In honor of World Autism Acceptance Month in April and Autism Acceptance Day on April 2, we're joining communities across the country to support and recognize people with autism. As part of the initiative, we want to share some of the resources we provide to assist families. At Omaha Performing Arts, inclusion is one of our core values and we strive to ensure our services are accessible to everyone. We also understand that autism impacts every family differently.
Autism Speaks defines autism as "a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication." According to the Centers for Disease Control, "autism affects an estimated 1 in 54 children in the United States today."
To better understand families' needs, O-pa used feedback from audiences and community partners to improve accessibility features at both the Holland Performing Arts Center and the Orpheum Theater. One way we help accommodate families is through sensory-friendly performances.
A select number of O-pa performances are designated as sensory-friendly for those with sensitivities to light, loud noises or surprise elements of a show. These productions are presented in a relaxed, welcoming environment that is judgment-free. Subtle changes to technical details may include low house lights, the removal of strobe and fog effects and avoidance of sudden changes in amplified sound.
Additionally, patrons can check out sensory-friendly kits for any performance which include noise-canceling headphones, sunglasses, fidget cubes and other sensory fidget items. We also provide social stories for families, so they have an idea of what to expect when they attend a performance at the Holland Center and Orpheum Theater.