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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Changes coming to Kinney Center

Angus Murray, executive director of the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

After two months on the job, the new executive director of the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support is starting to make a list of what he would like to accomplish during his tenure at St. Joe’s.

Angus Murray, former CEO of Variety— The Children’s Charity of the Delaware Valley, joined the Kinney Center last November.

“The first couple months have been drinking from the fire hose in terms of information absorption,” Murray said.

One of the goals on Murray’s list is to enhance the ASPIRE program’s support for its students. The ASPIRE program helps St. Joe’s students on the autism spectrum adjust to college life.

“We’d like to expand that program and really make sure that we are supporting these folks, not just to get their diplomas but then for life after their diplomas, making sure that they are able to make the transition into the workplace,” Murray said.

Also on Murray’s list is collaborating with the Career Development Center to expand the Kinney Center’s current vocational readiness skills training that ASPIRE students receive.

Lindsey DelCarlino, associate director of programs at the Kinney Center, said a stronger relationship with Career Development would be a valuable asset to ASPIRE students.

“Through learning tips to strengthen their resumes, to understanding how to navigate the interview process, working with Career Development only provides value to our ASPIRE model,” DelCarlino said in an email to The Hawk. “We want our ASPIRE students to have as many resources as needed to successfully land a career after graduation.”

Another way to help those students, Murray said, is to educate companies about neurodiverse workplaces (workplaces that include people with a variety of neurological conditions).

“We’ve done a really good job of taking folks on the spectrum and saying ‘Hey, you need to do X, Y and Z when you’re at the workplace,’” Murray said. “We’ve done a poor job of saying to the workplace, ‘Hey, you need to do this in order to have these people be successful.’”

So far, the Kinney Center has built relationships with companies such as Aer Lingus, SAP and Vertex, including creating a guide for Aer Lingus to help people on the spectrum with travel, Murray said.

Also, while the Kinney Center is currently focused on applied behavioral analysis (A.B.A.) therapy, Murray said the inclusion of therapeutic recreation and occupational therapy would further benefit Kinney Center SCHOLARS (Students Committed to Helping Others Learn about Autism Research and Support) by exposing them to the kinds of practices they would experience in the workforce.

“I come from the world of hiring [direct-care staff],” Murray said. “And so these guys are coming out of SJU with a breadth of experience that most undergraduates don’t have when they leave college, and I think that there is room to expand that and get some other disciplines involved.”

That expansion could come from partnerships with departments in other universities, Murray said. The Kinney Center is currently in discussion with Temple University’s therapeutic recreation department and Thomas Jefferson University’s occupational therapy department, among others, he said.

Marygrace Hallinan ’19, a case manager for the adult day program at Kinney, has worked at Kinney since her first year at St. Joe’s. Hallinan said the staff is relieved to have a new director in place after so many months without one. The former director, Ryan Hammond, left the Kinney Center in the spring of 2018 to take a job as the executive director of the Philadelphia Eagles Autism Challenge.

“I absolutely loved our previous executive director,” Hannilan said. “She was dedicated to getting to know us as her employees. I know that she was very dedicated to the autism community in general in Philadelphia. What I would love to see in the new executive director is drive. And I’d say he’s done a great job in his efforts to get to know us.”

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