From November 20-22nd, the Vatican is hosting this international conference on people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
Under the motto "Animating Hope,” the conference aims to shift the focus from the challenges families with autistic children face to the gifts these children bring both to their families and their societies.
Mother of Leland Lee
"The main reason today here is the animating of hope. We believe that we want to focus on ability, not the disability in autism. In every autism spectrum children or adults, they all have some ability. Not only in art, perhaps in music and perhaps in math or any form. We just need to nurture them and help them discover whatever their special ability is.”
Karen Lee is accompanying her 25 year old son Leland, an internationally acclaimed painter who was diagnosed with autism when he was 18 months old.
"Over the years it has been really difficult because when he was diagnosed the doctor in Los Angeles said he would never be able to speak or to have a normal life. Today, you witnessed from impossible to possible, that not only can he speak Chinese, but also English, and Chinese is one of the most difficult languages in the world.”
Leland started using painting as a way to communicate through colors and shapes at the young age of 2, and was internationally recognized by age 16. Some of his artworks are being exhibited at the Vatican for the duration of the conference.
"In God, everything is possible. Thank you.”
The conference will conclude this Saturday November 22nd with a general audience between the families and Pope Francis.