Assistance for people with an Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASD), learning disability or sensory and communication disorder

Relaxed Performances in live theatre

Relaxed performances are specially designed to welcome people to a show who may find it difficult to come to the theatre because they are anxious, make involuntary noises, are likely to need to talk or move around. During a regular performance this can disturb other audience members or worry carers and companions but at a relaxed performance all these behaviours are welcomed.

Relaxed performances differ in the following ways:

Lighting and special effects will be changed slightly. For example, strobes or flashing lights will be removed and very loud noises reduced in volume.

Throughout the performances there will be a more relaxed attitude towards audience noise and to audience members who need to leave for a while before returning to the auditorium.

The cast, technical crew and front of house staff are trained to look after the audience in general ways.

During the show, an area will usually be available as a quiet space to relax for those who need to leave the show.

Many relaxed performances use adapted audio-description, adapted captioning and British Sign Language (or Makaton signing) to help the audience anticipate surprises and visual effects.

Audience members may be sent a special “Visual Story” to prepare them for their visit. Some theatres put together a video to help preparation as well.

Chilled Performances

The Chilled category is a mid-way experience between regular and relaxed performances. These are not just for people with additional and complex needs but also for parents who may be worried about taking their child to the theatre for the first time.

The lights are left on for longer than normal and are turned down slowly so it’s less scary. The sound is also adjusted so that it is not too loud for those with sensitive hearing. Apart from this, the show runs as normal with all the pyrotechnics and flashes that are required for the performance. However, warnings will be given in advance of the show if these techniques are being used.

In the foyers and bars, people are able to use Chill Out Zones and a Quiet Room if they are needed. Staff will be supportive, welcoming and tolerant of audience noise and movement.

Autism Friendly Screenings at the Cinema

Many cinemas have a monthly autism friendly show. The lights will be on low at all times and the volume of the sound surround turned down. There will be no trailers at the beginning of the film and you can take your own food and drinks. People are also welcome to move around the cinema if they need to.

Going to the cinema or any new environment can be challenging for some people with autism and preparation is very important. One way to prepare is by using a Social Story. Templates for these can be downloaded easily and adapted to your own circumstances to plan a trip to the cinema.