Columbia arcade offers monthly sensory sensitive event

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COLUMBIA - One Columbia family fun center will host a monthly event dedicated to children with sensory sensitivities. 

On the first Sunday of each Monday, staff at Chuck E. Cheese's turn down the lights and sounds in the arcade in efforts to support children and families with autism or special needs. 

Michelle Noe, store manager at Chuck E. Cheese's, said she fought for the Columbia location to remain on the list of stores that would hold these events.

"They had taken us off the list initially. But when I got here, I said, 'I feel passionate about this' and I asked to be re-listed. My boss told me that would mean I'd have to be here to run each one, and I agreed. That's how much it meant to me," Noe said. 

Staff are trained on how to operate the store during experience and cater to different needs. 

The Columbia location cancels its animatronic stage show and turns off the strobe lights that normally dance around the ceiling. 

Children who have had strokes also suffer from different sensory sensitivities. Carter Bell, 8, his mother and two younger brothers came to the first sensory sensitive arcade event in Columbia. 

Carter had a stroke at birth and has since has a portion of his brain removed. He has very limited use of the left side of his body. 

Carter said he liked being at the arcade with less people around and less noise. 

"I like being here. I have my own games. I can get tickets and prizes," he said. 

Carter's mother, Andrea Bell said on a normal day at Chuck E. Cheese's, Carter would experience an overload. 

"Carter wouldn't be able to process his surroundings in a place like this if it was crowded and loud. Though he isn't so much affected by strobes and such. He would definitely experience a sensory overload."

Carter said he liked not having the additional distractions.

"It's like I'm here by myself. Well, my brothers and mommy are here too. But I get to play everything I want. Anything I want. It's so much fun."

Sensory Sensitive Sundays at Chuck E. Cheese's will happen on the first Sunday of every month. On those days the arcade will open at 9 a.m., two hours before its normal business hours.