Growing up I was a HUGE fan of The Lion King. Now as an adult I still love watching the film with my younger cousins and mentees. Then recently I heard that an autism-friendly performance of The Lion King was happening on Broadway! I bought tickets right away and was ready for the nostalgia to begin.

Thanks to the Theatre Development Fund and the Autism Theatre Initiative, every season they have several of these autism-friendly performances for our families to enjoy.

The day of the performance came and I was ecstatic. As the performance began, all the families seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. Right before the end of the first act, the actors were performing the classic song ‘Hakuna Matata’ when I noticed a young boy stand up out of his chair and began to sing along. There this boy was, flapping his arms and singing when I was thinking the worst was about to happen to this boy.

I instantly became concerned for the boy. That any minute from now there would be a strange making a comment in his direction.

But what happened next left me speechless…

Absolutely nothing.

No judgment.

No criticism.

Just a boy singing Hakuna Matata with a big smile on his face.

As the song concluded, the first act ended, and the lights came back on I noticed a woman next to the boy, with tears still running down her eyes with a smile just as big as the boys was now on her face.

The audience just understood that the boy was having an amazing time at the theatre.

These are the type of moments that take my breathe away.

This was a moment where there was no judgment from anyone around them, just a family member, most likely her mom, enjoying something together as a family.

When I was growing up on the autism spectrum I often struggled with challenges in the theatre due to my sensory issues. I always pulled through though because even though the loud noises tended to bother me at times one of my key interests was in theatre. I was able to enjoy countless moments of pure joy with my family and so was this mom with her son.

I cannot thank the Theatre Development Fund and the Autism Theatre Initiative for continuing to make these moments possible for our community. We need more people to lead by their example in their local communities to make all forms of entertainment possible for our loved ones in an autism-friendly setting.

The performance that day was incredible but for me it was the audience that stole the show. Thank you to our community for making that moment possible.