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Sensory-friendly performance for families affected by autism

On December 7, 2019, the Boston Pops gave a sensory-friendly concert where 1,085 families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder or other sensory sensitivities celebrated the holiday spirit. Before opening the hall to the public, trained staff with experience working with an autistic population prepared BSO staff and volunteers for the kinds of behaviors they might encounter. Pre-concert materials such as a program guide and social narrative contextualized the event for attendees. Conductor Keith Lockhart led 120 Boston Pops and Tanglewood Festival Chorus musicians in renditions of holiday classics including Frosty the Snowman, Sleigh Ride, the Little Drummer Boy, and Amahl and the Night Visitors. There were readings of The Polar Express and The Night Before Christmas with graphics from the books projected onto the screen and sing-alongs. Throughout this event, Symphony Hall was a safe and welcoming place where people of all ages on the spectrum and their families shared a high-quality music performance. The concert was not only powerful and deeply appreciated by audiences, it further refined the BSO’s approach to community inclusion, access, and accommodation. These sensory-friendly concerts are a powerful way for families to experience and discover music together. Individuals with autism or sensory sensitivities and their family members benefited emotionally and socially from shared high-quality concert experiences.