16 Mar Parties & theatre suitable for SEN children
Guest blog by Daniel Brisco
Spotlight on: Parties & Productions for Autistic and other SEN children
I recently got into a conversation with Daniel Brisco, Founder of Play House Parties who agreed to write a guest blog on why he was motivated to set up a children’s party and production company which catered for children with additional needs.
My name is Daniel Brisco and I have been working in children’s entertainment and theatre for the last 10 years. After working as an actor for 5 years – I discovered my passion was working with children and this was enhance when I became a father. However, my son’s journey was never going to be a “typical” one and he was diagnosed on the Autistic Spectrum at 3 years old – it has been (and continues to be) a journey of joy, steep learning curves and uphill struggles for both of us.
My son has been the inspiration for the work that I am most proud of. We have devised and produced party and theatre shows for children with a range of special and additional needs. For me, the thought of my son not being able to enjoy a party, or a piece of theatre simply broke my heart and I wanted to do something for my son and children like him.
We approach our shows first and foremost to entertain the children (and adults) – this makes sure that the audience are engaged with the piece and will get something from it. Like all shows for children ours are crammed full of songs, dancing, audience participation and slapstick comedy – ensuring the children enjoy the show as thy are able to sing and dance along with the characters throughout.
My business advice for children’s party entertainers
Having ensured that the show is fun that is when the work to make the show accessible begins and we tackle this with a multi-faceted approach. Our SEN audiences have a range of needs and we aim to cater for them using a range of techniques – our shows can be signed throughout (alongside the spoken word) for any pre/non-verbal children. We find this is a perfect way to deliver the show in a visual manner for children who may be developing their language skills and struggle with words. We also use interactive bags throughout the show – these are given to each audience member as they enter and contain tactile and sensory experiences. These work for both the more severely affected children – allowing them to access the show through their senses and also for the children who may require more sensory help. We also work closely with each school/ charity or venue with excellent preparatory work in the form of running orders and headshots – this helps alleviate any anxiety that the children may have during our visit.
To see children, who often haven’t been given the experience of live theatre, interact with our show is simply one of the best feelings in the world. Throughout the show the children will sing and dance with us they will also show an understanding of what is playing out before them and interact with the characters to help them save the day.
For me theatre, story-telling and having the freedom to express yourself is one of the most important tools we can equip our children with. Through theatre – a lot of transferable skills are learnt. This is why giving all children, regardless of ability, access to live theatre is crucial.
Daniel Brisco is the Founder of Playhouse Parties.