(Last Updated On: January 27, 2020)

Let the good times roll.

Musicians play for children with Autism (From: Sophia Germer, nola.com)
Musicians play for children with Autism (From: Sophia Germer, nola.com)

Kids diagnosed with autism enjoyed a special sensor-friendly Mardi Gras concert made especially for them in New Orleans, Louisiana. They were given the opportunity to do crafts, listen to music, and dance along.

Mardi Gras is normally a celebration that’s strong on visual and audio stimulation, which makes it difficult for certain people to enjoy. People with an autism spectrum disorder, in particular, would have a hard time understanding all the noise happening at once.

With this in mind, the city of New Orleans held a Mardi Gras concert that catered specifically toward children with this order, offering audio-visual stimulants that are as enjoyable as they are pleasant for all ages.

Suitable for All Tastes and Ages

Simply called the “Sensory Friendly Mardi Gras Celebration” which was held last Saturday, kids who disliked loud sounds were offered headphones to block off unnecessary noise, while those with difficulty in interaction had special booths that allowed them to experience the celebration first-hand.

The event transpired in The Presbytère museum before it was opened to the public. This gave children more than enough space to play with arts and crafts or sit down and enjoy the music being played by the band.

Exhibits were set up for children to interact with (From: Sophia Germer, nola.com)
Exhibits were set up for children to interact with (From: Sophia Germer, nola.com)

Noise-canceling headphones were offered throughout the venue for those who needed the peace and quiet. Not all wanted to use the headphones, however:

”’He loves noise,’ said [Dylan’s] mother, Asanté Shepherd, clapping as her son tapped along on the big drum for the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s version of ‘Let the Good Times Roll.’”

Nola.com writes that events like this are still uncommon in New Orleans and that a “peaceful backdrop and programming” is essential for flexibility. Different kids have different preferences and needs, so adjusting on the fly is of utmost importance.

Taking Care of Those with the Disorder

Despite lots of studies being done for autism spectrum disorder, each child has a different way of communicating and socializing with others. A musician at the event, Will Smith, who has been a special education teacher for over 20 years, had to be extra perceptive of the audience’s reactions:

“I watch for their responses, to see what stimulates them,” he said. “Sometimes it’s too much and we have to back off. Sometimes they need more.”
A kid beats the drum at the Sensory Friendly Mardi Gras Celebration (From: Sophia Germer, nola.com)
A kid beats the drum at the Sensory Friendly Mardi Gras Celebration (From: Sophia Germer, nola.com)

Each child has a different way of communicating and socializing with others.

Another musician, Jerome “BayBay” Jones, said that “music touches the soul of people” when talking positively about the event. With an increasing number of autism cases being diagnosed around the world, it seems only natural for more sensory-friendly celebrations to be held.