Event Calendar

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.
  • Standing and movement spaces as well as designated quiet areas throughout the theater.
  • Trained volunteers and autism specialists on hand during the entire performance.
  • Sensory supports (fidgets, earplugs) available in the lobby.
  • A Social Story that portrays the theatre-going experience with pictures and text.
  • Character description cards with pictures identifying each character in the show.
  • Audience members welcome to bring their own manipulatives, seat cushions, comfort objects, headphones, electronics, and other support items to the show.

Our 2017-2018 Sensory-Friendly Performances include:

  • Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat on Sunday, October 29 at 1pm
  • Clementine on Sunday, March 25 at 1pm
  • Disney’s The Lion King on Saturday, July 21 at 2pm 

Tickets can be purchased online, in person at the Ticket Office, or by calling 1-800-WHARTON (1-800-942-7866).

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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 68 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 generously sponsored by Delta Dental of Michigan with additional support provided by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs; MSU Office of the President; College of Education; Research in Autism, Intellectual and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (RAIND) program; and University Outreach and Engagement.

  • Wharton Center for Performing Arts
  • Michigan State University
  • 750 E. Shaw LN
  • East Lansing, MI
  • PHONE: (517) 432-2000
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