EL CENTRO – Places with dazzling lights, vibrantly lit games, and rhythmic music are attractive zones for children where they can run, laugh, and play, enjoying the stimulation. However, children with autism or who have special needs may be aggitated or uncomfortable with such loud noises or bright, flashing lighting that they cannot have a fun experience. Knowing this, Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant in El Centro asked local families and children to come Sunday mornings for Sensory Sensitive Sunday.
Starting a new tradition on the first Sunday of every month, Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant will hold Sensory Sensitive Sunday for families with autistic or special needs children to enjoy a sensory-friendly encounter. Children have the opportunity for a normal, yet distinct experience as the restaurant is less crowded, operates with little or no music, displays with dimmed lighting, and limited appearances by animated character Chuck E. for a calm, friendly environment. The monthly occasion is open for children and teens of all ages and the restaurant offers food and games for the whole family to enjoy.
Paola Bravo, birthday coordinator at Chuck E. Cheese, mentioned that since the first Sensory Sensitive Sunday was three months ago, and the staff hoped to promote the experience by informing the public through local organizations, schools, and other public places as the Valley has limited events with appropriate ambience for kids with autism or special needs.
“Children like it here because it’s quiet and they can be themselves in this environment, they won’t feel pressured to socialize at all. Many customers say they only see this type of events in big cities. Everyone who comes here should leave happy,” said Bravo.
“It’s awesome for guests since it is quieter around this time and it is not hectic. We advise people to come out since it’s awesome for kids who have autism or special needs,” said Lucy Mendiva, manager at Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in El Centro.
Employees genuinely welcomed each family as they arrived Sunday with a big smile to the well-lit, but quieter restaurant. As families settled, children quickly ran to the colorful game machines with coins in one hand and soon, won tickets, in the other.
“The place is not packed or loud, it’s perfect. Other businesses should offer this type of environment for kids with special needs,” said Clarissa Ibarra from Imperial who was accompanied with her husband and 13-year-old and 8-year-old daughters.
“It’s awesome because there’s almost nothing like this – they’re normal kids with special needs,” said Noemi as she played with her 7 year old son. “Any other time, the kids may scream or feel uncomfortable, and maybe other parents don’t understand it, so this day it’s great for my kids.”