Unexpected Reaction and working through the challenges: Autism and the Theater

Yesterday we got free tickets to see a high school performance of Beauty and the Beast.  Considering that my kids saw a junior high performance a few years ago and sat in the front on the floor with other kids, away from me and grandma, I wasn’t expecting the experience we had.  Before it even began, my 7 year old son with aspergers started to panic and wanted to leave because it is a scary story.  I told him he saw it before and reminded him of the story, but he was still asking to leave.  I had him sit on my lap and when the lights went down, he was crying that he wanted to leave.  The combination of being dark (a new fear), loud music and scary parts was overwhelming to him.  I was pretty confident that he could get through it if I helped him, so I held him tightly on my lap and hid his eyes and covered his ears at the scary parts explaining what was happening and what was coming next as the play went along and he did make it through.  At the break I wondered if I would be able to get him to go back in, but he did and didn’t say anything about it.  He especially enjoyed the humorous battle scene at the end and was laughing and smiling.  I asked him if he enjoyed it and he said he did.  I am glad we stuck it out, but hope I would recognize a situation where his limits would be pushed too far.

The other side of the story is that his 5 year olds sister was with us too and since it was so long, she wanted the cuddling and attention her brother was getting too.  Thank goodness grandma came with us and she could give her some tender loving care.  She  still was leaning over seats toward me to give me kisses and get my attention too.  I have a lot of mommy guilt and worry about her possibly wanting/needing more of me that isn’t available because her brother needs so much of my attention.  I try to make sure she gets time too, but it is so hard when there is not another adult in the house.  Such is the life of a sibling of a special needs kid, especially one in a single parent family.  I know she will make it through and probably be better for it, but that doesn’t stop a mom from worrying.

On another note, I am very impressed that this high school is also giving an autism friendly performance of this show too.  They worked with the local autism society and other groups to modify the performance, they will keep the house lights on, lower the sound, have a room where kids can go play with aides during the show and other accommodations to make the show accessible.  I will definitely be watching for more theater opportunities like that since the dark and noise are becoming more and more problematic for us.

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