CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – Trips to the emeregency room are stressful, and they can be even more difficult for people with sensory needs. That’s why experts at Carle designed a sensory-friendly treatment room.

Emergency Department Director Holly Cook said it has lighting that can be dimmed, a bubble wall, interactive toys and more. She said it’s a unique resource to offer patients of all ages.

“For a patient with sensory needs, to be able to have a space for them that is separate from the traditional Emergency Department space, it can help that patient and family more easily focus on the care that they’re there to receive in the ED,” Cook said.

She said they’ve already gotten a lot of positive feedback from families, and they hope to eventually transform more treatment rooms.

When the child or adult with sensory issues is in an emergency state, it is even more complicated, said Justin Hoskins, MD, who treats children in Carle Foundation Hospitals Emergency Department (ED).

He added, “The situation can be overstimulating for the patient. There is a question of whether a child is fussy because of the environment they are in or is there something physically wrong?” he said.

Karen Eisenmenger, MD, has a son with autism and can relate, “We had our share of ED (Emergency Department) visits. When you are in emergency, it is not a quick visit,” she said.

Eisenmenger made contact with Carle Child Life Specialist Sara Burton, MS, CCLS, and a representative of the Champaign Urbana Autism Network. They discussed how to improve ER settings and came up with a solution. The Joe Eisenmenger Sensory Room at Carle Hospital will have rocking furniture, dimmable lighting, and interactive wall art for anyone with sensory needs.

The Carle Health Center for Philanthropy started raising money in September of 2020 for a sensory friendly spaces for the health system. The money came from annual the employee giving campaign, iGive, and the Carle Golf Open.

The locations with sensory friendly spaces:

  • Carle BroMenn Medical Centersensory gym
  • Carle Therapy Services, North AnnexPaulie Palermo Sensory gym
  • Carle Champaign on Curtis sensory exam room
  • Carle Olney Primary Care Center sensory exam room
  • Carle Richland Memorial Hospital, Rehab service sensory space
  • Carle Foundation Hospital Emergency Department

“Our sensory initiative centered around providing a better and less stressful experience for our patients with autism and their families. Our donors, through their generous gifts, have transformed the healthcare environment for those who depend on us for care,” Beth Katsinas, vice president, Carle Health Center for Philanthropy, said.

As for the Carle ER sensory room, while there are not many distractions, there is a calming bubble machine. Eisenmenger family got permission from author Eric Carle to use art from “The Very Quiet Caterpillar” in a plaque on one of the walls by the room. Eisenmenger said the book is special, “because it tells of the “very quiet cricket” and reminds her of her son who since age 3 uses a special device to speak.”

Because of Joe’s demanding needs as he grew he is now residing in a residential center fit to meet his needs.

“JoeJoe would be amazed to see the room, and I`m sure one day he will,” Dr. Eisenmenger said.