Sensory and Autism Friendly Events across the United States for the Holidays

With the increased number of families impacted by autism many malls, theatres and traditional holiday venues are providing special sensory friendly events this holiday season and throughout the coming year. The trend is towards scheduling a specific performance or time for families with autistic children or children who need a sensory-friendly environment.

These performances do not follow the traditional rules. The house lights do not go down all the way, sounds that are normally loud are quieter or patrons are signaled when they will occur, patrons are not expected to sit still through the performance and the crowd is filled with people who understand the difficulties of parenting a child on the spectrum. Some theatres provide social stories before the actual performance to help the children understand what is happening and what is expected. Other theatres may allow patrons to go in and out of the theatre during the performance as needed or have a special ‘quiet’ room for those that need it.

Malls across the country are also providing special hours for families to bring autistic children to see Santa. If you are not aware of any in your area, call the local mall to check into the schedule. If they do not have a specific time arranged, ask about the quietest time to bring your child. This can alleviate waiting in lines.

Some theatres are also providing special matinee performances for their holiday event. Families can take their children to see family favorites like A Christmas Carol (Hartford Stage or the Great Lakes Theater), Annie (Theatre at the Mount or Open Door Theatre) or The Nutcracker (Pittsburg Ballet Theatre or Colorado Conservatory of Dance). Check with local theatres to determine if a sensory-friendly performance has been scheduled.

Movies are also a big part of the holiday season for some families. Many theatres across the country have begun to provide sensory friendly performances. Chains like AMC actually offer a scheduled family movie monthly on Saturday Mornings. Other theaters such as the Carmike Theatre in Mounds View Minnesota have scheduled a showing of Annie for the holiday season. Check with local theatres to see what they have scheduled.

Other holiday favorites that are scheduled with sensory friendly performances include the following:

How the Grinch Stole Christmas – The Old Globe (

Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol – Adventure Theatre (

Season of Miracles – Paper Mill Playhouse (

The Light Princess – A.R.T. (

To find information on these and other sensory friendly performances simply search the phrase: Sensory Friendly performances, December. A list of performances from around the country will be displayed.