Barrett Hauswirth, a student at Evans High School who suffers from fragile X syndrome, helps coach Bryce Massey maintain the football field at the school. Barrett loves to help people and often volunteers his efforts around the school. He also helps set up and clean up at his church. The minister at Barrett's church refers to Barrett as a "mother hen" in helping out around children.[
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Donna Morris speaks of her son with the loving heart of a mother and the gentle voice of a woman who has been through many trials and tribulations.
Her 19-year-old son was diagnosed with a condition known as fragile X syndrome when he was only 4.
"He was diagnosed in 1990 and has been in special education in Columbia County ever since," said Morris of her only child, Evans High School senior Barrett Hauswirth. "We feel fortunate that Barrett functions as well as he does and that he has people in the community who care about him. Like most folks, he grows when treated with kindness and respect."
Fragile X syndrome is a hereditary condition that causes a wide range of mental impairment, from mild learning disabilities to severe mental retardation, according to the National Fragile X Foundation.
Considered the most common cause of genetically inherited mental impairment, the condition is characterized by mental retardation, hyperactivity, short attention span, poor eye contact and difficulties in speech and language development, among other things.
Those who know Barrett can't say enough about how far he has come in the past few years and what a joy he is to be around.
"I have known Barrett for about 10 years and he's continued to do well in school and at church," said the Rev. Randy Byrd of Bible Fellowship Church. "He's hands-on with children to the point that he's almost like a mother hen. He helps in many aspects with the church. He's there to help get our equipment in the building, he puts out chairs and collects the hymn books after each Sunday service."
"I swear to goodness I don't mind," Barrett said of helping his church members prepare for services and of offering assistance to others when needed. "People need to understand that I want to help them."
Barrett loves to help people. He was initially timid about going to work. Now he loves work and socializing with his co-workers.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Troy Willard, a learning specialist at Evans High and Barrett's teacher for the past two years, agrees that Barrett has an overwhelming desire to help others.
"As far as fragile X, a lot of times, kids are very sheltered and don't overcome much,'' Willard said. "But in my classroom, Barrett is willing to speak out. He used to be very scared and frightened in front of crowds, but now he is a lot more social and even enjoys going to pep rallies."
"I love them all," an enthusiastic Barrett said of the weekly spirit events. "I like all the fans and all of that."
Barrett, who is "ready for" graduation in May, will likely attend the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation in Warm Springs, Ga.
An avid participant in Camp Allstars, a camp for the county's special-needs students, Barrett tends to be more of a volunteer than a camper, Willard said.
"This gives you his sense of self-worth," he said. "He's very loving and caring and he just has a really big heart. He wants to help out everybody."
During the past two years, Barrett has been participating in the job training program through Evans High. According to the school's job coach, Corinne Kirby, Barrett was at first very intimidated by others. Now, he willingly goes to work and likes to socialize with his co-workers.
"He used to sit back and be very shy and timid," Kirby said. "Now he feels comfortable asking for more work. I'm very proud of him for what he's done so far."
"The conditions of fragile X are astounding," Byrd said. "But Barrett has a bright future ahead of him."
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