Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Sensory-Friendly Performance

Earlier this year (in February), my entire family attended a special concert for families with autistic children put on by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. This sensory-friendly performance was the second annual performance, and it is the idea of the conductor himself, Jaap van Zweden. The linked news story is from last year, when the first one was put on. We only learned about it this year.

As it turns out, conductor Jaap van Zweden has an autistic son. It is actually not that uncommon for creative types such as Zweden (or myself—I am a poet, fiction writer, and playwright) to have children on the spectrum. Silicon Valley is famously full of autistic children (and their mildly autistic parents). It should perhaps not be surprising that a combination of strong pattern-detection, strong visual memory, strong long-term memory, weak censor, and weak tendency to follow the crowd (or even be aware of the crowd) is associated with artistic creativity.

Now, I wish I could report that the symphony had the same effect on Daniel as did Balloonacy, but perhaps because there is so much music in our house and perhaps because Melina is taking piano lessons, so he has heard this kind of music before, he didn’t seem all that into it. Of course, it may have been just that he was in a new place and was therefore uncomfortable. He mostly slumped in his chair, but then he also sat in my lap for a bit, during which time he seemed to be paying more attention to the orchestra.

Of course, his lack of complete focus may have been because he also had something on his mind about which he was primarily concerned, and therefore was barely aware that there was interesting music taking place. The day before, he had bought a solar system to hang up in his room, and I told him we were going to put it together when we got home from the symphony. And that, of course, is precisely what we did the minute we walked through the door. Because when Daniel prioritizes, he prioritizes hard.

On the other hand, he did say he recognized one of the pieces. J. Strauss, Jr’s. On the Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz, Op. 314. It’s sometimes hard to tell when he’s really paying attention to something. Things in the periphery are often what people one the spectrum are really paying attention to. Maybe he’ll be more into it next year.

Regular readers of my blog know that I have written before about the sensory-friendly performances at the Dallas Children’s Theater, particularly Balloonacy, which was turned into a video. I am happy that these sensory-friendly performances are starting to spring up in Dallas. They allow autistic children to get exposure to culture, and they allow families such as ours to be able to go out to places without our worrying about how Daniel will behave or react.

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One thought on “Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Sensory-Friendly Performance

  1. Glad to see this spreading everywhere. I posted about some events in my area a couple of days ago. (https://littlemariablueeyedangel.wordpress.com/2017/10/31/gratitude/) My daughter is still a bit young for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. That doesn’t mean that I have not already thought about taking her, considering how much I used to enjoy their concerts. Not sure they do put up those sensor-friendly events. I have searched, but came up empty. The Ann Arbor orchestra, on the other hand, does. I agree with you. Our children and our family can benefit tremendously from enjoying what other people take for granted and many times we cannot offer our loved ones those activities. That’s why I keep on saying that what we need is not awareness, but acceptance. The time for awareness is over. We already know Autism is out there. We need to move to the next step, acceptance, and include those with Autism like we have already done with so many other disabilities.

    Love your posts. I still need to catch up. Been very busy these past few days. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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