St. Joe's Hagan Arena debuts autism break room for students, kids

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- When the St. Joe's Hawks play their rival Villanova on Sunday, the basketball game will feature something new for the emotional well-being of its fans.

The Hagan Arena has a first-of-its-kind autism break room for students, and children with autism.

The room features items like noise-canceling headphones, bouncy balls, and stress boards to ease rough moments.

"Some of the things we consider very exciting can be very stressful at times. Also sensory sensitivities - the flashing lights, the loud music, the chanting and cheering," said Joe McCleery from the Kinney Center for Autism Education at St. Joseph's University.

"One of the purposes you have college athletics is to build community, and it can't be a true community unless it's accessible to everybody," said Jill Bodensteiner, Director of Athletics at St. Joseph's University.

And game-day staff has been trained by experts at the university's Kinney Center for Autism.

St. Joe's is believed to be the first university to offer an on-site room like this.

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