It doesn’t get more impressive than this. A delegation from The Center for Discovery® had an audience with Pope Francis in Rome on Tuesday May 8th – and TCFD Associate Executive Director, Dr. Terry Hamlin, took the opportunity to hand the Pontiff an orange TCFD cap. “It was transformative,” said Dr. Hamlin. “A thrill of a lifetime – especially this Pope. He is the Pope of the people, especially children. You could feel his concern and compassion.”

So how did this meeting come about? The TCFD delegation is in Italy for a three-day Autism Conference in Sicily at the invitation of the Archdiocese of Monreale which has an affiliation agreement with the Archdiocese of New York to provide support and resources to individuals with autism and complex conditions. As a thank you to Dr. Hamlin and her colleagues for taking part in the conference, the Archbishop of Monreale, Michele Pennisi, arranged for them to attend a Papal Audience. The meeting was unexpected, which made it even more special, said Bill Evans, TCFD’s VP for Development. “It really was a thrill,” said Evans, who is also on the trip. “The Pope seemed genuinely pleased to receive the gift and spoke English to us. He ended our brief encounter with a humble request that WE pray for him(!).”

There is enormous interest in Italy in The Center’s integrated programs, how we work to support parents and families and our Intensive Autism Evaluation services. At the conference, Dr. Hamlin – who was the headline speaker – presented on Autism and the Stress Effect  and led a round table discussion with Italian health officials. Dr. Nicole Kinney, TCFD’s Chief of Clinical Services, and Alyce Sherwood, MACCC/SLP, Chief of the Adult Residential Program, presented on the HealthE6™ Model. Bill Evans presented on The Center’s Healing Arts Program.

The conference is being attended by more than 300 people from various parts of Italy including therapists, doctors, academics and teachers – and conference organizers acknowledged that Italians have a lot to learn from The Center and its model of care.

It’s a long way from Hurleyville, but what happens here truly does matter everywhere.