Harper College and NWSRA team up for Sensory Friendly Holiday Concert

Brian Selders
Updated 12/6/2017 7:59 AM
  • Harper College Symphony Orchestra members invited families to learn more about the instruments prior to the show.Karyn Emeralda

    Harper College Symphony Orchestra members invited families to learn more about the instruments prior to the show.Karyn Emeralda

Attending a holiday concert is a favorite tradition throughout the United States in the month of December. Listening to the sounds of the holidays brings cheer and joy to many, and has become a tradition for many families as they immerse themselves into the holiday spirit. However, for many families of individuals with disabilities, attending a holiday concert can be a daunting challenge. For a child with Autism, tasks such as waiting in line and staying quiet throughout the performance can often become overwhelming and lead to outbursts. To avoid these stressful situations, many parents often decide to stay home.

Fortunately, these families had a venue to celebrate the holiday season at a sensory friendly Holiday Concert, held on Monday, December 4 at the Harper College Performing Arts Center. Through the collaborative efforts of the Harper College Symphony Orchestra and Northwest Special Recreation Association (NWSRA), families experienced the sounds of the holidays in a sensory friendly environment. As the Harper College Symphony Orchestra played, staff from NWSRA were available to assist families throughout the concert to increase everyone's ability to learn concert etiquette and enjoy the show. Lights were dimmed, and "wiggling" and noises throughout the concert were completely understood by all in attendance. NWSRA Senior Manager of Special Recreation JoAnn Snyder stated "This was an amazing opportunity for families who otherwise would not be able to enjoy this experience. This also provided a great environment for individuals with disabilities to learn about proper etiquette with trained and certified staff."

Members from the Symphony Orchestra greeted the families in the lobby prior to the concert, as they played music and shared information about their instruments. In addition, attendees were invited to a demonstration of Autism Movement Therapy. Through cognitive re-mapping, Autism Movement Therapy is a sensory integration technique incorporating movement and music in collaboration with Positive Behavior Support (PBS) strategies to assist individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders in meeting and achieving their speech and language, social and academic goals.

A parent who attended the event stated "Thank you for a wonderful Sensory Friendly Holiday Concert! We LOVED it and can't wait until next year. A new family tradition for us to get into the holiday spirit. Please be sure to tell the staff and performers a heartfelt "Thank you!" My son smiled and bobbed to the music the whole concert." William Anthony Porter, Harper Symphony Orchestra conductor, stated: "Harper College reaches out to our partners in many ways, and the Harper Symphony Orchestra is pleased to partner with NWSRA to bring the joy of the holidays to all of our community through music."

The sensory friendly Holiday Concert was held as a prelude to the annual Harper College Symphony Orchestra Holiday Concert, which will be held on Sunday, December 10 at 3:00 p.m. at the Harper College Performing Arts Center. For more information about the annual Holiday Concert, please contact the Harper College Box Office at 847.925.6100.

All proceeds from this event supported Special Leisure Services Foundation (SLSF), which is the fundraising arm of NWSRA. SLSF provides funding for scholarships, accessible transportation, athletics, inclusion support and more to ensure that children and adults with disabilities have every opportunity to recreate within their community.


Northwest Special Recreation Association (NWSRA) provides outstanding opportunities through recreation for children and adults with disabilities. NWSRA has grown tremendously over its 43 year history. NWSRA provides over 2,000 recreational programs and received more than 15,000 registrations annually. Athletics are very popular at NWSRA, with over 600 athletes competing in 16 sports. NWSRA has received the National Recreation and Park Association Excellence in Inclusion Award, given to one organization throughout the nation that has proven its leadership in the promotion of inclusion and diversity initiatives. NWSRA serves 17 northwest suburban communities, providing day camps, weekly programs, trips, special events, cultural arts and more. For more information on NWSRA, visit www.nwsra.org or contact Brian Selders at 847-392-2848 or e-mail bselders@nwsra.org.

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