Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of stories about the remarkable people who are part of our Next Step Ministries' family.
When you first meet 25-year-old David, he seems mild-mannered and reserved. But don’t let that initial impression fool you. This quiet young man, who has cerebral palsy and autism, likes to have fun when he’s hanging out with his friends at Next Step Ministries.
“He’s happy and he dances,” says his mom, Donna. “It’s hilarious. They call it ‘Doing
the David.’ He’s got a good personality.”
David’s been attending Next Step regularly since he graduated from McIntosh High
School in Peachtree City in 2011. His parents checked out a number of day
programs around the region before they decided Next Step was the best fit for their
“I like the small ratio of workers to clients,” Donna says. “I want him to be with
people who talk, laugh and dance. They work really hard to get him to participate,
and they are really excited when he does.”
Once Donna and Mark (David’s dad) saw that their son had found a home-away-from-home, they sold their own home in Fayetteville and moved to Marietta to be
closer to Next Step in Woodstock. Donna says David loves the people who care for
him at Next Step, including Lead Trainer Karen Lyner and Trainer Barbara Clarkson.In spite of his limited verbal skills, Barbara says, "David is very expressive. He is good at communicating his wants."“He has a really sweet personality once you get to know him and he loves you ,” Donna says. “Karen’s petite, and he’ll lean over and kiss her on the head. ““I love my David and all the times he does his happy dance just to cheer me up!” says Karen. When David’s not at Next Step, he enjoys activities like swimming and bowling,
visiting his grandma, and going out to eat. David’s parents are grateful they’ve found
a place for him to make friends, learn and have fun.
“I don’t know what I would do without Next Step,” says Donna. “We talked about
other options, but I don’t want him in the house for the whole day. I like the
thought of him having his own life. “When David was diagnosed with special needs as a baby, his mom says she was
angry and upset. But that quickly changed.
“I was mad, but in a blink of an eye, God reminded me that all he gave me David for
was as a blessing,” says Donna. “David’s taught me to love and care about people, to
be more compassionate and understanding.” David’s life has had a positive impact on many other people around him, including his friends at Next Step. In Karen's view, "The reaction David has [to a situation] depends on how I choose to respond. . . This simple act taught me about myself and how to respond with a positive attitude." Barbara sums it up simply, "He is my joy."