By Nick Kratsas- KDKA Morning News

PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – “The Lion King” musical is beautiful and entertaining, but to an autistic child, the loud noises, elaborate costumes, and lighting and sets can be a scary experience. Now, thanks to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, a special presentation of “The Lion King” musical has been tailored for autistic children.

KDKA-AM’s Larry and John talked to Dr Marilyn Hoyson, COO of The Watson Institute and autism expert, about this special presentation and why a different show would be needed for autistic kids.

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“Children with autism are very routine-orientated and like things the same,” says Dr. Hoyson. “Many of them enjoy the music (of ‘The Lion King’), and they’re used to watching it at home, singing along , humming along, dancing- if they go to a typical performance, families could feel that would interfere with the enjoyment others in the audience.”

Dr. Hoyson also talked about how autisitc children can be surprised or scared of sounds and actions on stage, and their reactions would affect the enjoyment of others in the audience. That’s why they won’t be using loud sounds like lion roars, will tone down the music, keep the lights in the theater on, and won’t use special effects like strobe lights and smoke. In addition, the Benedum Center lobby will offer quiet spaces and activity areas for families, while trained staff and volunteers provide encouragement and assistance to patrons.

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The special performance is a collaboration with the Cultural Trust, autistic experts from across the area, and Disney representatives. The show is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, at 2 p.m., at the Benedum Center.  Tickets can be purchased on the Cultural Trust website at  For additional information call (412) 456-2670.

The Watson Institute is a Pittsburgh based development disability center. For more information, visit

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