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Theatre Development Fund Launches Autism Theatre Initiative with 'The Lion King'

September 1, 2011 - Theatre Development Fund, the not-for-profit performing arts service organization whose mission includes making theatre accessible for all audiences, is piloting a new program, Autism Theatre Initiative, to make theatre accessible to children and adults on the autism spectrum and their families.

The program, which is a part of TDF's Accessibility Programs (TAP), will present the first ever autism-friendly performance in Broadway history at Disney's landmark musical The Lion King on Sunday, October 2, at 1pm. For this special performance, TDF has purchased every seat in the theatre for sale to families whose members include individuals on the autism spectrum.

To ensure that TDF will meet the needs of this audience, TDF is working with an advisory panel of experts in the field of autism. The panel will provide TDF with expertise and counsel throughout the development and implementation of this pilot program.

"For the first time in Broadway history a designated performance of a show will be open to the autism community," said Lisa Carling, TDF's director of accessibility programs (TAP). "Our goal is to be as inclusive as possible, welcoming families with children and adults on the autism spectrum, including Asperger's syndrome, to fill the theatre and be assured that everyone involved with the production-from the cast, production crew and theatre staff-is delighted to have the audience there. No judgments-just united support in making the theatre experience as enjoyable as possible for its audience."

In order to be "autism-friendly," the show is being performed in a friendly, supportive environment for an audience of families and friends with children or adults who are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or other sensitivity issues. Slight adjustments to the production will include reduction of any jarring sounds or strobe lights focused into the audience. In the theatre lobby area there will be designated quiet areas, staffed with autism experts, if anyone needs to leave their seats during the performance.

Tickets for this performance, which is nearly sold out, were purchased by tri-State area schools and members of organizations that serve people on the autism spectrum. If you are interested in being notified of future autism-friendly performances, please go to tdf.org/autism.
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