Last month, Pediatric Alliance sponsored a contest to win tickets for the first ever Autism-Friendly Nutcracker performed by the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater. One of the winners shares her family’s story of their night out on the town:
Happy New Year!
I know that it has been a few days since the Autism-Friendly performance of the Nutcracker but my family wanted to express our sincere appreciation to Pediatric Alliance for offering tickets to this event and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre for accommodating these truly special people. The last time I was able to see the Nutcracker was about 9 years ago. I was working backstage as an athletic trainer and was able to sneak out occasionally when I wasn’t needed, so seeing the entire performance was a special occasion in itself! This time our entire family was able to enjoy the show! We had a fantastic time and all the staff and volunteers at the Benedum were so wonderful with the kids, especially our 7 year-old son (PDD-NOS, Sensory issues, ADHD).
We decided to make a day of the event and go to lunch downtown before the show. Our oldest daughter chose a nice restaurant a few blocks away and, truthfully, as long as Ryan can order French fries, apples, or plain pasta or chicken he’s a happy camper! We found parking rather easily underneath the restaurant and since things were going smoothly decided to order an appetizer. When the calamari came out Ryan decided that he wanted to try those little “chicken circles” so we let him, thinking that he would make a funny face and that would be the end of it, however we did not realize how magical this day would be! Not only did Ryan try a new food but he loved it, AND he also ate most of his own meal! While walking to the show, Ryan very diligently informed us of every walk and don’t walk signal, happily read signs in windows and on buildings and commented on all the logos that he recognized. It was like having a little tour guide!
Once we got to the Benedum, we were greeted at the door by not only the ticket takers but also some lovely volunteers offering squishy sensory toys to those that would like one, and then pleasantly guiding us to the coat check, our general seat direction, and all the activities downstairs. This just proves that even with many people and lots of things going on, a little bit of organization goes a long way. Ryan and his siblings had the opportunity to get their picture taken with the sugar plum fairy, relax on bean bag chairs, listen to a cellist, dance around, and also make a small nutcracker craft. Once we found our seats – which were really spectacular – we talked about the dancers and the show synopsis. We read the program, examined the very detailed ceiling, and talked about the Nutcracker clock at the top of the stage. The show started with softer than typical music, dimmed lights rather than a complete black out, and a few quiet ooo’s and giggles from the all the kids.
This show held Ryan’s attention and curiosity throughout. He energetically informed us of how many dancers were on stage at all times – which was highly entertaining especially when the larger ensemble came out! And even though he sat on our laps most of the time and talked occasionally during the show, we never felt out of place or disruptive. It was inclusive, respectful, and well done.
Thanks again to Pediatric Alliance and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre for helping those with special needs and their entire families have a wonderful experience!