunity yesterday to connect with both Jan Wintrol, Director of Ivymount, and Holly Hamilton, violinist with the National Symphony Orchestra, both of whom are on the Board of Directors of Music for Autism. Even for the DC/Maryland region, it’s really quite amazing what a “small town” it can be when it comes to the autism community. CJ enjoyed connecting dots between mutual friends with both of these well-renowned women.
As The Musical Autist continues to advocate for the Neurodiversity Movement and develops the concept and constructs of Sensory Friendly Concert®, we are thrilled about promoting events that are similar to ours in mission and vision. There are other fabulous autism-friendly events that are currently happening, and we want to promote them. We’re currently brainstorming ideas of a webpage devoted to listing all sensory-friendly/autism-friendly performances that are promoted online. At least for now, we’d love to give some hyperlinks to a prominent few.
Our beloved Kennedy Center regularly hosts Sensory Friendly Performances. (And yes, there was an article in the Washington Post earlier this year in which the columnist incorrectly called them “Sensory Friendly Concerts” :-/ though Kennedy Center has always called them Sensory Friendly Performances!) Imagination Stage, in Bethesda, also hosts beautifully-inclusive Sensory Friendly Performances and we are a huge fan of them as well! Another amazing organization that is doing sensory-friendly theatre performances is the Theatre Development Fund in NYC, they are a great model to follow if you’re interested in creating an event which is sensory-friendly, and have had great help from another awesome organization called Autism Friendly Spaces. The Paper Mill Playhouse, the Union County Performing Arts Center in New Jersey, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts all offer autism-friendly/sensory-friendly performances.
This is all very exciting! We know there are more out there, and we want to promote them – there has been such development in this type of accessibility just in the past five years! Our culture is becoming more and more inclusive, every year that formal music and theatre venues offer these types of events. So what makes Sensory Friendly Concerts® unique and different, other than the fact that they are facilitated by Board Certified Music Therapists and we were able to trademark the name? The fact that Sensory Friendly Concerts® are AN AVENUE FOR SELF ADVOCACY, that we are not afraid to stand up for autistic people and their rights. That we advocate for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and the Neurodiversity Movement, perhaps the next greatest social rights movement of our times. It is our hope that other autism organizations will follow our lead and listen to the voice of the autistic community!
These days, it is easy to focus on the childhood prevalence and influx of autism, but we must remember these children are growing up and need equal-if-not-more support and self-advocacy systems in place! What are we doing toward the betterment of our society for this sub-culture? Please share this post and also please let us know what other types of sensory-friendly/autism-friendly performances are out there – we’d love to compile a resource page!