Theatre Development Fund’s Autism Theater Initiative Expands

Families with members who are on the autism spectrum can attend a special, autism-friendly performance organized by TDF. Photo courtesy of TDF.
August 1, 2013 - The non-profit Theatre Development Fund’s Autism Theater Initiative moves into its third season with special, autism-friendly performances of The Lion King on Sunday, September 29, Spider-Man on November 16, 2013, and Wicked on March 2, 2014.

TDF Accessibility Programs (TAP), which created the Fund’s Autism Theater Initiative, has worked since 1979 to make Broadway shows accommodating to people with the widest possible range of disabilities by providing necessary audio, visual and mobility assistance to those who require it. In 2011, the Accessibility Programs expanded the scope of its accommodation by introducing the Autism Theater Initiative, which produced the first-ever autism friendly performance on Broadway with Disney’s The Lion King. Since then, TDF has been able to expand attendance at these events and even help other organizations host similar events in theatres in Houston, San Diego, Chicago, Boston and London, among others.

For these autism-friendly performances, TDF purchases every ticket in the theaters and offers them at a discount to families with members who are on the autism spectrum. TDF also sets aside several hundred tickets that it distributes for free to organizations that help low-income families with autistic members.

To make these performances autism-friendly, TDF’s Autism Theater Initiative has worked with a panel of autism experts who have helped ensure that the shows are “performed in a friendly, supportive environment” with only slight adjustments being made to the productions such as the reduction of jarring sounds or intense lights focused on the audience. The performances will also include designated quiet and activity areas that are staffed with trained autism experts and volunteers in case anyone needs to leave the performance.

To buy tickets to any of these performances, which fill up fast, or to learn more about future autism-friendly productions, visit

- Jordan Gary
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