Rockville Centre Police partner with KultureCity for sensory inclusion training


The Village of Rockville Centre has partnered with KultureCity to train its police department to be sensory inclusive.

Sean Culkin of Rockville Centre, was diagnosed with autism when he was young and with help and support, was able to cope through his formative years. He eventually went on to attend Adelphi University’s Bridges program, which is designed to help support students with autism spectrum disorder as they acclimate to a collegiate environment.

“As a lifelong Rockville Centre resident and an autistic man, myself, it means the world to me to see this community come together for a cause that has meant so much to me, my family and so many other Rockville Centre residents,” Culkin said. “When I was young, the doctors that diagnosed me on the autism spectrum told me that it was going to be a very hard life for me. That the community would not be there for me. They even recommended institutionalization for me, because at two years old, he did not see the existence of a community that was going to be passionate and so brought together to help individuals with invisible disabilities thrive in the modern world.”

Culkin, now 30, is an ambassador and board member with KultureCity, the world’s leading nonprofit in sensory accessibility acceptance and inclusion. He said that through its program, KultureCity helps train others to address the one in four individuals diagnosed with an invisible disability, such as autism, PTSD, dementia, ADHD, traumatic brain injury, patients who have suffered from a stroke and patients with Parkinson’s disease, to name just a few.

“There is such a wide range that we're constantly learning more and more about it,” Culkin continued. “And as we learn about these things, it is so important for our first responders, those individuals that are working with us in our most intimate moments, those that are going to be there when we're at our worst, to make sure that they are trained and ready accepting understanding and including of everybody that they could be working with.”

KultureCity has worked with more than 1,800 venues, organizations, small businesses, and individuals throughout the United States to provide certification and training on addressing individuals with sensory needs.

RVC Blue Speaks, a nonprofit organization, will provide funding for the program. Created by Tony and Mary Lou Cancellieri of Rockville Centre in 2016, RVC Blue Speaks helps raise money for families affected by autism.

“It’s not often that you go to a municipality with an idea, and they embrace it. And they did,” Tony Cancellieri said during the village meeting in June. “From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. We help one person, it’s a home run, but we’re going to help many more.”

To bring the sensory inclusion program to the Rockville Centre Police Department, Culkin and the Cancellieri’s met with Deputy Mayor Kathy Baxley about implementing the program — making Rockville Centre police the first in the state to receive such training.

“Currently, the entire state of Alabama's emergency responders are trained. Cities in Utah and Colorado are trained,” Deputy Mayor Kathy Baxley said. “There are many venues and arenas all over our country, opening up sensory rooms through KultureCity. You may have heard this past April, the Aaron and Samantha Judge sensory room opened at Madison Square Garden, but we will be the first police department in the state to be trained and that is all thanks to Sean.”

Before working to train officers in sensory inclusion, Culkin met with Rockville Centre Police Commissioner Randy Dodd, Inspector Christopher Romance, Training Sgt. Peter Pellegrino, Deputy Mayor Kathy Baxley, and Village Administrator Nancy Howard to discuss the work the program entails.

Once the rest of the police force is trained, KultureCity will provide the department with the sensory kits for each police vehicle.

Inside the kits are several tools, the first known as a “feelings thermometer,” designed for people that are nonverbal or may have difficulty speaking in a stressful situation. It includes a range of different emotions and cues intended to help bridge the communication gap in an emergency.

The kits also include fidget tools to help individuals de-stress and calm down during high stress situations, to help people focus and better ground themselves.

Lastly, they include noise-dampening headphones, which tune out ambient noise, while still allowing the wearer to communicate to help in an emergency.

“All officers will be trained under this program,” Culkin said. “This is a massive undertaking, and one that is going to impact so many people that we do not realize exist in this community.”

He said that by training officers in what invisible disabilities are and the best ways to approach those individuals, will help them achieve the best possible resolution.

Since meeting with the village, both Sgt. Peter Pellegrino and Lt. Matt Vickery have already completed the training.

“Any tool that helps our officers become better at their jobs is a benefit to our department,” Pellegrino said in a message to village board members. “We are already a very proactive police department, and this will make us even better.”

To learn more about KultureCity and the programs its sensory bag program, visit