Spectrum Theatre – 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Where: Student Activities Bldg, Charlottesville, VA 22903
When: Saturday, April 2nd
Time: 2P.M.
Tickets: Reserve tickets here.

What is an autism-friendly performance?

Spectrum Theatre is partnering with the Autism Theatre Project to offer a free, autism-friendly performance of 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Autism-friendly performances aim to provide a positive theater experience for children with autism or other sensory-related disabilities and their families. Special accommodations will account for potential sensory challenges such as jarring sounds or lights. A quiet area will be available during the show for anyone who needs to take a break. Specially trained volunteers will be present to support you and your family’s experience. A “Coming to the Theater” video is provided to help families prepare for this outing to the theater.

Resources such as a character guide, plot synopsis, and FAQs are provided below to help you decide if this is the right show for you and your family to attend. The full list of services is provided below in the FAQs. Children must attend the autism-friendly performance with a parent or responsible adult. After the show, families will be invited to complete a brief survey to help us improve our understanding of autism-friendly theatre.


Plot Synopsis 
Character Guide
“Coming to the Theater” video social story


Q: Is this performance only for those with autism or other sensory issues, or can anyone attend?

A: Autism-Friendly Performances are intended primarily for families with members on the autism spectrum or who have other sensory issues. In addition to altering the theater environment to cater to those with sensory issues, a main goal of this program is to provide a safe, judgement-free, and comfortable experience for the entire audience. We achieve this by recommending this performance for those families bringing loved ones who have a developmental disability.

Q: What accommodations will there be? How is it different from other performances?
A: The Autism-Friendly accommodations include:

  • A quiet area will be provided for those audience members who may want to remove an overstimulated person from the theater and have a place to relax. Chairs and tables will be provided, as well as a variety of coloring activities and fidgets. This area will be staffed by our volunteers.
  • Resources such as a plot synopsis, character guide, and “Coming to the Theater” video social story can help families prepare for this outing to the theater.
  • Large print programs at the performance.
  • Flexible seating (mats) in front of the stage for your comfort.

Q: Who are the volunteers?

A: Our volunteers are undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Virginia with experience working with children with sensory challenges. Most are involved in UVA’s Autism Speaks chapter or NSSHLA chapter (National Student Speech Language Hearing Association). All volunteers are trained by Dr. Jane Hilton, Assistant Professor of Speech Language Pathology and the Director of Clinical Services in the UVA Speech-Language-Hearing Center.

Q: Will the show on stage be any different from other performances that are not Autism-Friendly?

A: 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee will have some altered content for this performance – please refer to the plot synopsis to determine the appropriateness for your audience member. Inappropriate language and themes have been modified to make this performance family friendly. Sensory effects will also be slightly altered.

Q: Will it be noisy during the show?

A: It’s very possible – expect there to be more than the usual ambient sounds from the audience.

Q: How can I prepare my audience member for this outing to the theater?

A: Resources such as a plot synopsis, character guide, and “Coming to the Theater” video social story can help families prepare for this outing to the theater.

Q: My attendee uses a wheelchair. What is the best access to the theater?

A: Our theater is located at the UVA Student Activities Building in Charlottesville, VA. There is onsite parking with handicapped spaces available, and handicap access to the theater.

Q: Are service animals welcome?

A: Yes, we can accommodate service animals.

Q: Are snacks and drinks allowed in the theater?

A: Yes, food and drink is allowed inside the building.

Q: Can my family attend one of the other 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee performances?

A: Yes! We provide an autism-friendly performance in hopes of creating a comfortable theater-going environment for families with sensory needs. Our ultimate goal is to make theater a more inclusive space. Please attend whichever performance is most convenient and comfortable for you and your family, but also note that the content of the other shows will be slightly more mature and will be performed as written in the original score. Click here for performance times and ticket information.

Q: I have a question not addressed here. Who may I speak with to get more information?

A: Email us at autismtheatreproject@gmail.com.