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Sensory-Friendly Performances

Wharton Center, in collaboration with a variety of MSU and community partners, is creating an initiative to provide a supportive and welcoming environment that will make live theatre accessible to those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), developmental disabilities, sensory processing disorder, and other sensory-sensitive people and their families. 

What are Sensory-Friendly Performances?

At Sensory-Friendly Performances, accommodations will include:

  • Lower sound and light levels; all strobe light effects removed.
  • House lights on at a low level throughout the performance.
  • Audience members are welcome to stand, move around, and enter and leave the theatre as needed.
  • An Activities Area with crafts and activities for engagement.
  • Designated quiet and calm spaces.
  • Autism specialists and trained volunteers on hand.
  • Sensory supports available (fidgets, earplugs).
  • A Social Narrative that portrays the theatre-going experience with pictures and text.
  • A Character Guide with pictures identifying each character in the show.
  • Audience members are welcome to bring their own manipulatives, seat cushions, comfort objects, headphones, electronics, special snacks, and other support items to the show.
  • ASL interpretation is available. If you would like to be provided with this service, please notify the Ticket Office when you purchase your ticket.

Helpful Documents


Sensory-Friendly Performances​ at Wharton Center

Parsons Dance

Saturday, February 22, 2020 at 2pm

Dogman: the Musical

Sunday, March 15, 2020 at 1:30pm

Miss Nelson

Miss Nelson has a Field Day

Sunday, April 26, 2020, 1:30pm

Why are Sensory-Friendly Performances important?

An estimated one of every six children is affected by neurological conditions that require treatment, and the incidence appears to be increasing. For example, a new case of autism is diagnosed in the United States every 15 minutes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in every 59 children in the United States has autism, pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) or another autism spectrum disorder. These disorders occur in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

There is a clear need for meaningful and appropriate social activities tailored for children and adults with autism spectrum disorder. People with sensory, social, and learning disabilities have the capacity to participate in a range of community activities when provided the opportunity and appropriate supports. When we provide opportunities for individuals with these disabilities to engage, the benefits include greater community, civic, and social participation for everyone. Sensory-Friendly Performances are, perhaps, a stepping stone to becoming a totally inclusive community gathering place.


Sponsored by Delta Dental of Michigan with additional support from AF Group.

The Parsons Dance Sensory-Friendly Performance is supported by the Arts Midwest Touring Fund, a program of Arts Midwest that is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional contributions from Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Crane Group.

Delta Dental
AF Group
Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs
National Endowment for the Arts
Arts Midwest