SJU Announces Major Initiative in the Field of Autism

Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support to provide education, advocacy and assistance

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

PHILADELPHIA (April 21, 2009) — Saint Joseph’s University formally announced the creation of The Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support on April 20, as part of the University’s 5th Annual Autism Awareness Day. The Center has received multiple gifts totaling in excess of $8 million, with lead support coming from Paul and Margaret Hondros. Paul Hondros is a graduate of the Class of 1970 and Chairman of SJU’s Board of Trustees. He and his wife Margaret are champions for autism.

Saint Joseph’s Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support will bring a unique approach to the field. Rooted in the Jesuit mission of service to others and cura personalis, or care for the whole person, the Center will act as a practical and supportive resource for educators, professionals, and families affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

“Currently, the availability of autism education, research and support is clearly disproportionate with the need of the millions of professionals and families impacted by the disorder,” said Paul Hondros. “The Kinney Center will meet the needs of all those impacted by Autism and will place the University among the national leaders in the field as an interdisciplinary endeavor concerned for people with autism throughout the life cycle and across the spectrum of the disorder.” | Visit the Kinney Center's Web site

“There are many centers and institutes where the specialization is on research and medicine,” said Michelle Rowe, Ph.D., executive director of the Kinney Center. “What makes our center special will be the focus on the needs of those who struggle day-to-day dealing with autism.”

Among the Center’s top priorities will be addressing the lack of proper training for individuals who evaluate, treat, educate and provide other services for people living with autism. “ASD is considered the fastest-growing developmental disorder in the country, yet, our current education system is not equipped to handle the demand,” Rowe added.

Outreach and advocacy will also top the Center’s agenda, with the goal of creating a safe environment for parents and family members to network and gather information. In addition, the center will serve as a resource for understanding and becoming involved with public policy related to Autism.

“Our hope is that the Kinney Center becomes not just a place where educators gain the skills and support they need to serve students with ASD, but also a place where caregivers can turn when they need help navigating the medical and insurance industry and the special education systems in their school districts,” said Rowe, also a professor of interdisciplinary health services.

Saint Joseph’s University will draw on its history of interdisciplinary strengths in education, psychology, health services and philosophy to provide resources relevant to working with people with ASD throughout the spectrum and the life cycle. A certificate in Autism Studies will be made available for undergraduates, and graduate coursework would apply toward a master’s degree in special education. Other planned initiatives include after-school programming and summer camps for students with ASD. SJU will also collaborate with other universities to create a model program to help college-age students with Asperger’s Syndrome, or high-functioning autism, successfully complete their undergraduate education.

Media Contact

 Kelly Welsh, Senior Associate Director of University Communications, 610-660-1385,

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