There’s more work to be done to raise awareness and for more autism friendly events to be organised but I’m still grateful that we’re at a time where progress has been made. Ten years ago there would never have been such a thing but in recent years the National Autistic Society has been doing great work in conjunction with the West End to put on autism friendly performances of the latest hit musicals.
This year the N.A.S. have worked in conjunction with the Apollo Theatre and long running west end musical Wicked to put on a performance designed with autistic people in mind. The sound and lighting had been adjusted along with chill out zones setup for when it got too much for the audience members. There were plenty of volunteers on hand to greet everyone as they made their way into the theatre, get to their seats and assist with any other issues they had. There was even a room for the children to go and do some colouring before the show. Oh and the ticket prices had been vastly reduced to make it affordable to more people which was great to see in this day and age.
It was a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere with nobody staring, judging or being awkward around you. It was delightful to see my son and all the other autistic adults and children enjoying the experience and performance. There was some screeching, random clapping and various other noises coming from all parts of the auditorium during the performance but this was accepted as par for the course by all the audience and cast alike. It mattered not as everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves getting to do something that families might not often get the opportunity to take part in.
My son is non verbal but makes a lot of sounds especially when excited. During the singing he started to flap his arms and occasionally make noise as a release. We asked him to remember to use his inside voice but it was relaxing to know if he couldn’t we wouldn’t have to consider leaving. At the interval we went for a walk and he had a good run around and dance in the main entrance area to get ready for the 2nd act. Nobody batted an eyelid they were too busy enjoying themselves and understood.
My thanks go out to everyone involved from the charity, the staff, the volunteers and of course the cast for putting on a magnificent performance and giving the audience some terrific memories that will last a long time. I’m already looking forward to seeing what musical signs up for 2017!