I frequently hear parents say “My kid loves music! What can you do with them?” As a music therapist, I love hearing it. Often times, music is the language that people with autism prefer. Music is so individual, it provides a unique platform for successful experiences regardless of how our bodies and brains communicate. And it is natural to the human experience. Music promotes neurodiversity, this idea that we all fall on a spectrum neurologically. These differences shouldn’t be scrutinized, but celebrated and, most importantly, accommodated.
Sensory Friendly Concerts, like those happening right now at the Minnesota Orchestra, further develop this idea of neurodiversity by encouraging self-advocacy through performance and providing an adapted setting for enjoying quality music. Similar to a sensory friendly theater performance or movie, audience members are not required to follow social norms that accompany a typical community experience. Sensory Friendly Concerts are facilitated by a board certified music therapist to assist with audience participation and interaction. Think of it as a community music therapy experience. Reactions and movement to music are encouraged, and creating an environment that provides a safe space for enjoying music is the priority.
Performances during the concerts are not limited to professional musicians. We also welcome those with sensory sensitivities to share their own musical talents in front of an appreciative audience. We have had phenomenal people share their vocal, string, piano, and some emcee talents with the participants. They are an amazing source of love, energy, and life. And too often they are not provided the resources to be successful in the community. It is our job to recognize and foster that talent, and encourage them as friends, advocates, and artistic beings.
Sensory Friendly Concerts are a way to do all of those things, by making music accessible, ensuring community space that is welcoming, and highlighting the talents and voices of those who are so often unheard.