Kinney Center Offers After-School Social Skills Program

Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support Launches Six-Week Program to Improve Communication, Social Interaction

Thursday, February 25, 2010

PHILADELPHIA (Feb. 25, 2010) - To help children with autism develop essential communication and social skills, the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support at Saint Joseph’s University will offer an after-school program beginning March 16 for children ages three and up with autism spectrum disorders.  The six-week program, which runs through April 28 and consists of a one-hour session once each week, will equip the youngsters with the skills to improve relationships with family, teachers, peers and others.

“Area school districts are engaged in educating children with these disorders,” said M. Michelle Rowe, Ph.D., executive director of the Kinney Center and professor of Health Services at Saint Joseph’s.  “Our after-school program will focus on building social skills in a fun, supportive environment.”

The targeted skills include greetings, conversations, social play, developing friendships, critical thinking and perspective taking (how to ‘read’ someone’s feelings).  Basic interactions such as saying ‘hello,’ making eye contact, taking turns and learning appropriate responses will be built into the program in a relaxed, small group setting.

Under the supervision of a licensed psychologist and a certified behavior analyst, the Center’s Kinney SCHOLARS - Students Committed to Helping Others Learn about Autism Research and Support - will staff the program.  Sixteen Saint Joseph’s undergraduates with majors in special education, psychology and interdisciplinary health services have been accepted into the SCHOLARS program and are currently training for their roles in the after-school program.

“I wanted to become a Kinney SCHOLAR because I have a family member with autism. I have seen first-hand the benefits of proper therapies for children with autism and also how it can affect the life of the family,” said Faith Galletley, a freshman majoring in psychology.

Added sophomore psychology major Danny Cahalin, “Becoming a Kinney SCHOLAR is such an amazing opportunity for me. I’m so thankful and excited for the opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life.”

Throughout the program, staff will monitor the participants’ progress and modify programming according to individual needs.

“We have designed the social skills sessions to give every child the individual attention and step-by-step approach to skill-building so that they can be successful,” said Rowe.

Cost for the after-school program is $160, with a limited number of reduced-fee scholarships available to families in need of financial assistance.

Other programs at the Kinney Center include the recently launched Kids Night Out, a three-hour program offered one Friday evening each month from 6 to 9 p.m. Children who attend can enjoy fun activities in a structured supervised environment, while their parents can enjoy a respite from worrying about their child with autism.  Said one parent when he came to pick up his child, “My wife and I haven’t been out on a dinner date in 17 years.”

Program Hours
Age Days Time

3-6 years



7-10 years



11-14 years



15-18 years



Rowe and the Kinney Center staff are also busy planning a five-week summer camp that she describes as “structured fun.” While the focus will be on recreational activities, including arts and crafts, swimming, and indoor and outdoor sports, children will also be learning social skills through play.  The camp, which will run daily from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., will be open to children with autism as well as youngsters who do not have developmental disabilities. “Children with autism can benefit from interacting with neurotypical or so called ‘normal’ peers because they learn the expectations and social norms of kids their own age,” noted Rowe, adding that “it will allow children with autism and their neurotypical siblings to share a camp experience.”

For more information about the Kinney Center Afterschool Social Skills Program and to download an application, visit the Center's Web site.

Media Contact

Harriet K. Goodheart, assistant vice president for University Communications, 610-660-1532,

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