Sensory Friendly Concerts Share Music with Seattle Families

The Seattle Symphony’s Sensory Friendly Concerts provide a comfortable environment where children affected by autism spectrum disorders can enjoy and interact with music.

It’s a concert unlike any other. There’s a dance zone, soft lighting and every attendee gets their own personal guide to customize their experience. Only 10 groups get in at a time. This isn’t some new, trendy club on Capitol Hill, however, or an exclusive underground show in Georgetown.

Sensory Friendly Concerts, a new program designed specifically for children with autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities, invites families with children ages 5 to 8 to enjoy small chamber works and participatory group songs in Soundbridge Seattle Symphony Music Discovery Center.

“Families with children affected by autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities may experience barriers to attending our Family Concerts and traditional Seattle Symphony concerts,” said Kristin Schneider, Education & Community Engagement Manager for the Seattle Symphony. “Inclusivity is one of the Symphony’s core values, so we wanted to create an experience that could be adapted to serve these families’ needs.”

The program was developed in partnership with the University of Washington Autism Center with special assistance from Dr. Annette Estes, Director of the UW Autism Center.

“The UW Autism Center was instrumental in developing the program from the very beginning,” said Schneider. “They provided extensive feedback on everything from how to adapt the program to what music to play. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

The concert experience includes instrument exploration before or after the show, a meet-and-greet with the featured musicians, and a 35-minute performance hosted by a board-certified music therapist. Each concert will highlight a different social skill and offer opportunities for families to connect with one another within and outside of the concert setting.

“We’re very fortunate to have Michael Lauckner as our host and narrator,” said Schneider. “As a board-certified music therapist, he makes changes on the spot to adapt the show to the audience by switching songs, coaching the musicians to play softer or louder, and deciding when to sing and dance together.”

Each family is paired with a concert buddy, a student volunteer from the music therapy program at Seattle Pacific University. They greet the families at the door and guide them through the experience.

Other concert features include:

  • Flexible seating options, including sensory cushions and zones designated for sitting, standing and dancing.
  • Comfortable lighting and lower volumes to accommodate visual and auditory sensitivities.
  • Resources emailed to families before the event, including a social story, visual schedule, photos of performers and the venue, and recordings of the featured chamber works.

The series includes three concerts in Soundbridge Seattle Symphony Music Discover Center on selected Saturdays and Sundays at 10am or 12 noon.

“These concerts are the first time many children and families are able to participate in a concert,” said Schneider. “I remember watching one particular child show his mother what he was excited about on the visual schedule we provided. In the end, it’s about creating a special experience for these families that they can share together.”

Visit seattlesymphony.org/sensoryfriendly to learn more.


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The Seattle Symphony’s Family, School & Community programs are supported by 4Culture, the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, The Boeing Company, Chihuly Garden + Glass, Citi Community Capital, The Clowes Fund, Inc., the Elizabeth McGraw Foundation, the Fales Foundation Trust, Key Bank Foundation, the League of American Orchestras, Richard and Francine Loeb, Kjristine Lund, D.V. and Ida J. McEachern Charitable Trust, Music4Life, Music Works Northwest, the National Endowment for the Arts, New Music USA, the Peg and Rick Young Foundation, Peo Tours, Inc., Russell Investments, Seattle Pacific University, the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation, Christine and Michel Suignard, Ten Grands Seattle, Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund, the U.S. Bank Foundation, UW Autism Center, Weill Music Institute, Wells Fargo Foundation and the Wyman Youth Trust.

Posted on October 4, 2016

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