Saint Joseph's University to Open Residence Hall for Students with Autism

Saint Joseph's University to Open Residence Hall for Students with Autism

Moving out at the age of 18 may be fairly commonplace for young adults, but those on the autism spectrum are less apt to experience this. Studies show that only about 1 in 5 young adults with autism has lived independently from their parents. One university is building a new residence hall to help address this.

In the 2022-2023 academic year, Saint Joseph's University plans to open a campus housing space for students enrolled in its ASPIRE program, which provides students on the spectrum with personalized support services. They say the goal of this new service is to help teens with autism transition a little more comfortably into adulthood.

Angus Murray, executive director of Saint Joseph's Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support, says, "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."

School officials hope that the residence hall will give students on the spectrum a chance to build deep relationships with their fellow residents as they learn how to live independently. There will be weekly social events and student life activities available to the residents, as well as resident and graduate assistants on hand who are trained in supporting students with autism.

Officials say they hope this set-up will help students in an area where they sometimes have difficulties.

Murray explains, "We came to the realization that the residence hall was a spot where a lot of our folks were struggling. 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."

The hall will also aim to be more comfortable for these students, with sensory-friendly design elements. Students from ASPIRE actually contributed to this process, giving feedback on lighting, colors, furniture, and materials. Some recommendations likely to be added include dimmer switches, a room with a Lego wall for students to relax, and spaces that allow for social interaction as well as private study.

Michelle Milliken

Michelle has a journalism degree and has spent more than seven years working in broadcast news. She's also been known to write some silly stuff for humor websites. When she's not writing, she's probably getting lost in nature, with a fully-stocked backpack, of course.

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