11/18/2014 06:58 EST | Updated 01/18/2015 05:59 EST

Pope Francis to meet with autistic kids and their families in bid to end stigma, isolation

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis will meet with autistic children and their families in a bid to help raise awareness and end the stigma and isolation of people living with those challenges.

The Saturday audience will cap an international conference on autism being hosted this week by the Vatican's health care office.

The Rev. P. Augusto Chendi of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers said the aim of the conference and papal audience is to "help break the isolation, and in many cases the stigma, that surrounds people affected by autistic spectrum disorders."

Autism experts told reporters Tuesday that parents of autistic children require particular pastoral care since they are at high risk of getting divorced due to the emotional and financial stress of dealing with their child's disorder.