In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the employment of adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Many posts have discussed programs to provide them with training and experience.
St. Joseph’s, home to the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support, plans to open its first residence hall specifically for students on the spectrum. With a capacity of up to 17 student residents and one student adviser, Saint Albert’s Hall off Lapsley Lane on the Lower Merion side of campus will undergo up to $250,000 in renovations this summer. A large three-story house, it used to be a women’s residence but most recently was used for COVID-19 housing.
“We came to the realization that the residence hall was a spot where a lot of our folks were struggling,” said Angus Murray, Kinney’s executive director. “Academically, they’re usually able to make the cut and succeed, but because of their social skills, they struggle in the residence halls. So we thought it might be helpful to have what we’re referring to as a longer runway as they transition from high school to college.”
St. Joseph’s will be among the first traditional college campuses in the country to offer such an option solely for its students. Landmark College in Vermont, for instance, is for students with learning disabilities and autism, and another group of residence halls in Vermont, Oregon, and Wisconsin, operated by Mansfield Hall, offer housing and services to students with autism from multiple college campuses.
Mercyhurst University in Erie offers apartment housing on campus with most of its students in the autism program living together there. Some colleges have specific floors with resident assistants trained in autism, said Jane Thierfeld-Brown, director of the College Autism Spectrum.
More than 70 colleges nationwide have autism programs, including Drexel, Eastern, Rutgers, West Chester, and several other Pennsylvania state universities in addition to St. Joe’s and Mercyhurst, according to the College Autism Spectrum.