Mom Creates Inclusive Birthday Party Venue, Pixie Dust, for Kids With Special Needs
All Raquel Noriega wanted was to throw her daughter, Ava, a birthday party the 2-year-old would enjoy. What she didn’t realize was how challenging it would be to find a venue that could accommodate a child on the autism spectrum.
Most venues host multiple parties at once, have bright lights and music blasting and are generally overwhelming, especially for someone with 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.”
Noriega eventually found a venue in Bayshore, New York, – Pixie Dust – which allowed her to tailor the party to her daughter’s needs. But she decided to take things a step further — to help other parents throw parties their kids with special needs could enjoy, Noriega bought Pixie Dust and began overhauling it as a special-needs-friendly party location.
“Our parties are customizable to each child’s needs and likes,” Noriega told The Mighty. “Every detail is thought and talked about with the parent during the planning process to prevent any meltdowns.”
Pixie Dust also allows parents to customize the party’s menu to fit their child’s dietary needs. “Most party places just offer pizza as an option,” she said. “We can customize the food menu for those with sensitivities to texture.”
The venue caters to all ages and offers gender-neutral parties as well. Some party themes include “Pixies & Pirates,” “Buggy Birthday Buzz,” “Butterfly Garden” and “Barnyard Picnic.” It only hosts one party at a time to make each child’s experience as peaceful as possible.
Pixie Dust also offers periods of “sensory play,” where parents can take their kids for an hour of play designed for sensory sensitivities. “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.”
Sensory play periods are managed by a Pixie Dust staffer who is also a special education teacher and development therapist. To better serve her clients, Noriega is working on becoming a certified autism specialist and is hoping to start a support group for special needs parents on Long Island.
“We are definitely not a cookie cutter party venue,” Noriega said of Pixie Dust. “[We] are a judgment-free zone. We get it.”