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Montreal symphony performs concert for children with autism

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The Montreal Symphony Orchestra (MSO/OSM) performed a unique show on Sunday, aimed at welcoming children with autism and other sensory disorders.

The OSMose concert is a relaxed performance for spectators of all ages, particularly children.

Marla Cable is the resource and training centre assistant at the Giant Steps School and said these types of events are incredibly important to children with autism and their parents.

"Many families, they don't go out very often because they don't know how their child is going to react, they don't know how the public's going to react," Marla Cable, assistant director of the training and resource centre at the Giant Steps Centre. "Coming to an event like this, they really feel safe and supported."

The MSO partnered with therapist Nathalie Leroux in 2018 to develop the program focused on enhanced audience accessibility.

For the concert, attendance is limited to 800 people, quiet zones are set up in the lobbies, and pictograms help children identify each zone and take part in the concert.

"It's a project to foster inclusion," Annie Saumier, education director at the MSO. "The goal is to make our concert accessible to everyone really, but thinking about children with special needs."

In addition, there are areas for children to move and dance in, the concert doors are open for easier entrance and exit, and sound levels are controlled to diminish contrasts and loud or startling sounds.

"We developed the concert thinking about all of the barriers that could exist for somebody to come to a regular OSM concert," said Saumier. "The goal is to make it more accessible for everyone."

There are no strobe or targeted lighting effects and the concert hall is dimly lit throughout the performance.

Cable said children can also discover a love of music.

"How do you know if your child likes music or likes symphonies if they don't have a chance to come," said Cable. "We have students at our school that are really into classical music and you only know if you get to experience something like this." 

With reporting from CTV News Montreal journalist Matt Gilmour.

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