Campus & Culture

The Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support to Open First-of-Its-Kind Residence Hall

The residence hall will open next fall and serve as an additional support option for college students on the spectrum.

Saint Joseph's students hanging out on campus

by Gabrielle Lacherza

The Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support at Saint Joseph’s University is expanding its commitment to college students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by offering an on-campus residential option that builds community and provides increased support. The residence hall is a new frontier for autism at college as it will be located on a traditional college campus and is set to open in fall 2022. This new option will be available to undergraduate students enrolled in the ASPIRE program, an immersive program led by Kinney’s team of trained professionals that provides students with ASD with a wide-range of personalized support services. The expansion of services aims to enhance the transition from adolescence into adulthood for individuals on the spectrum, as the number of young adults on the spectrum continues to grow. 

“The supported residence hall builds on the success we’ve had in the ASPIRE program and will provide a new layer of support for our students on the spectrum,” says Angus Murray, executive director of the Kinney Center. “As our program has grown over the last decade, so has the amount of support services. We've seen an increase in the number of students who have expressed a need for more support around independent living as they initially transition from home to college, and as a way to further build community and enhance connection.”

The residence hall will be staffed with a team of resident assistants and graduate assistants trained in supporting college students on the spectrum. It will allow students to choose to build deeper relationships with other neuro-diverse peers, while working towards independence with practical applications of lessons learned in ASPIRE skills courses, including topics like personal care, problem solving and communal living. 

Students living in the residence will have the opportunity to attend weekly structured social events and student life activities to help them get acclimated to a vibrant college campus. The Kinney Center will also host an array of programming and social activities for residents and other students at the residence hall to further community building efforts. 

“All students are encouraged to be involved across campus, but now ASPIRE students interested in this option will have another way to help set themselves up for success,” says Murray. 

The residence will be located at Saint Albert’s Hall, with building renovations being completed prior to the opening. The Kinney Center has plans to work with Thomas Jefferson University’s Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce on sensory-friendly design options. 

ASPIRE program participants continue to achieve high graduation and employment rates. To learn more about the supported residence hall and the Kinney Center, visit sju.edu/kinney.