Earlier this month, UNC Health Care sponsored an “autism-friendly” performance of “ELF The Musical” at DPAC.

The performance was designed for those on the autism spectrum that may have difficulty focusing in a theater or could benefit from a more relaxed environment.

UNC Health Care donated over 2,000 sensory friendly kits for audience members with sensory needs, and volunteers from the UNC Autism Research Center were present to provide any assistance.

Project Manager for the UNC Autism Research Center Allison Zoller says adapted shows such as this are becoming more commonplace due to raised awareness of autism and all of those it affects.

“With some simple changes in lighting and sound and spaces where families can take a break you can take a typical show and adapt it for an audience of people who have special needs,” says Zoller. “That’s what DPAC has done, and I think that DPAC is a great asset to our community.”

The sensory kits consist of a stress ball, fidget spinner and a bendy stick, officials said in a release.

“Children can sit in their seat; they can manipulate them, and they can fulfill whatever sensory need that needs to be met, while the rest of their family can sit and enjoy the show,” says Zoller.

Zoller says the theater can be a particularly difficult place for those with autism and sensory issues, and slight adjustments such as this can make a big difference.

“We want to make these types of life experiences available to them,” says Zoller. “For some families, this is a rare opportunity to participate in an activity in the community with the entire family, so by giving them tools like this and support, we allow them to participate in another community activity.”

Any leftover sensory kits have been reserved for use at future shows.