The 26-year-old has come a long way over the years – and his mother, Corrine Pearson, gives much of the credit to Special Olympics.
"If it was not for Special Olympics, David would not have a normal quality of life,” she says. “Since he became involved, I have seen him blossom."
David has Landau-Kleffner Syndrome, a rare disorder often associated with seizures. Among other things, LKS can lead to the loss of the ability to understand and use spoken language. David's mother says he appeared to be developing normally until he was a toddler, when he suffered his first seizure. She says that event robbed him of the language skills he'd acquired by then – and after that David did not speak. Pearson recalls that "he could not even tell me he wanted a glass of water."
One day, David's little sister, Sara, was about to touch an iron and David yelled out, "No Sara! Hot!" Pearson realized that David was capable of speaking, but didn’t seem to be interested in doing so -- or confident enough to try.
That’s where she says Special Olympics has been a huge help. Because of his language barrier, David had not been able to take part in sports programs. He was also too shy to talk, even when he learned how. But she says Special Olympics has given David confidence and an opportunity to express himself among peers. "It's become his whole social network," says Pearson. She says the program has also helped him overcome the frustration that can come with a disability. "David used to be so hard on himself. But he has learned through sport that once you give your best, you’re a winner."
She also says David's thought process is sharper – because of organized practices and competition, David has had to learn organization. As a result, he's become more constructive with his time. These days, David is speaking very clearly. His hard work has brought him gold medals in tennis, basketball and bowling, as well as powerlifting.
And Pearson says David's increasing confidence has helped beyond the sports arena. He now works at his local Home Depot, where he's had to learn to something he had never been able to do: interact with the public – meaning people he doesn't know. "He is able to do all that because of Special Olympics. It is the only thing I can attribute it to – It has increased his confidence that much."
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