Thinking About Taking Sensory Processing Disorder Kids to a Play? Do It!

audience-auditorium-back-view-713149“Paw Patrol is coming!” more than a few friends gleefully told us as advertising for the event picked up. “Are you guys going?” 

We weren’t sure.  Yes, our two-year olds love Paw Patrol, as evidenced by their Paw Patrol shoes, Paw Patrol pajamas, Paw Patrol stuffed animals and Paw Patrol bath toys.  We’ve worked hard to eliminate most of the tv they used to watch (we were desperate and it was a free babysitter, and when will I not feel the need to apologize for letting my kids watch TV?!), but will occasionally get a special request for “Puppies, please!” Despite the fact that Paw Patrol is irritating for adults to sit through, my kids love it. Why wouldn’t we go? 

Well, because our two cherubs have not proven to be the easiest children to take somewhere.  Zak, our FASD boy, is sensory avoidant, and is easily overwhelmed.  He communicates this to us by having a colossal, public meltdown complete with stomping feet, boogers, and such high-pitched screaming I am amazed we haven’t gone viral on YouTube.  

And Wheezie, his sister, is sensory-seeking, which makes sitting still enormously difficult for her.  When they bring art projects home from preschool, hers has a single obligatory crayon swoosh while her brother’s is proof of at least thirty minutes of sustained attention. A play, no matter who the stars, seemed like recipe for disaster. One child melting down, the other squirming off her seat, and beleaguered parents doing damage control in the lobby. 

So I contacted VStar Entertainment and asked them to comp us tickets in exchange for a blog post about taking sensory processing kids to a live show. This clearly was a gesture of good will on their part, and one that made it possible for us to take the leap. It’s much easier to head straight into a disaster when it’s free. 

To prepare we did a few things:

  1. We prepared the kids as best we could. We told them that they were going to see Ryder and Skye and Marshall.  They looked at us blankly.  We repeated it anyway, for days leading up to it.  Did they understand that their animated television “friends” would be live? Probably not. 
  2. We planned around their best times of day and got tickets to the 10am performance, as mornings are infinitely easier than afternoons and evenings. 
  3. We packed snacks and comfort objects. A hungry kid can ruin even the best experience, and Zak seems to need frequent nibbles more than most kids. 
  4. We got to our seats three minutes before the performance began. This way, all the time Wheezie would need to sit would be entertaining. She is not great at waiting. 

So how’d it go?

It was beyond fun.  Zak was was overwhelmed, but manifest it by staring straight at the stage with a stunned look on his face.  He smiled twice, so we knew he was doing ok. It was Wheezie who rewarded our effort. She applauded with such vigor she knocked my glasses off my face and into the aisle. When each of the characters were introduced on stage, she’d wave wildly and yell, “Hi, Skye!! Hi, Marshall!” This child is exuberance itself, yet even we were surprised by how much she loved it. It was adorable to see, and one of the highlights of our summer. Sure, by the show’s end, Wheezie and I were crouched near the stage as she pleaded with me to letter up on stage to say hi to Skye, but for the first time in her life, she took “No” for an answer. 

The only thing I’d change is the merchandise.  A lot of kids had a twirly toy that lit up (the Paw Patrol Spin Light), and when the theatre got dark, Wheezie was easily distracted by these things.  

Overall, though, the event was a huge success.  So huge, in fact, the next weekend we took them to an all-kid production of the Lion King.  The puppies were far more effective at keeping their attention than the lions were, as it turned out, but it shows you that Paw Patrol Live wasn’t just a fun day; it opened our eyes to the fact that our kids LOVE live entertainment! And if I’m being honest, the parents loved it, too.   

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