Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Red Kite Roundup

As part of our son’s birthday weekend, we drove downtown to participate in a unique theatrical experience call Red Kite Roundup. Red Kite is a product of the Chicago Children’s Theater, and is an interactive, multi-sensory performance specifically for children with autism.

Kai, like many kids with autism, has a difficult time having to sit still while watching a play or show. But one of the great things about Red Kite is that the kids who attend each performance don’t just sit back and watch; they participate and are part of the experience.

We got to the theater about a half hour before show time, as suggested. There is a waiting area with hands-on exhibits. The performers come out and meet all the kids and play music and sing songs, so there is actually a lot of entertainment before the show even begins.

Still, Kai knew what time the show was officially supposed to start and kept asking all of the performers how much longer he had to wait. We tried to get him to relax and enjoy the music. The other kids seemed to be happy listening to the songs. Kai, on the other hand, grew increasingly impatient. I wondered if he would be the first kid to get kicked out of Red Kite as he became more insistent that the show begin soon. When it was finally time to enter the theater, a cast member wisely picked him to be the first one to go in.

The theme for the performance was camping and hiking. Kai settled down as soon as he entered this theatrical “outdoors.” He and the other kids explored the set, and were encouraged to move, laugh, talk, sing, and interact with the specially-trained actors. The actors often followed the kids lead. Early on, when Kai laid down in the middle of the set, I worried that he would disrupt the show. Instead, “Ranger Bob” encouraged all of the kids to lie down like Kai, breathe in the fresh air, and take in the sky. As the show went on, the amazing set allowed the children to experience the sound of the forest, pet fuzzy newborn chicks, feel the gentle spray as they rafted down a river, and sing songs next to a campfire. It truly was a multi-sensory experience with plenty to touch, see and hear.

There are not a lot of places where you can take your child with autism and have an experience like this, where we all feel so comfortable and accepted while taking in a unique adventure. We are grateful for having had this opportunity.

If you are in the Chicago area, check out Red Kite’s website for more information.

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