BAY SHORE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Planning a child’s birthday party can be stressful, and if a child has autism it, can be extra challenging.
Now, as CBS2’s Cindy Hsu reported, a Bay Shore, Long Island mom has opened a party place designed for children with special needs.
Raquel Noriega found it nearly impossible to find a place to celebrate the second birthday of her daughter, Ava, who has autism.
“We couldn’t go into places that were too noisy, too overwhelming, too crowded,” Noriega said.
Then they found Pixie Dust, and the owner let Ava’s mom accommodate her daughter’s needs — from food with specific textures to giving her the extra space she often needs.
Noriega is now the owner of Pixie Dust.
“It turned out great,” Noriega said. “Found out the place was for sale and here I am. I’m trying to provide that for everyone else.”
Inside Pixie Dust is a sign that says “special needs friendly venue.” Noriega said she hopes in the future, that won’t be so unusual.
As the new owner, Noriega started offering sensory play, since many kids on the spectrum find it calming when their senses are stimulated.
“I have different textures, scents, feels,” she said.
Among the play items are crunchy colored raw pasta and scented, colored raw rice.
Anthony Tramuta said his daughter, Luciana, loves the place. While she’s not autistic, she does have sensory issues.
“A year ago, it was very frustrating, because we really didn’t know what was going on,” Tramut said. “She suffers from loud noises. She’ll put her hands on her ears, but that’s subsided quite a bit.”
Victoria, 2, is also sensitive to noises and crowds. At Pixie Dust, she has found a peaceful place, and her mother has found lots of support.
“It’s important to find other parents that are going through similar issues so you can talk about different methods; how to cope with it; ideas,” said Angela Rocchi.
Parents can also visit Pixie Dust without fear of being judged, Noriega said.
“We’re a judgement free zone. Our kids tend to have meltdowns and no one looks at you funny. When we’re out in public, sometimes people make comments. They look at you funny – ‘Why is your child behaving that way?’” she said. “We as moms understand.”
Noriega is hoping places like hers will help create awareness so everyone will understand
Noriega said she has already heard from people all over the world who are interested in opening a Pixie Dust in their area.