Houston theaters create sensory-friendly shows for autistic audience members

HOUSTON – One in 88 children are diagnosed with autism.

Some Houston theater groups do not want them to be left out of enjoying the arts. Groups like Main Street Theater, the Houston Ballet and Society of Performing Arts are performing sensory-friendly acts for these audience members and their families.

These performances are to create a supportive environment for audience members like Logan Willard who's on the autism spectrum and aware of what bothers him and why.

“I notice that I will flap my hands a lot,” Logan explained.

When asked why he flaps his hands or was rocking during the performance, he replied, “It's really cold in here.”

One part of sensory difficulties he copes with is temperature but he says there were no other challenges during the performance on Wednesday morning.

“Although children with autism or people with autism have similar… reactions to different stimuli, each person is completely different so I have some students who don't react to sound and some students who do,” said Grady McWhorter, “It's difficult to create a play that suits every single person's needs on the spectrum but I think they did a really nice job.”

Each season, specifically for these guests, the Hobby Center has several performances where they  keep the theater under capacity, audience members can get up, move, talk and the sound is not supposed to be as loud as regular performances.

“I’m one of the people that thinks there's scientific knowledge, scientific research, that actually proves that exposure to music, theater and the arts actually affects the development of kids' brains in a really positive way," said Fran Macferran, president of the Hobby Center Foundation.

Macferran said there are about four sensory-friendly performances at the Hobby Center each season.