I’m about to say something that might seem to go against the grain, but I’m going to say it anyway.
Sensory-friendly performances aren’t inclusive.
There. Feel better? Me too.
Here’s why I feel this way.
When a play or a movie or, well, really anything goes about its normal business, things are likely to be loud, bright, overwhelming, and busy. We can certainly acknowledge that this can feel downright volatile to anyone with “different” sensory needs.
I feel like organizations are SO hellbent to provide “autism friendly” or “sensory friendly” experiences that they forget one vital fact: This doesn’t provide inclusion, it provides a way for those with sensory needs to experience the thing separate from everyone else. And that, my lovelies, is exclusion.
I’m gonna tiptoe out on a limb here, but what if – gasp – every performance or every day was sensory friendly? Who would that harm?
What if places with sensory rooms at certain times (only during specific events) had those spaces (like a room to calm and regroup) ALL the time? And why have they not done that yet?
Look, I want my kids to go to this thing or that thing just as much as anyone else. And when we see a “sensory friendly” showing of something I do smile. At first. And then I realize that my kids won’t experience the thing along with their neurotypical peers. They will get to share it with other kids like them, but they would get to do that organically if sensory friendly was just a THING that we could find any day of the week.
So why can’t we?
People/companies seem to think it’s out of reach. Or maybe they think that one performance out of 20 that is done as sensory friendly is sufficient.
I can tell you right now, it’s not.