Pope Francis tackles autism as families seek hope, support

Josephine McKenna


Michele and Vinny Arbogast of New York were devastated when their son Kyle was diagnosed with autism as he struggled to speak as a toddler nearly a decade ago.

“Autism turns your world upside down,” Michele Arbogast said. “It affects every member of the family.”

Kyle is now 10 and one of an estimated 70 million people affected by the disorder around the world.

This week, he traveled to Rome with his twin sister, Jacqueline, and the rest of his family for the first-ever global gathering on autism hosted by the Vatican.

“There was no question in my mind, we had to come,” said Michele Arbogast, who gave up her job as a TV producer to help take care of her son. “In my darkest moments it was my faith that I turned to.”

More than 650 experts from 57 countries have come together for a three-day conference organized by the Vatican body responsible for pastoral health care to discuss diagnosis, treatment, research and support for families.

Pope Francis, who is known for his compassion and often pictured at his weekly audience in St Peter’s Square embracing the disabled, is due to address the final session on Saturday (Nov. 22). Michele Arbogast hopes the pope can help raise autism awareness among the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, especially in poorer nations.

“Pope Francis has changed the dynamics. He reaches out to those in need,” said Arbogast, who also works for the New-York based Autism Speaks foundation.

“Words from the Holy Father will reach the smallest villages, touch hearts, change minds and help people to volunteer and help other families.”

Full article here


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