Sensory-Friendly Performances at Dallas Children's Theater Have Unexpected Impactby Patty Bates-Ballard on 02/24/15
My son, Kory, is wonderful. He's so full of love and joy. He does have several special needs. He had a stroke in utero. He has seizures. He has Down syndrome. Kory does not understand "inside voice " or "be quiet" or even "shhhh." While Kory can be quite loud, ironically, he doesn't tolerate loud noises from others very well.
I can remember taking Kory and his brother Kaden to the Nutcracker in a large auditorium in the Metroplex about 5 years ago. It was a day they specially invited children with special needs, but there were no modifications to the performance. We made it about half way through, but the performance was too loud. Kory started crying and I had to take him out.
So these days, except for his brother's soccer games, we don't go many places where we can enjoy watching something together as a family. When Kory's seizures got worse a couple of years ago, I tried taking him to church with me in the sanctuary so I could monitor him, but he couldn't sit quietly for an hour in that setting. So we had to stop going church. For years we just didn't go many places at all, to tell the truth. And Kory and his brother Kaden, who is typically developing, have been missing out on, and really have been excluded from, a lot of the activities that help children develop into healthy adults.
But now I have new hope. Kory had an amazing evolution last year thanks to the sensory-friendly performances at Dallas Children's Theater. At the first performance in March, Kory wore his headphones, he fidgeted a lot, and he was just kind of a mess. And that was just fine with everyone because their mission was to make us feel at home, and that was awesome, because HE MADE IT THROUGH. By the third show in October, Kory watched the full performance intently without headphones, and he didn't fidget. You have no idea what an amazing accomplishment that was. So, we tried going back to church again, because all of the sudden Kory could sit for an hour in an auditorium comfortably. And he made it through church! So now we go every week, and Kaden gets to go to his class, and Kory's my church buddy. And I attribute his growth to his theater experience.
I have to say as a parent, this experience really impressed upon me how beneficial live theater's brain stimulation can be for both of my children. So now I’m committed to ensuring that it's a regular part of their lives and all children lives, because I’ve seen the benefits firsthand. So take your children to the theater – come with us, even! I can't wait to tell you what Kory does next as he has more opportunities to grow at Dallas Children's Theater.
I gave this testimony recently when Kory and I were invited to be part of a Dallas Children's Theater presentation team. It was a wonderful experience because he and I got to spend time with a group of extremely talented people, all highly motivated to make theater accessible to children like Kory and their families. I am deeply grateful to this group and to all at Dallas Children's Theater for their tireless efforts to make their sensory-friendly vision come to life.