David Garrett thrives in spite of disability

Published 6:35 pm Tuesday, March 19, 2019


David A. Garrett graduated from Southampton High School in 2004. Submitted.

David A. Garrett of Delaware Road is a local example of a person who isn’t just enduring a disability, but instead working and living as fully as possible in spite of one.

If you’ve ever been to the McDonald’s restaurant on Armory Drive with any regularity, you’ve likely seen him busily attending to his responsibilities. David, who is tall and lean, keeps the lobby and restrooms clean, stacks the cups and straws, keeps the ice bin filled, brings out food from the freezer to the cooks, and also folds the Happy Meal boxes for young customers.

A caseworker secured him the job right after graduating from Southampton High School. The now 33-year-old has been at his job for 17 years, and even said there’s no other place he’d rather be.

Of course, he’s friendly with both coworkers and customers alike.

Except for the cooking and handling orders, “David pretty much does everything,” according to his mother, Renita Ford, who has been with him every step of the way to becoming a contributing member of society.

While she was being interviewed last week at her home, David was enjoying a day off, watching a favorite game show on TV in his own space (“My new apartment”) behind the main house.

Born in 1985, he began having seizures around 1 to 2 years old. Sometimes set off by fear or sickness, the episodes lasted until he was 7, and then they stopped.

david garrett

David A. Garrett with his mother, Renita Ford. She has encouraged him to become a functioning and working member of society. Submitted.

Suffice to say that they saw a lot of doctors in those early years.

The resulting autism went hand-in-hand with an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder that developed. Whatever he learned by then was essentially erased and had to be re-learned. This included his ABC’s, colors and numbers, said Ford. She added that David occasionally expressed he knows he once knew things “(I know this! I know this!”), but could not articulate them then.

Eventually, and with a lot of patience, they did get back to those basics and then some.

Teaching him “every single day” to tie his own shoelaces is an example of how the simplest tasks could be quite challenging for both mother and son.

But there she was pushing him forward to learn and grow as best he could.

Lisa Turner, a family friend, said to Ford at the recent interview, “You made him sociable.”

When it came to school, David was largely embraced by the student body.

“The kids at school worked with him,” said Ford.

He even went to the prom with a date, Andrea Smith. There, he demonstrated another pastime at which he excels — dancing. David is, to take a line from a ’70s song, a dancing machine. A short video of David on the dance floor shows him moving in ways that would make dance contestants envious.

At graduation in 2004, Ford said, she “cried like a baby. Every one was so proud.”

They attend Mars Hill Baptist Church in Capron.

Thinking about how her son has grown, Ford recalled, “I don’t treat him any differently than anyone else.”