Outsmarting the Hard of Autism to Attend Live Theater

I love musicals and other live theater performances. About five years ago I googled the name of the performing arts theater in my town along with “season tickets” and was delighted to discover the possibility for a whole new adventure!

My friend Marilyn and her adult son Jimmy (who also likes musicals and has autism) decided they would like to do this too. Each year I am the person who sends out the information on shows and orders the tickets for all three of us.

Along the way we had to outsmart the hard of our autism and figure out how to make this work for Jimmy and for me. We infused our outings with predictability, sameness and routine (Endow, 2009, 2011, 2013) to decrease anxiety thus increasing enjoyment. Some of the things we do today that ensure that both Jimmy and I will be set up to have a great time include these things:

  • The first year, by mere coincidence, we got seats smack in the middle of a row with a wall behind our backs. They were perfect for us! I found out what to do to insure we get these same seats every year and then follow through to make it happen.
  • Jimmy finds it extremely difficult to pass in front people or to have people pass in front of him once he is seated. With these middle seats that doesn’t happen as long as we are the first ones seated in our row. We always arrive way ahead of time at the theater and as soon as the doors open we are among the first in line and thus, the first people seated in our row.
  • I find it difficult to have people passing behind me once I am seated, whether in a restaurant or theater. Another reason our seats that have a short wall section directly behind us work so well for us!
  • Jimmy and I both like to know exactly what we are doing ahead of time. We have developed a routine for going to the theater. Arrive very early, sit on a particular bench outside the theater doors, get in line as soon as the ticket takers arrive, find our seats and stay there until the musical is over.
  • We are among the last to leave the theater due to where our seats are located. I love it because nobody is ever behind me on the way out!
  • We always go to the Sunday afternoon matinee and we always go out to eat at the same restaurant. The first year we tried different restaurants, but it just became so much easier to do the same routine each time so that is what we settled on. Jimmy likes the food and I appreciate the place only has booths along an outside wall, ensuring nobody will pass behind me and that we will have a nice meal. The restaurant is small enough to not be very noisy so that works well for us all.
  • This restaurant is also a popular place so I arrive 30 minutes ahead of Marilyn and Jimmy to put our names in to wait for a booth along the wall. I want the booth and Jimmy prefers not to wait so this routine serves us both well. I am always seated at a booth having coffee when my friends arrive.

Figuring out how to honor both of our autism neurologies in a way that resulted in being able to enjoy our season tickets has been great for us all. We constructed the elements of predictability, sameness and routine in our reoccurring outings along with ensuring our own accommodations. Next up for us is Book of Mormon, and then, Mama Mia the following month. Many autistics – just like Jimmy and me, with a bit of intentionality and practice on fine-tuning of the routine – can come to access community events they enjoy.



Endow, J. (2019).  Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology. Lancaster, PA: Judy Endow.

Endow, J. (2012). Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of One Autistic Adult. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2006).  Making Lemonade: Hints for Autism’s Helpers. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2013).  Painted Words: Aspects of Autism Translated. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2009).  Paper Words: Discovering and Living With My Autism. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009).  Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorders. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2010).  Practical Solutions for Stabilizing Students With Classic Autism to Be Ready to Learn: Getting to Go. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Myles, B. S., Endow, J., & Mayfield, M. (2013).  The Hidden Curriculum of Getting and Keeping a Job: Navigating the Social Landscape of Employment. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Originally written for and published by Ollibean on February 10, 2015