Kelvin Moon Loh, a star of the current Broadway production of “The King and I,” captured headlines and hearts this past week when he passionately defended the mother of a child with autism. When she and her son attended the show, her son cried out during a tense scene in which a character is whipped. And some theater-goers responded with anger and condemnation.
Some called for the mother to remove her child from the theater, according to Loh. Others were heard to question why she brought him in the first place. The mother, meanwhile, desperately tried to shush the child.
This spurred Loh’s emotional response to the incident on his Facebook page, which at last count, had been shared more than 29,000 times. Sympathizing with the mother and child’s situation, he wrote, in part:
“I could not look away. I wanted to scream and stop the show and say—”EVERYONE RELAX. SHE IS TRYING. CAN YOU NOT SEE THAT SHE IS TRYING???!!!!” I will gladly do the entire performance over again. Refund any ticket because for her to bring her child to the theater is brave. You don’t know what her life is like. Perhaps, they have great days where he can sit still and not make much noise because this is a rare occurrence. Perhaps she chooses to no longer live in fear, and refuses to compromise the experience of her child. Maybe she scouted the aisle seat for a very popular show in case such an episode would occur. She paid the same price to see the show as you did for her family. Her plan, as was yours, was to have an enjoyable afternoon at the theater and slowly her worst fears came true.”
Read more on accommodating children with autism and other disabilities in public:
‘Prediction-impairment theory’ may help explain why a sensory-laden experience like visiting the dentist can be so terrifying for children on the spectrum—and how prediction support could quell their fear.
Loh went on to praise special sensory-friendly performances of shows for people with autism, and noted that, in his view, family-friendly means inclusive of people with disabilities. The post generated a slew of comments praising Loh for his efforts to raise awareness about a need for sensitivity to people with autism and other disorders—and their caregivers.
Bridget Murray Law is editor-in-chief of The ASHA Leader.