Sensory overload—loud noises, bright or flashing lights, crowded rooms and other stimuli—can be overwhelming for children with autism. Kid-friendly restaurants like Chuck E. Cheese aren’t always so appealing to these kids, but the chain has been working for years to make every person with autism feel more welcome.

Case in point: In celebration of World Autism Month in April, Chuck E. Cheese will host a national Sensory Sensitive Sunday event at all 460 U.S. and Canada locations on Sunday, April 30. The chain will also host a month-long fundraiser for Autism Speaks, the nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a more inclusive world for all people with autism.

As part of an extended partnership, Chuck E. Cheese will also launch autism-friendly workforce training and inclusion programs.

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Now in its sixth year, Chuck E. Cheese’s Sensory Sensitive Sundays program was developed in partnership with the Center for Autism and Related Disorders. Its goal is to create a quieter dining and arcade experience for kids with autism and sensory needs. Through this program, select Chuck E. Cheese fun centers open two hours early on the first Sunday of each month for sensory-sensitive fun with dimmer lights and lower volume, creating a calmer environment so that kids with sensory sensitivities can enjoy the Chuck E. Cheese experience to the fullest. A specially trained staff works to ensure every guest at each event has a safe, fun-filled visit.

Since the program was launched on World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, 2017, Chuck E. Cheese has held more than 18,000 sensory-friendly events, according to a press release.

“Our Sensory Sensitive Sunday program is the only one of its kind on a national scale and is just one of the many ways we deliver on our mission to make Chuck E. Cheese the place ‘where every kid can be a kid,’” David McKillips, CEO of CEC Entertainment, said. “In addition to our sensory-friendly events, we further our mission by fostering an inviting workplace culture through inclusive workforce education and training programs to better serve our teams, guests and communities.”

this photo shows the animatronic Chuck E. Cheese with widespread arms in a welcoming gesture in front of a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant

Jesus Aranguren/AP Images for CEC Entertainment

Chuck E. Cheese says it’s a “proud employer of people with autism in roles ranging from cast members to manager levels, providing a welcoming environment for everyone, from first-time job seekers to those pursuing life-long careers.”

Chuck E. Cheese has extended its collaboration with Autism Speaks to include several strategic initiatives:

Workplace Inclusion Now (WIN): Autism Speaks created this employment initiative to bring together people with autism and related conditions, communities and employers to build and support an inclusive, welcoming workplace culture. In addition, Chuck E. Cheese fun centers will educate employees about autism and how to create more inclusive experiences for autistic guests, earning an Autism Friendly Designation from Autism Speaks upon completion of trainings.

Creating and sharing meaningful, collaborative content on Chuck E. Cheese channels highlighting the importance of neurodiversity inclusion.

the animatronic Chuck E Cheese reaches out to a little boy whose hand is also extended in one of the chain's restaurants

Chuck E. Cheese

Annual World Autism Month fundraisers benefiting Autism Speaks, which invests 89 cents of every dollar to funding research, advocacy, programs and services that help people with autism reach their full potential.

World Autism Month fundraisers include Cotton Candy for a Cause, where Chuck E. Cheese will donate a portion of proceeds from cotton candy sales up to $50,000 to encourage understanding and raise funds in support of people with autism. In-store guests, website visitors or app users are also invited to round up their purchase to the next dollar at checkout to donate the difference in support of creating a kinder, more inclusive world. Additionally, 10% of profits from all sales from the Chuck E. Online Shop during the month will be donated to Autism Speaks for its advocacy, support and research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions.

“For more than five years, we’ve proudly collaborated with Chuck E. Cheese to drive understanding and inclusion for children with autism and their families,” said Keith Wargo, president and CEO of Autism Speaks. “In working together to implement a new education and training program, we’ve taken another step forward in creating more inclusive opportunities for autistic individuals throughout the lifespan, from childhood through adulthood, making a world of difference for all people with autism.”

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