Monday, May 6, 2019

And for once, nobody gave us a dirty look

Max and I traipsed through the rain yesterday to see the sensory-friendly performance of My Fair Lady, at Lincoln Center in New York City. To me, what was going on off-stage seemed as amazing as what was happening on it, and maybe even more so.

These shows are pretty awesome. They keep the house lights on, and the sound is a bit diminished. Staffers hand out rubber balls that can be squeezed for comfort. Members of the audience make noises and stand up and squeal and kick seats and do their thing and it's all good. 

Some kids near us had headphones on. (Max doesn't use those for shows anymore, but it occurred to me that maybe it wouldn't have been a bad idea to bring a pair on our London trip as some of the markets ended up being too much for him.) He was completely calm during the show, if a little bored despite my nudging him when favorites like "I Could Have Danced All Night" came on. I didn't have to worry when Max asked questions during a show (he typically needs guidance and does not exactly have an "inside voice") or got agitated. At one point, I heard him say "Daddy, I'm at the show!" and realized that he'd just dialed Dave from his Apple watch. Nobody around us cared, I told him he should wait till intermisison.

I felt lucky to be there, even if Max didn't totally feel the same. For many years, he did not even do do shows, and now we were lucky enough to be at a performance that welcome kids of all abilities.  If you've ever been to a show or movie with a child whose behavior disturbs other people, you know how tense things can get. Around me, parents did their best to help calm their children when they got upset, but for once they didn't have to stress out about being a nuisance or deal with hostile looks.

Sitting in that partially-lit theater, I felt like part of a community. Although we bumped into some people we knew, most of the audience were strangers. There seemed to be a lot of kids there with autism and Max has cerebral palsy, yet that didn't matter. It was that unique feeling of being surrounded by acceptance and understanding and people who get it. Unlike Eliza Dolittle, whose seeming speech imperfections (she didn't speak "proper" English) were treated with disdain by Professor Henry Higgins, the young people in the audience with autism and other developmental and cognitive disabilities could just be themselves.  

Afterward, we hung out by the Lincoln Center fountain for a bit. I used to come to ballets and symphony performances often before we had kids. Sometimes, when I stop by places I used to go pre-Max, I wistfully think about how carefree life used to be. But not this time. I was happy to be in a longtime favorite place with Max, glad to have a special day with him and lifted by our community. 

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Thanks for sharing!

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