Neurodiversity Spotlight – Sensory Sensitive Sundays at Chuck E Cheese


Eden Kayser, WLMC Associate Station Manager, Managing Editor, & LC Voices Advisory Board Member

A Perspective on how Overstimulating the World is to someone with Sensory Needs


Chuck E Cheese locations are a popular venue for fans and families to play arcade games, eat pizza, and enjoy an entertaining show with video and costume characters. But not all those who visit Chuck E have the same sensory experience. Children and adults who have autism or other special needs may be overstimulated by the loud noises, lighting, crowds, or even Chuck E Cheese himself. That’s why CEC decided to accommodate sensory needs by introducing the Sensory Sensitive Sundays program.

In the program, participating locations open two hours early on the first Sunday of the month for families looking for a more sensory-friendly experience. During the program, each CEC store offers sensory accommodations that include dimming the lighting, turning the show volume down or off, and limiting the number of appearances Chuck E makes to provide a quieter, less crowded, and less stimulating experience. Sensory Sensitive Sunday events also include trained staff who care about all guests on the spectrum having a fun and safe visit. This shows that CEC wants to ensure sensory needs are met for all kids of all ages.

As someone who experiences sensory sensitivity on a regular basis, I appreciate the efforts of Chuck E Cheese for being accommodating to those who are sensitive to noise, light, and crowding. Unfortunately, we live in a world that is not always able or willing to accommodate, making life harder for people with sensory issues. I’ve always had sensitive hearing, but whenever I self-advocated, I was told I needed to deal with it and adjust for other people instead of the other way around. One example is that my ears got overstimulated whenever I heard my sisters sing. When I told them or my parents it was bothering me, I was always told to ignore it. When that didn’t work and the noise became unbearable, I got in pretty bad fights with my sisters and parents. This always made things worse. I was also told that I was trying to “restrict” them by saying they couldn’t sing, and that wasn’t fair to them. But no matter how many times I tried to defend myself, I was always in the wrong, and my family never respected my needs. This cycle made me feel unsafe at home.

As an adult, I still struggle with hearing sensitivity. Though I have ways of avoiding or blocking loud environments, it’s still hard not to get frustrated when I can’t have a conversation, read, focus, or relax just because of the level of noise in the room. What makes this a challenge is that once the noise causes a physical reaction (jumping, covering ears, tics), everything suddenly sounds much louder than it really is. It also worsens my stress and anxiety, which causes other problems. Luckily, I’m around people who are mostly understanding and supportive and realize when I have a problem. Still, I also understand that people aren’t trying to be overly loud and usually don’t realize when they are.

I wish I had more support for this as a child instead of being told I was selfish or controlling for trying to “restrict” people. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person told this when trying to self-advocate. Parents who advocate for their children have probably also been told that and thus must actively look for environments that aren’t too overstimulating for their kids. Autistic children need sensory-friendly environments and people who understand and care about their needs. Although I would prefer if Sensory Sundays happened more than just one Sunday a month and at all locations, it at least addresses the need of sensory sensitivity and raises awareness and acceptance of special needs.