How Our Daughter Has Affected Our Spirituality

How Our Daughter Has Affected Our Spirituality

by David and Mercedes Rizzo

Being the parent of a child with autism is not anything either of us would have chosen. In fact, you might say we went into it kicking and screaming, like any other parents faced with the same situation. During the diagnostic process 10 years ago we questioned whether the diagnosis of autism was accurate. After all, David had a history of late talking, and we were both confident that our daughter would soon develop speech and prove all the experts wrong. However, as time went on and speech never developed, we knew the diagnosis was true, and we found ourselves left to navigate the uncharted waters of autism.

Looking back now, we realize that our spirituality was immature. When faced with a life-altering event, one relies on what one knows. We thought if we took Danielle to shrines of our favorite saints, attended healing services, touched her with holy relics, and recited rosaries and novenas that our prayers would be answered in exactly the way we wanted. We called on such formidable saints as St. Padre Pio and St. Jude. We did it all! We never passed up the opportunity to ask for a cure. We thought we could bargain with God but, of course, God doesn’t work that way. Although there was nothing wrong with the practices we tried and our intentions were sincere, God had other plans.

God seemed to be showing us a different way of understanding. Our daughter’s lack of verbal language led us to adopt a more image-based and picturesque approach to prayer. Our spirituality became more intuitive and sacramental. We began to see Danielle’s lack of words as an image of God’s silence and a place to encounter the mystery and meaning in our lives. It became clear to us that God was revealing himself in a way we never could have imagined. It also became clear that Danielle was part of this plan, touching the lives of so many she encountered. Ultimately, Danielle’s autism led us in a new direction— helping children with disabilities and their parents to grow in the faith and participate fully in the sacraments of the Church. We have learned to trust God and the vision God has for our family.


David and Mercedes Rizzo 

Dave and Mercedes developed picture-based materials and activities to explain the sacraments to Danielle to help prepare her for Holy Communion

See More

Books by David and Mercedes Rizzo

Spiritually Able

A Parent’s Guide to Teaching the Faith to Children with Special Needs

Spiritually Able is a resource for parents who are seeking ways to grow and nourish a deeper relationship to God and their faith for their child with special needs.

Shop Now

My Picture Missal Flip Book and Mass Picture Cards

The Order of Mass in Pictures

My Picture Missal Flip Book and Mass Picture Cards are for use during the Mass, to walk children through the parts of the Mass and provide interactive cues for actions and gestures.

Shop Now

Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit

For Individuals with Autism and Other Special Needs

The Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit will enable many individuals with autism and other special needs to participate fully in their faith, individuals who might not be able to receive the Eucharist.

Shop Now