SJU Formally Opens Doors to Autism Center

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

Friday, September 18, 2009

PHILADELPHIA (September 18, 2009) — The numbers are terrifying – one in 150 children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD); one in 94 boys; ten percent of all eight-year-olds. With nearly 70 diagnoses each day, the need for support is unquestionable.

Saint Joseph’s University will begin answering this call for help by opening the doors to its Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support on Friday, October 2, at 3:30 p.m. in the Campus Commons on the James J. Maguire ’58 Campus. Established with multiple gifts totaling in excess of $8 million, with lead support coming from Paul ’70 and Margaret Hondros, the Center will offer a unique mix of services to families, educators, practitioners and service providers. (Download a schedule of the day's events)

“There are many centers and institutes where the specialization is on research and medicine,” said Michelle Rowe, Ph.D., executive director of the Center. “What’s missing is a safe place to turn to following a diagnosis; a place where the only agenda is to provide support and information.”

With its roots in the Jesuit mission of service and cura personalis, or care for the whole person, the Kinney Center will address the needs of those who struggle day-to-day with autism, either as individuals or caregivers.

“Currently, the availability of autism education, research and support is clearly disproportionate to the needs of the millions of professionals and families impacted by this condition,” said Paul Hondros. “By the formation of the center, the singular focus of a gifted professor in Dr. Michelle Rowe, the dedicated staff, and the certification program in autism studies, SJU is positioned to develop the next generation of educators and social service professionals who can help the nation and the region meet this growing need.”

On hand to celebrate the opening will be lead donors Paul and Margaret Hondros. Paul is a graduate of the Class of 1970 and Chairman of SJU’s Board of Trustees. Autism is an issue close to their hearts, as the two share a son who was diagnosed at age three. The Center was named for Paul’s mother, Dorothy Kinney Hondros.

In addition, American Hall of Fame quarterback for the Miami Dolphins Dan Marino will be a featured guest at the Kinney Center opening. Marino and his wife, Claire, established the Dan Marino Foundation in 1992, following their son’s diagnosis with autism. The Foundation supports medical research, treatment and outreach programs for children with chronic illnesses and developmental disabilities. The Foundation has raised over $22 million dollars to provide these programs and services, benefitting hundreds of thousands of children and their families.

The University will gather, along with elected officials, representatives from area school districts, community members, and autism champions to learn more about the Center and officially cut the ribbon. Following the ceremony, all are welcome to tour the newly installed  Kinney Center, located in Cynwyd Hall.

Saint Joseph’s University will draw on its history of interdisciplinary strengths in health services, education and psychology 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.

In addition to executive director Dr. Rowe, the Center has hired Bernadette McNulty, Ph.D., as senior director of operations, and Katharine Croce, M.Ed., as director of programs, training and service. Dr. McNulty comes to SJU from Melmark, Inc. and Croce joins the Kinney Center after working at the Bucks County Intermediate Unit #22. Faculty from across the University who work in the field of autism will also support the Kinney Center.

The new Kinney Center facility features expanded classroom and training space, meeting rooms and administrative offices, equipped with the following:

State-of-the-art lighting, with a quiet design to eliminate the buzz often given off by standard lighting. The buzz can have a negative impact on certain individuals with autism who have heightened senses. A sensory room, fitted with padded flooring and walls, along with a quiet area, creating a safe environment for both hypoactive and hyperactive visitors. In addition, the sensory room will house two swings and a smart board television that will allow visitors to interact with educational programs. Plans are also underway to provide a library for anyone seeking information about autism. Journals, books, videos, etc. will be made available to the public.

Media Contact

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

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