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Growing up, I was a huge fan of “The Lion King.” Now as an adult, I still love watching the film with my younger cousins and mentees. Then recently, I heard that an autism-friendly performance of “The Lion King” was happening on Broadway! I bought tickets right away and was ready for the nostalgia to begin.
The day of the performance came and I was ecstatic. As the performance began, all the families seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. Right before the end of the first act, the actors were performing the classic song “Hakuna Matata” when I noticed a young boy stand up out of his chair and began to sing along.
There this boy was, flapping his arms and singing, and I was thinking the worst was about to happen. I instantly became concerned for the boy. That any minute, there would be a stranger making a comment in his direction.
But what happened next left me speechless…
No judgment. No criticism. Just a boy singing “Hakuna Matata” with a big smile on his face.
As the song concluded after the first act ended, and the lights came back on, I noticed a woman next to the boy with tears still running down her eyes. A smile just as big as the boy’s was on her face.
The audience understood that the boy was having an amazing time at the theater.
These are the types of moments that take my breath away.
This was a moment where there was no judgment from anyone around them, just people enjoying something together as a family.
When I was growing up on the autism spectrum, I often struggled with challenges in the theater due to my sensory issues. But even though the loud noises tended to bother me at times, one of my key interests was in theater. I was able to enjoy countless moments of pure joy with my family, and so was this mom with her son.
I cannot thank the Theatre Development Fund and the Autism Theatre Initiative for continuing to make these moments possible for our community. We need more people to lead by their example in their local communities to make all forms of entertainment possible for our loved ones in an autism-friendly setting.
The performance that day was incredible, but for me it was the audience that stole the show. Thank you to our community for making that moment possible.