Mount Sinai and RVC Blue Speaks ease ER nerves for people with autism


Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital has partnered with RVC Blue Speaks to create a machine that provides a calming atmosphere for people with autism spectrum disorder in the stressful environment that the emergency room can be. “Louie” has a wide array of calming distractions that can help those with ASD cope with the atmosphere.

MSSN is complementing Louie with a clinical program meant to cater to the needs of patients with ASD that alleviates communication between their families and medical care teams to establish comprehensive care plans.

A large part of this program with autism charity RVC Blue Speaks was inspired by experiences founders Anthony and Mary Lou Cancellieri had with their grandson, Louis, who the “Louie” machine is named after.

A few years ago, Cancellieri and his daughter had a frustrating experience at a hospital on Long Island. When the family brought Louis in for treatment, they were met by an intake person and informed them that little Louis was on the spectrum. “The person said: ‘Does he bite?’ And my daughter was devastated that someone would ask that question,” Anthony said.

As a member of the board at MSSN, Anthony said he believed he and RVC Blue Speaks could push for more training to improve care at the hospital for people like Louis. RVC Blue Speaks donated $15,000 to expand the hospital’s Child Life Program and purchase the Vecta System Sensory Station that was dubbed Louie.

The machine offers people with ASD multi-sensory options like a rubber ball that controls bubbles in the central water tube, fiber optic strands for people to run their fingers through and noise cancelling headphones.

Additionally, “Louie” has a projector, blankets and iPads for those with ASD to use as they wish. Often, they are offered in exchange for the patient’s cooperation with things like shots to incentivize the patient to remain calm.

“We really want kids to have a say in their care,” Director of Child Life Services AnnMarie DiFrancesca said. “It’s all about giving kids control and allowing them to communicate with us in a manner that they’re most comfortable with.”

The “Louie” platform is wheeled, enabling it to be moved throughout the hospital when the need arises. And at a news conference on April 30, it was revealed that RVC Blue Speaks has agreed to fund a second “Louie” for use at MSSN.

“It is our blessing to support the hospital in this initiative knowing that the Vecta Sensory System will help hospital clinical staff provide a more comfortable and stress-free environment for patients with ASD and other special needs,” Anthony Cancellieri said.

Cancellieri added that he hopes that the work being done at Mount Sinai South Nassau can be the catalyst for better treatment for those with ASD in hospitals across the country. He is a board member for the eight Mount Sinai hospitals in New York City, where training is also underway to treat patients with ASD in a more compassionate and effective way.