As autism diagnoses continue to rise around the world, beneficial opportunities are becoming more common for children and adults on the autism spectrum — from animal therapy to a cooking system designed to help organize and prep meals. The most recent endeavor we’ve come across that caters to those with ASD takes place at a fairly unlikely venue — the opera. At the Victorian Opera in Melbourne, Australian kids and performers are taking part in a new pilot program designed to make opera more accessible to children with sensory and communication disorders, autism, and Down Syndrome. Instead of the usual dramatic performance setting, the opera house creates a toned down version with the volume lowered, performers who introduce themselves beforehand and who don’t wear make-up, lights dimmed but not completely darkened, a narrator explaining the plot, and the ability for little opera goers to move around or even leave the auditorium for a break in the action. For children with autism spectrum disorders, these changes make a vital difference and offer them a door into the wonderful world of the performing arts.
Similar accommodating conditions are even being replicated at a local movie theater as well, another area where virtually every child at a young age finds the loud noises and the darkened theater to be intimidating and the seats to be too confining. While these performances aren’t considered formal music therapy, there’s no denying that many children and adults with autism find comfort and empowerment in music and movies and some even find a way to identify with the world through these media. While both of these programs are wonderful examples of how to bring music and film to more kids, the modifications at the cinema especially seem an easy way to offer the experience of an arts program and should serve as a model across the globe for other cities and establishments.