The one thing Raquel Noriega wanted more than anything else was similar to what any parent would want – to throw a party her 2-year-old daughter would enjoy. What Raquel Noriega quickly came to realize was how difficult it would be to locate a party venue that would accommodate the needs of a child on the autism spectrum. As this mother quickly learned, most birthday party venues were not autism friendly. These were venues that hosted multiple birthdays at one time, had bright lights, and loud music playing. These are all things which could be overwhelming to someone on the autism spectrum if he/she has certain sensory sensitivities.
“In my search, I did not come across venues that suited her needs,” Noriega told The Mighty.
“Like every other mom, I wanted to be able to go do fun things with my child and have a birthday party for her.”
In time, this mother came across a venue called Pixie Dust in Bayshore, New York. Pixie Dust did what the other venues did not – allowed her to tailor the birthday party to meet the specific needs of her 2-year-old autistic daughter. Raquel Noriega, however, decided to take things a step farther. Inspired by how difficult it was to find an autism-friendly party venue for children – she purchased Pixie Dust. Then, she began overhauling it so parents to children with special needs could have a party-friendly location to enjoy.
I say every town needs one of these! https://t.co/wUgEfFSybV
— Elizabeth Slifer (@SBCCountryGirl) July 17, 2016
According to ABC News, children who have autism can have a difficult time processing sensory information. It is not uncommon for someone of any age on the autism spectrum to find loud music and bright lights to be excruciatingly painful. While it does affect individuals of all ages on the spectrum, it is a complaint you hear more about in children, because children are still learning how to cope with sensory sensitivities. Adults with autism do experience the same sensitivities – in a lot of cases adults with autism have just been around longer and found ways to cope with the sensitivities in a way that makes them less painful. Children with autism – and parents to those children – are still trying to find a way to cope.
“Our parties are customizable to each child’s needs and likes. Every detail is thought and talked about with the parent during the planning process to prevent any meltdowns.”
At Pixie Dust, special needs parents can also customize the party’s food menu to fit the dietary needs of their child. Parents of children with special needs are no stranger to the struggles of getting a child to eat certain foods. Some parents of children with autism, in particular, claim their children have a small number of foods they are willing to eat and thing else is acceptable.
“Most party places just offer pizza as an option. We can customize the food menu for those with sensitivities to texture.”
Raquel Noriega has overhauled this special needs party venue to cater to all ages and all genders as well. Some of the party themes the venue offers includes:
- Pixies and Pirates
- Buggy Birthday Buzz
- Butterfly Garden
- Barnyard Picnic
Pixie Dust is committed to only hosting a single party at a time in order to make the experience for the individual child as pleasant as possible and to minimize the chance of a meltdown.
Pixie Dust even offers several periods of sensory play. During this time, parents can take their children out for an hour of play with sensory activities.
“Sensory Play focuses on stimulating children’s senses of sight, sound, smell, touch, balance and movement,” Noriega said. “We use a variety of fun and messy ways to make that happen.”
The sensory play activities at Pixie Dust are managed by a staff member who is also a special education teacher, as well as a developmental therapist. In order to better serve the parents and children who come to Pixie Dust, Noriega is currently working towards becoming a certified autism specialist. In addition to overhauling Pixie Dust, she also aspires to start a support group for special needs parents on Long Island.
“We are definitely not a cookie cutter party venue. [We] are a judgment-free zone. We get it.”
With Pixie Dust, this mother hopes to provide parents with a nice option for parties their special needs children can enjoy.
[Image via ShutterStock]