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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 sensory activities as well as designated quiet areas.
  • Autism specialists and trained volunteers on hand.
  • Sensory supports available (fidgets, earplugs).
  • A Social Story 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 and Audio Description Services available. If you need these services, please notify the ticket office when you purchase your ticket.

Helpful Documents


Sensory-Friendly Performances​ at Wharton Center

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 for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives; Office of the President; College of Education; Research in Autism, Intellectual and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (RAIND) program; University Outreach and Engagement; and Peckham, Inc.

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