For people with sensory-related disabilities, such as autism and epilepsy, it is common to have a sensory overload during a theater production.
This usually happens when there are too many foreign sounds and lights, paired with not
enough space and familiarity of the
environment. The potential fear of having a sensory overload is a primary reason why
people with neurological disabilities are not
often able to access performance theater.
"There was a long time that I was afraid to go out too much with Aidan because his significant differences would draw such big reactions-hurtful, terrible ones."
Sensory-friendly performances are designed specifically for individuals with sensory sensitivities or other disabilities. During these productions, audience members can enjoy shows together with family and friends in welcoming, inclusive, and
relaxed spaces. This means that the shows often have lower
volume, no strobe lights, easily accessible exits, and the house
lights aren’t turned off all the way.
On top of all of these tangible changes, sensory-friendly
theater allows for an environment where people with
disabilities don’t feel judged. In some cases, for example,
they may need to take a break and walk out of the theater
in the middle of a scene or they may have an opportunity to
meet the cast of the production for a better connection.
More About This Project
Since kindergarten, the Girl Scouts has provided me with amazing opportunities that empowered me as a young woman in our community. Girl Scouts instilled in me a passion for inclusion and acceptance as well as the belief in knowing I could do something to make change. When I started brainstorming for my Gold Award project, I decided I wanted to find a way to combine this passion with my love for theater.
From there, I developed a program that would help theater companies create sensory-friendly productions, as well as provide a resource for families with children with special needs to find these special shows. When COVID-19 entered our world I was inspired to find ways to pivot and ultimately bring theater to more people in our larger community. I am excited to see people who may not have had an opportunity to embrace the theater now find a love for it, the way I did at six years old in my first Girl Scout Production as Michael in "Peter Pan"!
In 2013 the San Diego Union-Tribune featured Maria Burritt and Funny Bugs, her non-profit that sent children with special needs to theater productions around San Diego.
Ways To Contact Us
Phone: (619) 850-1171