People with special needs bring out the most in people.
“When you have somebody who is special needs in your family, it makes everybody a better person,” Mary Nieto, Matt Nieto’s mom, said.
Matt, an NHL player for the Colorado Avalanche, has two sisters. Older sister Christian-Faith, and younger sister Erin, who was diagnosed with autism and Down syndrome as a child.
Although Matt’s relationship with his sister Christian-Faith is special, his relationship with Erin is a bond like no other.
“They have a really good relationship in the sense that they are inseparable when he’s here,” Mary said.
With Matt away in Denver for most of the year, and only coming home when Colorado plays Los Angeles or Anaheim, for the holidays, or during the all-star break, Erin looks forward to seeing her brother when he’s back in his home state.
“When he’s like, ‘“I’m going to be over in a little while,”’ she’s looking out the window the entire time, and it’s just so cute. He’s her main person for sure,” Mary said.
Not only has Mary noticed the special mark Matt leaves on Erin, Christian-Faith has also noticed the genuineness of the relationship.
“Erin has certain music that she listens to, she only listens to certain songs and only watches certain movies or little shows, and whatever is funny on the song, or whatever funny line is in the movie, Matt will quote it, and Erin just cracks up,” Christian-Faith said.
“She laughs so much. So, it’s like they get each other. They have the same sense of humor,” she added.
When the 27-year-old returns home, he stays by Erin’s side the whole time he’s home.
“As soon as he comes home and visits over at my mom’s, they do their own little thing. He’ll spend time with her, watch a movie with her, sometimes she will go out to the movie theatres with him, so it’s nice for her to get out and for her to go and watch a movie with him too,” Christian-Faith said.
Whether the time is spent at Matt’s place, at his parents’ place, or out of the house, he and Erin are inseparable.
“Matt’s newly married, and his wife already knows as soon as they come over here that he’s going to be with Erin the entire time. And they’re kind of like that anywhere that we go. But he just adores her and she adores him,” Mary said.
“He invites her over to his house, he has a dog that is his pride and joy, it’s a rottweiler named Rambo, and he has the dog really, really trained good, so when Erin comes over, all she does is hang out with him and Rambo. So, they do things with the dog and she likes to go swim over at his house, and then he’ll come over here, to Long Beach, to our house to hang out with her a lot too. And he always brings her gift cards. She loves gift cards to McDonald’s and stuff like that. He always brings her gift cards and they always go out to eat together,” she added.
Erin is also rewarded with a FaceTime call with her brother at the end of the week due to good behavior.
“One of her rewards is to be able to FaceTime him at the end of the week, so she always tries to do good all week so that she can FaceTime with him. It’s really cute,” Mary said.
Matt and Christian-Faith also have a good brother-sister relationship as well.
“I love my brother. I’m the oldest, so, I’m just bossy by nature and he’s had to live with that his whole life, but other than that, when he would come home, when we were younger, in high school, when he would come home from the East Coast, we would stay up and he would put me up on new music and I would put him up on new music, and we just always had that brother and sister bond,” Christian-Faith said.
When it comes to Christian-Faith’s relationship with Erin, Erin is like a second daughter to her.
“Me and Erin, that is the love of my life. I have a daughter, I consider Erin my first daughter, that’s how close we are. And it’s really hard for Erin to do stuff for certain people, and because of our bond, she has so much trust in me that she listens to me, so, Erin will always have a special place in my heart and she will never have to worry about anything when it comes to me,” Christian-Faith said.
“Christian is amazing. She is like a second mother to Erin. You know how some people are naturally good with special ed kids? That’s the way she is. She’s a natural,” Mary said.
Matt also has a special connection with kids at team events throughout the season.
“It makes me really proud to see that he has that compassion and the sensitivity,” Mary said.
Although Matt doesn’t see Erin often during the hockey season, their bond shines bright 1029 miles away from each other.
“The genuineness of it. You don’t see that every day, and that’s what I admire most about the relationship,” Christian-Faith said.