Sensory-friendly and signed pantos herald the future of a Christmas institution

For the first time ever, the University Concert Hall's panto will be signed

Attending the local panto is often a huge highlight for children over the Christmas period - the colour; the laughter; the fun of it all.

For someone on the autism spectrum, however, pantos are a minefield of sensory bombardment, prompting a lot of parents to avoid bringing their children to such shows in fear of stressing them out.

In an effort to make their shows more accessible, The Helix theatre in Dublin and the University Concert Hall in Limerick will be holding sensory friendly performances of their pantos - Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast respectively - this year.

For someone on the autism spectrum, being in an autism friendly environment means they will be have a manageable degree of sensory stimuli, which will make them calmer, better able to process the sensory stimulation they receive, and better able to relate to others.

Sensory-friendly panto performances mean the shows are generally brighter and a little quieter, without any sudden, loud noises. There is also an allowance for increased levels of movement.

For example, during the University Concert Hall's run of Jack And The Beanstalk in 2014, the giant was not brought on stage.

Marketing Manager at University Concert Hall Emma Foote said demand for sensory-friendly shows has grown as people become more aware of the benefits.

"We aren't looking for these shows to sell out", she said. "We're just trying to make the Panto as accessible as possible to adults, young adults and children.

"We were encouraged to put on these kind of performances so as many families with children can go see something this Christmas."

This is the third year the University Concert Hall are holding sensory-friendly performances.

As well as these performances, Beauty And The Beast will be the first panto at the University Concert Hall to be signed to assist those who may be hard of hearing.

The sensory-friendly performance of Beauty and the Beast takes place at University Concert Hall, Limerick on January 6th.