Theater performances are often thought of as a fun, entertaining experience for the family, but when sounds, lighting, crowds, and other stimulants can be too much, the experience is sometimes anything but enjoyable.

The Children’s Theater of Madison, with their Access for All initiative, recognizes the importance of an inclusive theater experience and has worked hard to provide the Madison community with their own sensory friendly performances.

The Children’s Theater of Madison (CTM) began their sensory friendly performances in 2014 and their upcoming performance on May 5th, Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, will be their 10th!

These sensory friendly shows are specifically reserved for families that have children who have disabilities and various sensory needs. To adapt these performances, every piece of the performance is thoughtfully considered and reviewed by the play’s artistic staff as well people who work in the field of sensory needs and disability, including staff from CI and young community members who have disabilities.

For these performances, music and sound effects are quieter, no strobe lights are used, and the house lights are on throughout the performance. In addition to sensory adjustments on stage, other sensory friendly elements include offering general admission instead of assigned seating, allowing snacks in the theater, offering complimentary gluten-free snacks and water to families, offering multiple family restrooms, and providing a low-stimulation room.

Fidgets and sound minimizing headsets are also offered to the theater-goers before the performance and they are available during, just by simply raising your hand. Volunteers are stationed throughout the audience to be able to hand out whatever is needed: headset, squishy fidget, fidget-spinner, etc.

In addition to all of these considerations, CTM, in partnership with Achieving Collaborative Treatment (ACT) and CI, provide activities in the Rotunda Stage, outside of the Playhouse Theater, for children if they need a break from the performance. These activities include: sensory bins, small trampolines and tunnels, drama games, and coloring activities. Plus, the performance is also projected onto a screen so no one has to miss out on the fun going on in the theater space.

We are so impressed by CTM’s commitment to making their performing arts accessible, and we love seeing our families enjoying the sensory friendly performances and other theater opportunities! This past fall CI hosted a new program, created by CTM, ACT and CI, at our Verona CI clinic. This program was called Setting the Stage and welcomed local youth with disabilities into the world of acting and drama. It was a fun and successful three week program where everyone was able to use their creativity, imagination, and talent in new and exciting ways in a safe and supporting space.

The main goal of a sensory friendly performance is to create a space where youth and their families feel comfortable, supported and free to be themselves. And we love happening the opportunity to partner with CTM to meet this goal!

We welcome you to join us at the next sensory friendly performance on May 5th! You can reserve your family’s tickets at any CI clinic for just $5 per ticket.

If you have any hesitations or questions, please reach out to Ketura at and she would be happy to help.

Thank you for reading,
Ketura M. Luginbuhl, CTRS