VKC TRIAD expands community reach through Nashville Opera with VSA grant, announces Autism Awareness Month activities

Father and son at a TRIAD community outreach event at the Nashville Opera

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (VKC TRIAD) recently expanded their community outreach initiative exponentially thanks to collaboration with the Nashville Opera and a generous grant from the VSA Performing Arts Access for Kids Program.  The outreach complements TRIAD’s plans to celebrate Autism Awareness Month in April with a series of community events promoting acceptance and inclusion.

“Goldie B. Locks and the Three Singing Bears”

For the third year, TRIAD has worked with Nashville Opera and their Mary Ragland Young Artists to provide a sensory-friendly performance of an opera designed for children, complete with social stories, a quiet space, and more muted volumes from the performers.  Some of the young artists with the Opera also took part in a 3-hour training over 2 days to educate them on performing for audience members with unique interests and needs.

This year’s production of “Goldie B. Locks and the Three Singing Bears” was held on Feb. 13 at the Noah Liff Center. The Opera welcomed close to 100 guests to enjoy a story of friendship and honesty in a performance modified for families of children with autism and/or other intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Now, with funding provided by a VSA grant, all inclusion materials created for the Feb. 13 performance can also be shared with the approximately 25,000 children who will enjoy “Goldie B. Locks” through 66 additional school and community performances.

“The funding provided by the VSA Performing Arts Access for Kids program at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has allowed us to significantly expand our work with Nashville Opera,” said Lauren Weaver, M.S., BCBA, TRIAD organizational outreach coordinator and behavioral/educational consultant. “This partnership is breaking barriers and increasing accessibility for children attending more than 50 school performances. We were able to develop additional supports to help increase successful inclusion in a special event with their peers. It is truly important work, and we are grateful to be able to work with our community in this way.”

Visit the TRIAD Community Engagement Initiative Events Calendar to view the inclusive materials created for “Goldie B. Locks and the Three Singing Bears.”

Community Outreach Initiative and Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month, and TRIAD’s Community Engagement team is preparing a series of events to increase autism awareness, and importantly to also promote acceptance and inclusion in the community.

“While we work year round with our community partners, Autism Awareness Month in April is important as it gives us the platform to magnify the voices and highlight the abilities and needs of people with autism and their families,” said Lauren Weaver.

Beyond April, TRIAD’s director, A. Pablo Juárez, M.Ed., BCBA, is excited about the involvement of all their community partners throughout the year.

“Nashville is remarkable for many reasons,” Juárez said. “Among them is the fact that some of the most prominent arts, education, athletic, and community organizations across the city have been able to quickly develop accessibility, acceptance, and inclusivity initiatives focused on better supporting individuals with autism and other disabilities and their families. In this way, our hometown is taking the initiative in learning how to be a stronger and more reliable community for everyone.”

Details of these events and links to available supports are posted on the VKC Events Calendar or TRIAD’s Community Engagement Initiative Events Calendar.

In preparation for Autism Awareness Month, TRIAD’s monthly Families First program will hold a workshop titled “Stepping Out of Your Routine: Preparing for Fun, Field Trips, and Family Vacations.” The workshop will be held Saturday, March 19, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in Room 241 of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (110 Magnolia Circle, Nashville).  Families First is a free workshop series for parents of young children with an autism spectrum disorder. Each workshop focuses on providing parents and caregivers with strategies to use at home, school, and in the community. The strategies discussed are based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Registration is required by midnight Tuesday, Mar. 15. Child care registration is by telephone request only following registration for the event. Contact Nina Harris at (615) 322-7565 following registration if you need this service.

Saturday, April 2, is World Autism Awareness Day. To celebrate, TRIAD is teaming up with Tennessee Brew Works for a fundraiser called “Paint the Taproom Blue.” There will be live bluegrass music from 6-8 p.m., and $1 for every beer sold that day will go toward the TRIAD Families First program. If you cannot make it to the April 2 event, Tennessee Brew Works also will be donating $1 for every beer sold on Sundays in April to the Families First program. Tennessee Brew Works is located at 809 Ewing Ave., Nashville.

If you are looking for an opportunity to take the whole family to the theatre, mark Saturday, April 23, on your calendars. Tennessee Performing Arts Company will be showing a 10 a.m. modified performance of “Egg,” a clever, engaging story told exclusively through physicality, illusion, and music. The production draws children close to the life of the little bird characters in their nest and offers a story of friendship, wonder, and tender loving care. This performance is free and open to the public, but prior registration is requested. The registration link will appear on the TPAC website (http://www.tpac.org/) and the TRIAD calendar closer to the event. For more information, contact the TPAC Box Office at (615) 782-4040.

The Nashville Zoo at Grassmere will hold an Autism Awareness Day on Sunday, April 24. There will be family-oriented activities throughout the Zoo, including animal experiences and games to celebrate autism. Supports will be made available on TRIAD’s Resources Directory.  The Zoo is located at 3777 Nolensville Pike, Nashville. For more information, call (615) 833-1534 or visit https://www.nashvillezoo.org/.

Finally, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts will hold an Autism Affinity Day on Tuesday, April 26, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Parents can complete a brief survey to receive a voucher for free adult admission to the museum. Children 18 and under are always free. Visit the Frist website at http://www.fristcenter.org/ for more details.

For more information about TRIAD’s Community Engagement Initiative, contact Lauren Weaver at lauren.weaver@vanderbilt.edu.

Elizabeth Turner is the program coordinator for VKC Communications. 

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