Sensory-Friendly Shows at Abrams Planetarium Making Space Inclusive for All

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Performances, sporting events and movies are often difficult for people with autism to fully enjoy. Loud noises and flashing lights can be triggers, making for an uncomfortable experience. That’s why sensory-friendly shows have been popping up across the country at all types of venues, from local movie theatres to the Kennedy Center. MSU is joining this positive initiative by hosting sensory-friendly shows at Abrams Planetarium, which has been educating the public about astronomy since 1964.

On the third Sunday of every month, the theater doors to the Abrams Planetarium open for a fun show that includes a live star talk and a look at the night sky. Shows run with the lights up, sound low and doors open for the audience to express themselves and move about freely.

Sensory-friendly shows can have a variety of different aspects. For music performances, the audio is usually turned to a lower decibel while flashing lights are kept to a minimum. Movie theaters usually leave the lights on while also turning the audio to a lower level. Staff members at venues are usually debriefed on best practices and things they should know when hosting these unique and inclusive events.
Roger Ideishi, director of occupational therapy at Temple University, told Billboard in a December 2017 article that the popularity growth in sensory-friendly shows should be attributed to education from venues themselves.

“Its primary growth is through education at the annual LEAD conference, and it seems to take off from there,” Ideishi said.

Sensory-friendly shows are on the third Sunday of every month at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. with a short break between the main show and the start of the star talk. Ticket sales begin 30 minutes prior to the start of the show. Ticket prices for all shows are: $4.50 for adults, $4 for students and senior citizens and $3.50 for children age 12 and under.