Autism-Friendly “Sensory Santa” Makes Holiday Traditions Easier at Kinney Center

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

PHILADELPHIA (November 27, 2017) — The Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support will host its fifth annual “Sensory Santa” event on Saturday, Dec. 2, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Held in Connelly Hall on Saint Joseph’s University’s campus, the day makes the traditional experience of visiting Santa Claus more accessible to children with autism.

“Seeing Santa at a mall can be challenging for families of children on the spectrum,” says Ryan Hammond ’13 (MBA), executive director of the Kinney Center. “Waiting in long lines at a place fillled with loud noises and bright lights can be overwhelming for individuals on the spectrum. This event eliminates those factors in favor of a more individualized visit.”

Families schedule a 20-minute time slot to come to the Kinney Center and meet with Santa and Mrs. Claus, played by volunteers Kevin and Joanne Lavery, parents of SJU alumna and former Kinney SCHOLAR Devon Lavery ’16, ’17 (M.S.). During the sessions, Santa may sit on a bean bag chair, or play with the child’s favorite toy, to make him or her feel more at ease. In addition to the sensory-friendly visit, the event includes crafts and snacks for the children, and families leave with a digital photo of their child or the whole family with Santa.

About the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support: Offering services since March of 2010, the Kinney Center’s mission is to educate trained professionals in the field of autism studies and research, while also supporting families through programming. Kinney programs include Camp Kinney, a five-week summer camp for children with autism spectrum disorders and their “neurotypical peers” as well as the ASPIRE Program, which helps Saint Joseph’s University students who are on the spectrum transition into college life. The center also offers programming for all age groups in social and life skills, aided by Kinney SCHOLARS, undergraduate students interested in the field of autism research and support.

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Founded in 1851 in the Jesuit tradition of academic excellence, Saint Joseph’s University is a top-ranked Catholic University that provides a rigorous, student-centered education. With a total enrollment of 8,500 undergraduate and graduate students, SJU offers a wide array of academic programs designed so that each graduate enters the world with a competitive resume and global perspective. This is achieved through intense academic study led by thought-leading faculty scholars, a comprehensive campus experience and robust study abroad, service-learning, internship and co-op programs. Upon graduation, nearly 100 percent of students are employed, pursuing advanced degrees or volunteering in prestigious service programs. A member of the Atlantic 10 Conference, SJU offers 20 Division I intercollegiate men’s and women’s sports. SJU alumni — over 68,000 strong — provide a powerful network that spans the globe.

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