Partnering with The Autism Project, Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurants expand ‘Sensory Sensitive Sundays’
Two years ago, Steven Spillane, general manager of Chuck E. Cheese’s in Warwick, reached out to Alicia Ead, a parent resource specialist at The Autism Project, and expressed his interest in providing sensory friendly hours on Sunday mornings for children and adults with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families. On April 12, 2015 – during Autism Awareness month – the first Chuck E. Cheese’s “Sensory Sensitive Sunday” took place, and the event has been building in popularity ever since. Sensory Sensitive Sunday has since expanded to Chuck E. Cheese’s locations throughout New England.
Every first Sunday of the month, the Chuck E. Cheese’s in Warwick, RI, opens its doors from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. exclusively for individuals with an ASD or related development disability and their families. Lights and sounds are softened and animatronic characters – including Chuck E. Cheese – are turned off during this time.
“This event is great for all ages, including adults with an ASD,” Ead explained. “It’s also a terrific event for those with social anxiety and sensory integration challenges.” She added that Sensory Sensitive Sunday is a wonderful opportunity for the whole family to relax together – siblings are welcome – and for parents and caregivers to meet and make new connections and friendships. Ead said, “Parents and caregivers can come here and rest assured that they will meet families who understand both their challenges and their triumphs.”
And it’s not only families who make connections on Sensory Sensitive Sundays. Spillane and his team have gotten to know many of the families who attend these events personally and are responsive to any and all accommodations that need to be made. “At our very first event, one child made it to the door but not inside. The second time, the child made it inside, but didn’t stay long. The third time, the child came and stayed. It put such a smile on my face to see that progress,” Spillane said. “It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to give back.”
Sensory Sensitive Sundays occur 9am to 11am on the first Sunday of every month at Chuck E. Cheese’s at 650 Bald Hill Road in Warwick. The next event is on March 5. Contact Alicia Ead at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.