Shrek theatre asks autistic boy to leave – what do you think?


The mother of an autistic boy said she was “ashamed of society” after her eight-year-old son was asked to leave a performance of Shrek the Musical.

James Geater, from Worthing, West Sussex, was taken to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London with another autistic boy by four carers.

They were asked to leave the auditorium because they were too noisy. James’s mother Karen said it was unacceptable.

The theatre said the party was asked to sit outside until James calmed down.

©BBC News 31st August 2011 (Link to full article here)

James’s mother is ashamed of society, but I would like to pose the question “Should poor behaviours be acceptable if they are the result of an illness”. In a recent blog Tony mentioned road rage. Is it the fault of this condition that people assault one another or do they still have choices? For many years I have told young men who have schizophrenia that assaults on others are not acceptable. Is it really unreasonable to ask that having paid to see a show I should be allowed to do so without distraction?

I remember travelling from New York to Baltimore on a bus with a very noisy child, who threw high pitched tantrums at any opportunity. His mother was asked to either control the child or leave the bus. What sort of society would strand a mother and small child because of its behaviour?

The phrase “For the greater good” has been used to allow some terrible acts in mankind’s history and maybe James should never be allowed to go to the theatre again so the rest of us can watch in peace or maybe the theatre should put on special shows for people with problems?

Photo of Shrek on Wikimedia Commons click here for information re author

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On the one hand, I get as annoyed by noisy unruly children as the next person, but on the other, I have an autistic cousin and I know it is not often possible to keep control of their behaviour, and it can be really difficult for the parents. The can end up feeling either embarrassed in public because people assume they are bad parents, or go too far towards resilience and not realise how disruptive they are being. So, I think that instead of banning the child from the theatre entirely, they should really consider the idea of putting on shows that can be attended by those with mental or behavioural issues – that way the impatient members of the audience can watch their show in peace, but the other children don’t have to miss out on the performance due simply to a condition beyond their control.

I feel that this is a delicate subject, and one that is difficult to solve so that everyone is happy. Possibly special shows should be put on, but equally, this may end up with nobody being able to benefit from watching them.

I think a cultural shift in how people as individuals appreciate the Arts has taken place over the last decade.
I for example take an increasing dislike in attending rock/indie ect… concerts,.. as people around me tend to indulge in constant talking,use of mobile phones and generally are inattentive to the performance that’s going on.It appears to some more of a social status to be at the event rather than a passion for the music being expressed.
As for James being excluded from Royal Drury Lane due to his rowdiness as a result of his Autism; well! whatever has happened to Social training in preparing this 8 year old to what are conventional norms in attending any paid “Art” event!!
I consider both parents and professionals accountable for preparing this child through appropriate therapeutic interventions in preparation for inclusive activities. I therefore condone the Theatre for its actions…Bring the lobby against what I propose in the name of “Responsible Social Integration”!!!

I think the initial comments re: choice, are very prescient.
I have a dear friend with three (3!) autistic young lads
ranging in age from 13-17. They are all physically bigger
than her. Perhaps more from necessity than anything else she
has had to work v hard to impress upon them that they DO
have some choice in how they behave and at some level ARE
responsible for their actions. This was an approach alos advocated by PHAB when I worked with them.
I try to impress upon my Mental Health students that only the very worst afflictions
or disabilities ENTIRELY rob of us any choices, thereby
also relieving us of the commensurate responsibilities.
Theatres laying on special performance for specific groups
of people seems a reasonable idea, and I’m sure some of them
do so. Today though, the questions of cost effectiveness
and ‘doing the most for the most’ would need to be considered.

On the one hand, I get as annoyed by noisy unruly children as the next person, but on the other, I have an autistic cousin and I know it is not often possible to keep control of their behaviour, and it can be really difficult for the parents.

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