Science Museum, DPAC Cater to Special Needs With ‘Sensory-Friendly’ Events
Tickets are now on sale for Durham Performing Arts Center's first sensory-friendly performance on Dec. 3.
Photos of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” courtesy of Paparazzibyappointment.com
Going to the movies, theater or museum are fun outings many people take for granted, but for those with autism, they can be discomforting experiences. Two Triangle venues are working to tailor their entertainment and educational offerings so they can be enjoyed by those who have special needs.
A Special Night at the Museum
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh is offering an “Accessibility and Sensory-Friendly Night” for families with special needs 6-8:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 11 (doors open at 5:30 p.m.). The free event — presented in collaboration with ARC of Wake County, Arts Access and Marbles Kids Museum — is designed to offer a fully accessible, calmer visit at a time when fewer people are at the museum. Registration is not required.
“Sometimes visiting a popular venue or museum can prove overwhelming and can lead to uncertainty for people who experience the world in different ways,” says the museum's Accessibility and Inclusion Coordinator Liani Yirka. “We are excited to provide an evening that is quieter and has lower sensory experiences in order to assure all of our visitors that this is their museum, and that they can enjoy a visit here.”
During the evening, visitors are invited to meander through all four floors of the museum’s main building at 11 W. Jones St. They can stop by educational stations run by local organizations and agencies and enjoy live-animal programming and interactive activities. For a $5 charge, they can also watch a sensory-friendly 3-D movie — “Flight of the Butterflies” (6-6:30 p.m.) and browse the “American Adventure,” exhibition (6:30-8:30 p.m.). Those tickets can be bought at the door or online at naturalsciences.org.
The museum’s Discovery Room (for toddlers and preschoolers) and the Living Conservatory (home to butterflies, tarantulas, tropical plants and a two-toed sloth) will be open until 8:30 p.m. Families needing a few moments to retreat to a quiet room with dimmed lights can go inside the “Explore on 4” meeting space on the museum’s fourth floor.
A Special Evening at the Theater
Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham is also hosting its first sensory-friendly performance, Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” at 11 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, and tickets for the show are already on sale. Sponsored by Duke Health, the performance is designed for children and adults on the autism spectrum — or those who have sensitivity issues — and their families. The performance will feature a slightly lower volume and house lights will be dimmed rather than turned off during the show. The performance will be devoid of flashing lights, loud booms or elements of surprise that might be scary, says DPAC Community Relations Manager Tiffany Malory.
“We are eliminating anything that might upset any people or agitate people, just so they can come and enjoy the theater experience,” she says, noting that regular theater rules will be bent for the performance. “The kids don’t have to be quiet, so it takes the stress off. They can bring in items that give them comfort, if they like.”
Malory, who traveled to New York to research how to bring a sensory-friendly performance to DPAC, says she was motivated to do this because she has friends who have children who are autistic. “Here are DPAC, we want to make an effort to allow all families in the Triangle to enjoy the magic of theater. My hope is if this is successful, it is something we can do every year and maybe do more than one.”
On-site volunteers will be on hand to assist families as needed when they arrive at DPAC and throughout the performance. Quiet spaces will be available in the DPAC lobby for those who need to take a break from the show. “But the most important thing about this performance is that they will be in a very tolerant, accepting audience, where people can speak out if they need to, they can move, they can get up and leave and come back, and everyone there is very understanding and accepting,” Malory says.
Ahead of the performance, detailed instructions and character comparison hand-outs will be available for parents/caregivers to view, download and print at home, previewing in words and pictures the experience that families can expect during their visit to DPAC and this show.
For tickets, which start at $30 (plus taxes and fees), visit dpacnc.com/grinchsensory, or call or stop by the ticket center at DPAC: 919-680.2787, 123 Vivian St.
Special Needs Resources
Carolina Parent's Exceptional Child guide offers Triangle-area resources for children who have special needs, along with personal stories and advice. Browse our digital edition.