When Paul and Margaret Hondros’ 3-year-old son was diagnosed with autism in 2004, behavioral programs were few and far between. And those that did exist near the family’s Villanova home had long waiting lists.
But Margaret Hondros is a problem solver. To the former high-powered CPA, the dearth of autistic programs on the Main Line was simply a matter of supply and demand. “More and more kids were being diagnosed with autism, but there weren’t therapists trained to work with them,” she says.
Hondros and her husband decided to change that, founding the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support, which opened at Saint Joseph’s University in 2009. “It is a service learning center, meaning that we have programs for people with autism that are run by teachers working on their degrees in autism,” says Hondros.
The center offers both minors and majors in autism behavioral studies. Autistic kids and their families participate in programs ranging from behavioral therapy and support groups to summer camp and sports leagues. There’s even help for Saint Joe’s students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.
Hondros’ son is now at Radnor Middle School and thriving. But his mother still feels the pain of the years when she couldn’t find help. “The worry, guilt, helplessness and sheer frustration were overwhelming,” she says. “My goal is to help other families find their way out of that darkness—or avoid it altogether.”