Loud noise, bright lights, beeping games, singing puppets, and excited crowds—exactly none of these are my 8-year-old autistic child's idea of a good time. Which means that he's never been to iconic childhood spots like Chuck E. Cheese—but that might change in upcoming months.
I'm excited to announce that in 2017 Chuck E. Cheese is joining a handful of other retailers in trying to make things just a bit more friendly for kids with autism and others with special sensory needs. The company has partnered with CARD (Center for Autism and Related Disorders) to offer Sensory Sensitive Sundays at a handful of New York, New Jersey, and New England locations on the first Sunday of every month from 9 to 11 a.m.
The first event in the series was held January 8 and, according to company reps, it was a resounding success!
"Despite winter storm Helena hitting the Northeast last weekend, we had a good turnout for our first event," says Ami Anderson, senior director of advertising and media for Chuck E. Cheese. "We are very excited that this program has kicked off and we're looking forward to the next event taking place on Sunday, February 5 and hope even more families will attend."
So, what does a more sensory-friendly experience look like at a place like Chuck E. Cheese?
Kids can still play games, eat pizza, and have fun, but there will be:
Sounds perfect for my child, and I love what Chuck E. Cheese is hoping to promote by accommodating kids with special needs.
"Chuck E. Cheese's has always been a place where a kid can be a kid," Anderson says. "We want to ensure that children with autism spectrum disorder or other special needs have the same opportunity to enjoy the experience of visiting Chuck E. Cheese as their peers."
Upcoming Sensory Sensitive Sundays dates include: February 5, March 5, April 2, and May 7. Although the events are limited to 54 restaurants in the New York, New Jersey, and New England area through May 2017, Anderson says, "Our goal is to eventually roll out Sensory Sundays nationwide if the current test is a success."
Want to see if there's a Sensory-Friendly Sunday coming to your area? Here's a complete listing of the Chuck E. Cheese locations hosting this event.
Jamie Pacton lives near Lake Michigan, where she drinks loads of coffee, dreams of sailing, and enjoys each day with her husband and two sons. Find her at www.jamiepacton.com.