The Kinney Center
Autism Awareness Week
Saint Joe’s is a melting pot of diversity, that is a big part of what makes us so great as a community. Thanks to the Kinney Center, Saint Joe’s is also a melting pot of neurodiversity. Unlike many institutions in the United States, we are committed to social justice. On so many campuses across the country there isn’t the slightest presence of neurodiversity. The Kinney Center helps us to make unbelievable steps in bringing our vision of social justice to life. We embrace the opportunity to grow as a family that autism brings us. This center has been a bright spot on our campus helping to train people, and also helping those in need. The Kinney Center truly makes monumental differences in the lives of who it touches, from students, families, and people with autism. So, there is no better time than Autism Awareness Month to explore the amazing things that the Kinney Center has to offer the world, and the ways it changes the lives of so many!
Interview with Erin Connell: Special Edu. Major and Kinney Center Day Worker
What is a normal day at work like for you?
Well, at the Kinney Center we have learners, and they range anywhere from age 3 to I believe 75. We have different programs for them. For example, we teach them social skills or just general skills for life. In the programs, we tell them the skill, then we probe the skill, and reteach it to them. It could be something as simple as saying Hi. We then record the data for their behavior. We even have things like sports incorporated into our programs, like today we played soccer.
How did you get involved at the Kinney Center?
It started because I really wanted an on-campus job. I thought working at the Kinney Center would be perfect, because I’m a Special Education major. I’ve never gotten the chance to work with special education kids until my job at the Kinney Center, and it’s been such a great experience, not to mention, quite a unique one for an undergrad student to have.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
Well, it keeps me really busy, so I do enjoy that. But my favorite thing is seeing our kids actually being able to learn these skills and use them because of us. I just love helping and seeing them succeed. For example, today at work I saw one of my learners from last semester. She did not speak last semester, but today she was actually able to have a conversation with me! It was so awesome to see and to be able to talk to her.
Are you going to any of the events for Autism Week?
The Pancake Breakfast, definitely. I went to it last year and everyone loves it. A lot of people come out, and we have a great time. One of my coworkers even brought her kids to the breakfast last year.
Friday Night Fun
Autism proms are a sensory-friendly social event for children with Autism. Many kids with autism never get the chance to attend proms, so this world-wide phenomena offers them the opportunity to enjoy an evening that consists face-painters, music, dancing, junk food and other entertaining activities, while surrounded by people who understand them and accept them for who they are. The events are significant not only for the students but for parents who otherwise might not get to see their child experience a similar hallmark moment.
Friday April 13th, the Kinney Center celebrated their annual Prom. The SCHOLARS at Kinney accompany their learners to prom and even prom-pose them beforehand. This year, a SCHOLAR whose learner loves Kanye West, prom-posed to him with a banner that said “Kanye go to prom with me?” which made him very happy. SCHOLARS described this years prom as being “so much fun” and “one of the best ones yet”, one of the learning kids even got to play the drums as part of the musical act. Autism proms give these children a night full of dancing, food and fun that they will never forget.
A Safe Environment
Sensory Sensitivity Programs
Sensory Sensitivity refers to how aware an individual is to sensory channels such as sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, and pain. Varying degrees of sensitivity affects an individual’s outwardly responses in situations of high stimulation. For many Kinney attendees, their level of sensory sensitivity impact the textures of food in their diets to the fabric of clothing they prefer to drifting odors in the wind to flashes from a camera. These minuscule details that neurotypical individuals overlook in their daily lives become major hindrances to individuals with Autism. The Kinney Center does an amazing job by catering to all levels of sensory sensitivity. One of the programs offered during Autism Awareness Week was Sensory Sensitive Family Portraits. This is a very popular event for families as it provides intimate and personalized attention to help make what seems like a basic family outing, manageable by reducing the stimulating flashes and daunting environment. The Kinney Center’s ability to provide these families and participants with typical childhood experiences, helps to minimize sensory sensitivities’ limitations on living a full life.
Advocacy and Fundraising
Be A Part of Autism Awareness Week
Some of the other ways you can get involved is to Start a Drive. The Kinney Center collects games, sports equipment, and even dress up costumes. Keeping with the theme of clothing, you can also organize a dress down day at your office or school, or sell Kinney Center bracelets. These are all great ways to not only donate to the cause, but to raise awareness. They also recently just held their Day of Giving on April 10th, where they received 500 donations. In doing so, they’re now able to provide a $100,000 scholarship for ASPIRE, a program designed to help with autistic students at SJU’s transition into being full-time college students.
Another great way to participate in raising awareness is Autism Walks. In Philadelphia, there is the Eagles Autism Challenge happening on May 19th, 2018. The event begins at Lincoln Financial Field and ends on the 50 yard line. You can choose from cycling or a 5k walk/run. There is also the Autism Speaks Walk, coming up in the Fall of 2018, which is held at Citizens Bank Park. Their fundraising goal from now until then is $427,000. Both of these websites have links for donating and will be open until the end of the events!