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Riding High

Whatever Happened To
David Finland earned the money to buy this scooter. (Linda Davidson - The Washington Post)
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

This past Mother's Day, in her essay "Doors Opening," Glen Finland wrote about teaching her son David to ride the Metro. David is 22 and has developmental delays, autism and Tourette's syndrome. He had been looking for a job, and Finland and her husband, Bruce, were hoping that if he could get one and was able to navigate the Washington area by himself, he could eventually, possibly, get an apartment and enjoy greater independence. More than anything, their dream was that he could lead a fuller life.

Among the many readers who got in touch with Finland after that story was Martha Neave, whose son Larry, 29, is also a special-needs adult. Martha's husband, Rick, is a special education teacher at Fairfax High School, and on the side he is the ushers supervisor for the Washington Nationals. Rick asked David to come in for an interview, and soon after, David was helping fans find their seats at Nationals Park.

David also landed a job, in Clarendon, working at Rocklands, a barbecue chain, as a dishwasher and all-around cleanup man. Some days, he puts in an early shift before ushering, and his parents barely see him at all. When David got his first paychecks from his new jobs, he combined them to buy a school-bus-yellow scooter; in July, he obtained his driver's license on the third try. Now, when he heads out to Nationals Park, he rides his scooter to Clarendon, and from there, with the breezy confidence of a lifelong commuter, he takes the Metro to L'Enfant Plaza, switches lines and steps out at the Navy Yard stop.

At the end of a losing game, which the Nationals have had in spades, the reggae sounds of Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" reverberate through the park. David can be routinely spotted playing along on air guitar. "Don't worry about a thing/'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."

Next on David's list: being able to take the car out solo.

David's daily life before his mother's essay is barely recognizable, compared with the one he leads now. "I've watched him become a man," Finland says. "David's changed in ways Bruce and I never even dreamed about. And it all came about because of transportation."

Interview by David Rowell


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