University Report 2015-16 | Centers & Institutes

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Kinney Center Assists in Transition to Adulthood

“Initially we were compelled to respond to the growing number of [autism] diagnoses. … We’re now sharing that focus with the teen and adult populations, who may need our services most of all.” - Ryan Hammond ’13 (MBA)

Autism is aging.

That is, more than 50,000 individuals with autism reach adulthood — their 18th birthday — each year. With that milestone, they must apply for the services they’ve come to rely on, and the availability of funding and acceptance to quality programs taught by highly trained and certified staff can be challenging.

The Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support has seen a rise in teenagers and young adult program participants — from 47 in 2013 to 165 in 2015 — and its waiting list has grown to more than 30 families for the day program’s 10 places.

“As the Kinney Center established itself as a trusted resource for the Greater Philadelphia autism community, we quickly learned that there were gaps in services,” says Executive Director Ryan Hammond ’13 (MBA). “Initially we were compelled to respond to the growing number of diagnoses, estimated to be one in 68 children. We’re now sharing that focus with the teen and adult populations, who may need our services most of all.”

The Kinney Center’s ASPIRE program, now in its fifth year, offers college support for individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. The most comprehensive program of its kind in the Philadelphia area, it has become a model for other colleges and universities and has grown from three students in 2012 to 20 in 2016.

In May 2016, SJU’s first two ASPIRE students graduated. One accepted a fellowship from Princeton University in atmospheric and oceanic science. The other is working and pursuing certifications in actuarial science.

The Kinney Center has become a destination for teens and young adults who want to experience college life on campus with same-aged peers who serve as mentors and models. But the Kinney Center is helping older adults as well — one participant is 72.

Life and social skills programs are also available to build autonomy in areas such as money management, meal preparation, personal hygiene and health, housekeeping, and emergency and safety skills.

“Challenging behaviors can be tougher to manage in adults than in children,” says Kinney SCHOLAR Lauren Carson ’17, an autism behavioral studies and psychology double major from Deptford, New Jersey. “But the reward is the gradual progress toward independence. With the right support, we can help these individuals reach their fullest potential.”

kinneyautism.sju.edu