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“My Daughter Breaks My Heart, Then Fills It Up”


There is no one face of autism. For autism is not a person; it is a family. Moms, dads, and siblings: we all have the face of autism. It is a blessing and a curse. Some days we are the face of hope; other days we are the face of despair.  

In our home, autism is not a number or statistic. It is a little 6-year-old girl named Mattie. My days with Mattie are filled with love, laughs, heartache and worry.  We wake each day with the idea that today will be a great day, and go to bed each night with new hope for tomorrow. We hope for acceptance, patience, and understanding from other children and parents alike.  

Mattie has grown up different. She has spent more hours in therapy than on the playground.  She doesn’t have friends because, even at 6, she is different and kids don’t do different.   

That’s how I see it, but that’s not how Mattie sees it. Therapy is just playtime; those kids who don’t play with her are just too busy. She sees the best in people, even if they don’t display that for themselves. I try hard to see the world through her eyes, but some days that’s not the face I can put on.  

The face of autism is a little girl who breaks my heart when she stares right through me like I’m not even there, then fills it up with joy with an “I love you.”

By Rick Lewis, dad of Mattie, 6