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Sensory Friendly Concerts: A community music therapy initiative to promote Neurodiversity

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Community is essential for individuals to feel like a part of something larger; however, many individuals with disabilities and their families lack a connection to community due to the display of unusual social behaviours or unavailable accommodations when at community-based events. Community music therapy (CoMT) encompasses an effort to build community around music-making and enjoyment for the collective whole, as well as supporting social justice and self-advocacy for individuals. One CoMT effort specific to individuals on the autism spectrum is the Sensory Friendly Concerts┬« (SFCs), a music enjoyment and making venue that promotes the social acceptance of each individual, specifically of those who identify as ‘autistic’ and seek to develop an autistic culture and community. SFCs are not only a venue to create ‘equal access to the fine arts’, but also serves as a platform for self-advocacy, thus promoting the social justice of a typically marginalized population. The purpose of this project report is to discuss how SFCs, as a CoMT initiative, can provide an opportunity for individuals and families to explore the arts, develop an inclusive community and promote social justice for autistic people. To this effect, this article will discuss SFCs within the broader scope of community music and CoMT, introduce core concepts of the Neurodiversity movement, and present initial programme evaluation data and personal accounts from SFCs.

Keywords: Neurodiversity; autism; community music therapy (CoMT); disability rights; music therapy; self-advocacy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: The Musical Autist 2: Colorado State University

Publication date: May 1, 2014

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  • The International Journal of Community Music publishes research articles, practical discussions, timely reviews, readers' notes and special issues concerning all aspects of Community Music. The editorial board is composed of leading international scholars and practitioners spanning diverse disciplines that reflect the scope of Community Music practice and theory.
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