Autism within the Arts

What do you think of when I say Autism?

Temper Tantrums?

How about some of these:
Difficulty Communicating.

This is some of the stigma surrounding Autism. This are some of the words I hear spoken to people I love.

Autism and the awareness of such are causes very close to my heart as my sister has Autism.
Amber is on the severe end of the Autistic Spectrum – it took her years to get a diagnosis. The fight my mum had getting her a statement of special needs, to get her any form of help. That fight shouldn’t be so hard. The names she got called should not be tolerated. The insults are not necessary – they are just cruel.
Autistic children are not weird, Autism is a developmental disorder and should be treated as such. There is such a taboo surrounding Autism and I fully intend to play a part in destroying this myth.

Autistic children tend to excel in a specific subject or aspect of life; be it Maths, IT, Reading or Performing Arts.

Amber (right) and I

Amber is now 15 and she loves to read. She is so good at it. But her real passion, her real love is in the Arts. Whenever she hears a song she will learn the words, sometimes, only by listening to it once, and sing it. She loves Dance and Drama. Give that girl a beat and she will dance like no one is watching, she will sing like the world is listening……and she will act as though her life depended on it.
Give her a script. She will know her lines and the rest of the script by heart in an hour. She truly is remarkable. I love her so much. I am proud to be big sister to her.

Which is why I get such a warm, fuzzy feeling when I see these magical words: Autism – Friendly Performance
These words are appearing more and more often alongside some of the West End’s biggest shows.
The first show I personally saw advertising an autism-friendly performance was Wicked. I nearly cried. They advertised the performance as specifically adapted to the various needs people with autism may require – the house lights remained dimmed, not completely off, the special effects were toned down, the orchestra wasn’t as loud. The list went on… if you wish to read the full announcement I will link to it here.
I kept a close eye on the news the following day and I did not see a single bad review. It was widely received. It was clear the time and effort those at Wicked and The Apollo Victoria Theatre put in to make this a success. One of my favourite stories was this one written in The Guardian.

More recently more and more shows are embracing autism and adapting performances to suit the needs they have.
Aladdin is holding its FIRST autism friendly performance this August! I will link to it at the end of the blog.
The Lion King is another. Holding its FOURTH autism friendly performance on June 4th which is already sold out!

Here is what happens during an autism friendly performance:

Its incredible right?!!

If that isn’t enough they have also created a video specific to those with Autism so they know what to expect when they arrive.

Check it out here!

This sort of Autism Awareness within the Musical Theatre industry is so important. It encourages these people to visit the theatre more, without the fear of prejudice or misinterpretation.
This in turn allows children like Amber more access to theatre and may even encourage them towards a career in the Arts.

What we need is more spotlight on Autistic Actors, more opportunities to show they are more that what society thinks of them. They can achieve the same, if not a higher standard than non-autistic actors.

There need to be more shows that portray illnesses such as autism, the most well know being ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time’
The main protagonist in this show has autism but the part has never been played by an autistic actor – perhaps this is something people could consider when casting shows like this.
The show itself however is truly remarkable!!

I cannot recommend it enough – but be quick! It plays its final show in London on 3rd June 2017
If you want to book click here!
If you can’t get into London, never fear!! It is touring the UK! For dates and locations click here!

So if there is one thing you take away from this it is that autism should not be misconstrued. It should be accepted as what it is, a developmental disorder.
This doesn’t mean they are weird or difficult or are not capable of a job within the Arts.

If anything, they really could improve the industry….


Aladdin’s FIRST Autism friendly performance –

The Lion King Autism friendly performance –

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time –

The National Autistic Society –

You may have also noticed that I changed the colour theme of my blog to Blue. That is in support of Autism Awareness Month which is April! xxx


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