Chuck E. Cheese Dedicates Sundays to Those With Special Needs
For those with autism spectrum disorder, it can sometimes be overwhelming to be in crowds, around loud noises, or bombarded by flashing lights. Therefore, places like Chuck E. Cheese can sometimes simply be too much. However, the chain has responded by offering "Sensory Sensitive Sundays" at specific locations so everyone can enjoy.
Importance of inclusion
Kids meet up and have birthday parties across the famous chain every day throughout the nation, making this move to include those who formerly may have felt uncomfortable or excluded all the more powerful.
Sensory Sensitive Sundays
On the first Sunday of every month, hundreds of Chuck E. Cheese's locations will be open two hours earlier than normal, with efforts made to be easy on the senses. The official statement says the experience will include "less crowding and noise, dimmed lighting, show and music turned off or down, limited appearances by Chuck E., food and games are offered, and trained and caring staff."
Hundreds of locations will be participating throughout 43 US states and also in Canada. For a full list and more information, click here.
The decision to become more autism-friendly
Chuck E. Cheese was aided in their decision to begin offering Sensory Sensitive Sundays by CARD (Center for Autism and Related Disorders).
In fact, it was a member of CARD's team who originated the movement. Amanda Moniz is an outreach coordinator for the center, and when she found herself in Chuck E. Cheese's Attleboro, Massachusetts location, she decided to give her request a shot, and ask if they would consider opening two hours earlier than usual to accommodate her nephew, who has autism.
Micah Miller is CARD's business development manager, and explains the move. "We'll go to a local business and [ask if they'd] be open to offering a sensory-friendly time to kids who might be on the spectrum," she explains. But don't worry, it wasn't a rouse; Moniz really does have a nephew with autism.
Starting at that single Massachusetts location, the movement began. The management and employees were very receptive to accommodating those with special needs, and it was a great success. So successful, in fact, that the Chuck E. Cheese’s head office heard about the event. They were automatically supportive.
"Where a kid can be a kid"
Chuck E. Cheese's Marketing Director, Ami Anderson, explains, "for a place [whose slogan is] 'where a kid can be a kid,' we realized a lot of kids couldn't be kids there."
That didn't set well with her, and she wanted to make the change. Hearing news of the Massachusetts location become the perfect opportunity. She recalls the moment she initially learned of the event, "I found out through a newspaper write-up. I reached out to the store and said, 'What's going on? This is great.’"
Anderson was an integral piece of getting the project approved on a larger scale, and now it is even offered in the majority of all their locations.
Anderson, states, "as a mom, I know how fun our restaurants can be for kids - tons of exciting sounds, bright lights, and lots of action. But for children with autism, depending on where they are on the spectrum, a visit to Chuck E. Cheese may be too overwhelming, which is why I'm thrilled we're now offering Sensory Sensitive Sundays."
She goes on to say that she wants the events to be "a safe place for families with sensory needs to come and have fun together."
Read on to learn more about Chuck E. Cheese's decision to begin Sensory Sensitive Sundays.
Photo credit: Chuck E Cheese's by Mike Mozart