What do you think of when you think of Chuck E. Cheese? Do you think of kids running in all directions? Perhaps you think of sensory overload? Seems like the last place to bring an autistic child – right? WRONG!
It’s important to expose all children to places in the community that offer on-the-spot social skills training in order to teach them socially acceptable behaviors. In addition, it’s good to build up their tolerance level for ongoing stimulation in a “forgiving” type of place where you and your kids can just be themselves and play. Chuck E. Cheese is the perfect place – if done correctly.
First, party time is crazy-making time, so you want to avoid party time hours. It is best to go when Chuck E. Cheese first opens – 9:00 a.m. I’ve taken our boys at 9:00 a.m. to locations all throughout the southwestern United States for the past 5 years and I can tell you from my personal experience that if you are there when it opens; there is usually no more than 1-2 other families there. You practically have the place to yourself! Everything is quiet, and your kids can just be themselves.
This is the perfect opportunity to allow your child to experience an arcade type of environment while exposing them to the lights and sounds. It’s free to get in, so no harm, no foul.
When the party crowds start to enter, you have the opportunity to allow your child to handle escalating amounts of stimulation, and it’s best to leave before you hit the meltdown stage.
I particularly like the Chuck E. Cheese location on Grand Canyon Blvd. The staff there is very friendly, accepting and accommodating. I spoke to the General Manager, Manny Avila, who is very helpful and willing to open the store up earlier should you have a larger type of party or organization event. Their salad bar, food and drink area is always clean. I’ve noticed they keep up on the restroom maintenance as well.
I’ve been bringing our autistic child to Chuck E. Cheese for the past 5 years now, and it has taught him many social skills. Here are some things our son has learned through this opportunity that behaviorists refer to as “Incidental Learning”. Instead of paying for a behaviorist, you can do this yourself for free while having the opportunity to have some fun family time. We’ve taught our son social skills at Chuck E. Cheese. He has learned how to put a coin in a machine to make it turn on. He has learned how to play an arcade game. He has used his math skills by learning how to count the reward tickets and choose prizes. He must figure out what he can afford and redeem his tickets for prizes. He has learned how to wait in a line as well as turn taking. He has learned how to use a soda fountain machine by filling his own drink, putting a lid on it and getting this own straw. He gets to do this again when he wants refills. The bathrooms are designed for kids, and he is free to independently use the bathroom, because everything is sized down to kid level – a rare opportunity. Think about it – these are all valuable life skills, teaching independence. Chuck E. Cheese is the perfect learning ground for your child, and it is free!
Remember, the key is to make it manageable for your child by going when it’s not crowded – non-party hours. Please do not walk in there at 1:00 in the afternoon and expect a successful event. It is usually very crowded at that time, and over-stimulating for your child and usually everyone concerned.
So don’t toss the mouse out with the bath water; he can be of benefit to your loved one!
My suggestion for the best Chuck E. Cheese location in the Las Vegas area is the store located at: 4175 S. Grand Canyon Blvd. They can be reached at: (702) 255-8338.
All kids – special needs or not – deserve to be in a place where “a kid can be a kid”.