Filipino autism advocates excited to meet Pope Francis


SAN FRANCISCO – For some, having a family member with disability may be a cross to bear.  But for Lynda, her devotion to her grandson Julien, who has autism, has brought her her life’s calling.

She said, “We’re not going to be here forever, the parents, grandparents. This is a lifetime disability.  So what happens when we’re gone? That’s always something at the back of our minds. When we think about it,  we get chills, we get sad…what’s going to happen to my grandson, to my son, to my daughter?”

As founder of the Autism Hearts Foundation, a group that promotes skills education for children and young adults with autism, she has been to many places…including the Vatican where the pope held the first-ever papal audience in November 2014 for people people with autism.

“He transcends peacefulness, joy, love, and you really feel very blessed,” said Lynda.

Pope Francis spent time blessing hundreds who turned up for the conference, especially the children with autism, showing his deep compassion. In his message, Pope Francis urged people to break down the stigma burdening people with autism and create a network of support and services.

The Holy Father showed the interconnection of science and faith.  He called on people to listen to the profound needs that arise from pathology, which are often difficult to diagnose and accept without shame.  Lynda expressed, “He described how difficult it is. It’s a lifetime disability but with the support of community, its more bearable”

For the Autism Hearts Foundation, one of the challenges of people with autism is transitioning from school to the outside world.

One of the group’s programs is arts training, painting Philippine pineapple fabric which may evolve into an enterprise.

Designer Anthony Legarda said, “It’s not hard to support because they really do beautiful work, beautiful pieces. It stands on its own merit, it just so happened it’s done by people with autism.”

The Autism Hearts Foundation also want to seek the Church’s support in encouraging the celebration of special masses every Sunday, devoted to families with kids with disabilities or autism.

When the pope addresses the U.N. General Assembly in New York next week, Lynda and some delegates of the Autism Hearts Foundation will be there to listen.

Julien won’t be coming along, but he has a message to the pope.  “I love Pope Francis – joy peace love acceptance.”

A message that autism support groups hope will resonate with many as well.

You may contact Paul Henson at for more information.



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