Q. What does it mean when a venue offers an "autism-friendly" performance?
A. Take, for instance, the "Disney Junior Live on Tour! Pirate & Princess Adventure" autism-friendly performance at Madison Square Garden at 11 a.m. Saturday, during Autism Awareness Month.
"We work with experts. They go in and see the show, and they tell us what would be disturbing to the children," says David LeShay, director of marketing and public relations for the nonprofit Theatre Development Fund, which is sponsoring the event as part of its Autism Theatre Initiative.
Adjustments include eliminating strobe lights and reducing jarring sounds or lights focused into the audience. It might mean lowering sound and light levels, LeShay says. Designated quiet and activity areas are staffed with autism specialists in case some family members need a break during the performance. For this show, even though the Theatre Development Fund purchased the entire 5,000-plus-seat theater, only 2,000 seats will be sold to help make the outing manageable.
"This is our first foray into a production for [such] children of a younger age," LeShay says. Previous autism-friendly Broadway performances have included "Wicked" and "The Lion King." A Theatre Development Fund video about autism-friendly performances is available at bit.ly/1sIhfEr.
Tickets for Saturday's 90-minute performance are $32-$69 at bit.ly/1kapPrF. Sign up for alerts for future autism-friendly shows at tdf.org/autism.