PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Saint Joseph’s University unveiled a first-of-its-kind room at Hagan Arena today.
The Autism Break Room opened to the public during the Hawks’ Autism Awareness Game Sunday.
The quiet space is designed and staffed by experts at the University’s nationally-recognized Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support.
“A high-energy event, like the quintessential experience of a college basketball game, can pose challenges for people with autism. By providing a supportive break room, with trained staff and sensory-friendly items, we can ensure that all fans and families can get in on the fun,” said Joseph McCleery, Ph.D., executive director of academic programs at The Kinney Center. “Our preliminary research shows that exercise can be a powerful tool in autism treatment, so getting kids excited about sports is important.”
It features sensory-friendly items, such as color-changing mats, stress balls, bean bag chairs and noise-cancelling headphones.
“Hagan Arena will now be an even more welcoming and inclusive environment for families and children with autism,” said Jill Bodensteiner, director of athletics at Saint Joseph’s University. “In light of the fact that Saint Joseph’s is the home to the world class Kinney Center, we should be a leader in college athletics when it comes to integrating individuals with sensory differences into the athletics community.”
More than 150 Kinney Center students and their families attended the women’s game, which Villanova won, 47-35.
The Break Room will also be available at games on Jan. 20, Feb. 2 and March 2.