Sensory-Friendly Play Coming To The Syosset Public Library

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It’s that time of year when parents enjoy bringing their children to all kinds of holiday attractions, whether it’s meeting Santa Claus or seeing a festive play.
However, indulging in the holiday cheer is not easy for all families.
According to the Autism Research Institute, children and adults with autism, as well as those with other underlying developmental disabilities, may have a dysfunctional sensory system. With a growing movement towards autism awareness and acceptance, according to The Place for Children with Autism, an increasing number of businesses are offering “sensory-friendly” accommodations. Many factors go into making an event sensory-friendly, including a trained staff who communicate more directly and avoid making eye contact, which makes some individuals on the spectrum uncomfortable. There are also environmental factors that make an event sensory-friendly, such as a focus on a calming color scheme and a serene space that doesn’t expose guests to sudden changes in light, a space with sensory objects and toys that can stimulate a guest’s sense of touch; a volume that doesn’t get too high or low and prevention of loud and sudden noises and heavily scented air fresheners or odors.
On Dec. 10, a sensory-friendly holiday play, Once Upon a Snowflake, will be held at the Syosset Public Library Theater. The play, which is currently sold out, was specifically adapted for children with autism and autism spectrum disorders, and there will be a calming corner and coping tools available. Once Upon a Snowflake is presented by the Sunrise Theatre Company based in Lynbrook.
“We have offered a sensory-friendly play for a while now,” librarian Meghan Fangmann said via email. “My coworker started it years ago and I recently began coordinating it the last few years. The calming corner we set up outside the theater with a number of fidgets (Puzzles, tangles, coloring pages, etc). We started the play to reach out to more families in the community and offer a nice experience in the library.”
Brian Sweeney, the executive of the Sunrise Theatre Company, explained that Once Upon a Snowflake is a holiday story that can appeal to anyone regardless of faith or background.
“It has a great message about how kindness prevails,” Sweeney said.
The music for the play was written by Scott Bradley and the book and lyrics were written by Tina Jo Wallace, who both create one-act musicals for young audiences.
What goes into making Once Upon a Snowflake sensory-friendly is the tech elements.
“We don’t use microphones, so that cuts down on any unnecessary noise,” Sweeney said. “The sound effects we use are very minimal, and we only use things that are not of a high volume or are very over-stimulating… The audience lights stay half on throughout the show, and the lights we have on stage never blackout. We never use any strobe lights. It’s a general lighting wash throughout. There’s no sudden changes in the noise, the sounds or the lights.”
This is the first time the Sunrise Theatre Company is presenting a sensory friendly show, however the cast and crew has experience with these shows.
“Theater is so important to young audiences,” Sweeney said. “Especially in productions like this, there’s so many good lessons to be taught and such an appreciation for music and theater and the arts that can be cultivated at a young age and I think it’s sad that a lot of times, children with autism are excluded from that because of the limitations with the noise and the sound and the lights, so I think it’s important we are able to create something that accomodates people with those needs.”

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