Kinney Autism & Support
While many children look forward to dressing up and collecting candy, Halloween may be stressful for families affected by autism, with new social rules and situations presenting sensory challenges for children.
Kinney Autism & Support
While the Kinney Center is known for providing world class training for individuals studying to work in the field of autism, the Kinney SCHOLARS program is beneficial to undergraduates pursuing a myriad of careers. Whether you want to become a dentist who can expertly serve individuals on the spectrum, or a manager who can capitalize on the talents of a neurodiverse workforce, the Kinney Center’s SCHOLARS program is right for you. Many of our SCHOLARS not directly pursuing a career in autism begin their time as a SCHOLAR in working as ASPIRE Peer Mentors. Here are some of their experiences...
Grace Barr '23
Minor: Interdisciplinary Health Science
My first experience working with the Kinney Center was during my Intro to Autism Spectrum Disorder course. Through this service learning course, I became an ASPIRE Peer Mentor. This was never a role I imagined myself stepping into, yet I am so glad I did. I enjoyed my entire experience so much that I applied to become a Kinney SCHOLAR, and stay on in my Peer Mentor role.
I find working with my mentee, to be an exciting and challenging experience. I’ve learned about fellow students on the spectrum, new communication and interaction skills, different ways of virtual learning, and so much more. This role challenges me to step outside my normal routine and comfort zone and grow as a person and a student. I appreciate that each meeting with my mentee is never the same as the last and I always learn something new.
I feel that my role as a Peer Mentor has made me a better, more understanding peer and friend. I have not only gained skills and experiences I never even knew I needed, but I have gained new friends. I am so grateful to work in such a caring and accepting environment that allows everyone to grow in their own unique ways.
Finn Hunsaker '21
Major: Political Science
My time at the Kinney Center began long before my inaugural year as a Kinney SCHOLAR. In fact, I began my time at Saint Joseph’s as a freshman-year student in the ASPIRE program, designed to help individuals on the Autism Spectrum like myself acclimate to college life and gain valuable academic and career skills. Following my completion of ASPIRE’s skills program, I transitioned to working in a volunteer capacity holding gatherings with my fellow ASPIRE students throughout my sophomore and junior year. At the beginning of this last semester, I was offered a position as a Kinney SCHOLAR which I accepted as a welcome extension of my experience as an ASPIRE student over the last few years.
I have found working as an ASPIRE program mentor via the SCHOLAR role to be a unique and rewarding experience. At its most essential point, my work allows me to effectively “give back” to an organization that has gone above and beyond to make my college career a success by extending the same knowledge and skills I received as an ASPIRE student to my mentee. Additionally, my time as part of a two-mentor team has allowed me to gain valuable experience in working in concert with others on a long-term basis, a valuable career skill.
Ultimately, I believe that the greatest privilege I have received as an ASPIRE mentor and Kinney SCHOLAR is the opportunity to act in some small way as a role model for younger students on the spectrum at Saint Joseph’s, who I believe comprise some of the most capable and driven individuals I have ever met. Both my mentee and other students I have worked with both as a student and a SCHOLAR have continually proven their dedication to complex, vital career fields from law to medicine, and I have little doubt that the ASPIRE program will give them the best possible opportunity to achieve those goals. Several elements of my growth as a student and an individual while at SJU can be attributed to the effects of ASPIRE on my social and academic skill-set, and I can only hope that my time as a SCHOLAR has aided others in taking charge of their own futures in a similar way.
Tate Fryczynski '22
Major: Interdisciplinary Health Science
Minors: Autism Studies, Biology
I started working as an ASPIRE peer mentor the second semester of my sophomore year. The ASPIRE program was the second program I worked in during my time as a Kinney SCHOLAR. My experience as a peer mentor has been nothing but fun, exciting, and challenging all at the same time! I got to learn more about each student I peer mentored for three semesters now, and it has opened my eyes to see that everyone who is on the spectrum is completely different from each other. Some may have great social skills, some may have challenges initiating conversations, and some may even struggle academically. Despite these differences and challenges, I have given it my all to be the best peer mentor I can be!
My four previous mentees and my current mentee are great individuals to work with because of their amazing personalities. I see myself in every mentee I have worked and hung out with because I relate to them with some of their differences that not a lot of people see and take the time to think about. I personally relate to them since I am myself on the autism spectrum. Even though I was never in the ASPIRE program myself, I actually learned a lot in their skills classes because I have struggled with time management and career planning, and the classes helped me realize how to be successful in my college career.
I feel that this role has allowed me to be a great leader by just being my fun and goofy self! Not only do my mentees help me formulate plans to work on their skills, but they also help me see the uniqueness they have and how we should always embrace our differences! I have always been understanding towards people on the spectrum, but I never realized how much they have taught me during my time as a mentor. I know that my ASPIRE mentees and other ASPIRE students are going to thrive outside of college because they all have something unique to bring to the table!
I think that I have been a good role model for my fellow mentees. This is because I have shown them that I care and will do anything for them if they ever need anything! I have shown them valuable skills to take on after college and I hope they use them in the future.