Friday, March 31, 2017

Friday Fellowship - Leigh Ann Horton

Today my Friday guest is the absolute kindest person I have ever known.  I met Leigh Ann my freshman year in college when we lived in the same dorm.  We became close friends and she was my suite mate my sophomore year.  She ended up transferring to be closer to her soon to be husband (who is the sweetest guy - they make a perfect match).  He is retired military and even served a deployment when LAH's babies were young (I've always called her LAH LAH LAH).  Almost 25 years later and I still count her as a close friend.

I wanted Leigh Ann to be my guest so she could share about her son Evan.  He has autism.  Leigh Ann is such an inspiration to me as a mom.  She is Evan's biggest cheerleader and advocate.  I know she will encourage and inspire you too.  And this Sunday is national Autism Awareness day so the timing is perfect. I also wanted Leigh Ann to be my guest because she is just the most wonderful person that I wish everyone could know and love her!

From Leigh Ann:

If you don't know what autism is, here ya' go. Autism is a neurobiological disorder. Today, it effects 1 in 68 children/individuals and is four times more common in boys than girls. Autism effects one's communication, social skills, and self-help skills. All children that are diagnosed with autism are different, which makes treatment somewhat difficult and frustrating, as what works for one child to improve may not work for another. Autism is now at epidemic proportions. 

Evan is 15 now.  When Evan was diagnosed, there were not a lot of resources out there.  Everything we did in the beginning to treat Evan's autism was through our own diligence and research. That fear thing we were just talking about...well, insert that here.  Today, there are so many more resources for newly diagnosed families, and I am so grateful to see that.

Evan has made so much progress. His language is still delayed, but he is speaking and communicating.  I remember at one point hoping he could one day just tell me what he wants or what he needs.  Well, these days, he can bark out orders with no problem.  LOL.  It is music to our ears.  Evan is very smart, loving, and has a cute little sense of humor with the best laugh. He goes to a public school with an amazing teacher that has created the best program for him and his classmates.  He has the some of the best therapists for speech and occupational therapy.  Stacy and Rachel (angels on earth) have seen Evan since he was tiny (now he is a foot taller than them).  With their help, he has made tremendous gains.  I really don't know where we would be today had it not been for their love and help.  They are like family.  We are able to do many things now because of the work they have done with Evan.  One of my dreams was to be able to take him to Disney World.  Loud noises, crowds and waiting in lines are hard for him.  We decided to try it, and Evan had a blast.  This summer, we are headed there for the third time.  The thing with our kids with autism is to just KEEP ON KEEPING ON!  Keep trying, keep working, and keeping believing.  Kids with autism can do a lot when given the right support and expectations.  It is so beautiful.  I would also encourage families with special needs children to find a church with a special needs ministry.  It has made all the difference for our family to be able to go to worship together.  Most churches now are seeing and meeting this need.

If you are the friend of someone who has a child with autism, I would encourage you to be there for them.  Sometimes I think parents of special needs kids feel really lonely.  Don't be afraid to ask how their child is doing.  I have the best friends that when they see me will ask first thing, "How is Evan?"  If Evan likes a new toy, one of Derek's friends will go find it in every color for him.  It just makes my heart want to burst!  Don't be afraid to ask.  I jump at any chance to brag on what he did in therapy or a new funny thing he said.  They are our kids, and we are proud of them!  Ask the parents how THEY are doing.  Ask if you can be a helping hand at a doctor's appointment or on errands (simple things like going to appointments can be very hard).  Offer to give free babysitting so the parents can go on a date.  Little things can go a long way in helping a tired parent of a child with autism (or any special need for that matter).

Evan also attends A-Camp, a summer camp for kids with autism that incorporates typical peers.  They get to do all kinds of fun things like hiking, canoeing, cooking, and even zip lining.  Evan is a camper and Ella Grace serves as a buddy.  I am not sure which of them enjoys it more.  A-Camp is near and dear to our hearts and has been so good for our family.  I allows Ella Grace to see her brother shine!  If you want to know more, you can visit their website at

Autism is HARD in every sense of the word.  I have let more tears fall than I can count, but what I would want any parent of a child with autism to know is there is so much HOPE.  We are not where we once were.  Evan has made HUGE strides and he is SO happy.  This may sound strange, but autism can be a blessing if you let it.  We have learned that the little things are the big things.  We don't take the things for granted.  We have a different perspective on what is truly important.  We don't sweat the small stuff.  We have learned to lean in and trust God in a way we never would have had it not been for autism.  We have seen beauty from ashes.  We see the fingerprints of God all over Evan.  I may not know this side of heaven what causes autism, but I do know that I got a little piece of heaven on earth in the form of my son.  I am so thankful for the gift of Evan.

Oh, and Evan and I got to do a commercial for the clinic where he goes for occupational therapy.  I look a mess, but Evan looks cute and is doing hippotherapy, which is very cool.  

April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day.  You can show your support by wearing blue on that day.  

1.  What is your favorite Food?  I LOVE pizza.  I love any kind from really about anywhere.  Shotgun Dan's or US Pizza are probably my favorites.  Great, now I want pizza.  

2.  What is your very favorite piece of clothing right now? (FASHION)  Spring and Summer are my very favorite seasons, and I always look forward to white jeans.  I love white this time of year, and I find white jeans to be a staple.  They are so easy to dress up or down.  I might even have to break them out before Easter.  Just don't tell my Southern mama that is firm on the the no white before Easter/no white after Labor Day rule.  

3.  Tell us about your Family?  I met my husband, Derek, in youth group at church when we were in high school.  We were high school sweethearts.  In July, we will be married 23 years.  He is my best friend.  We have two children.  Evan just turned 15, and Ella Grace is 10.  I love them something fierce.

4.  What is the most important quality in your Friends? OR tell us something that a Friend has done for you that you can't forget. 
The Lord has blessed me BIG time in the friend department.  Most of my friends I have had over two decades.  The most important quality in my friends is that they are life breathers.  You know...those friends that encourage you, are kind, speak life to you, and love you on your best days AND on your worst days, those that are there for you no matter what time of day, and those you can just laugh for hours with...those are my friends, and I am super blessed.

5.  What's something you have learned recently in your Faith journey?  And/or share your favorite scripture right now and why or your favorite Bible Study or book you have read recently.  I recently read "Uninvited" by Lysa TerKeurst.  I feel like sometimes she has my house bugged.  Ha!  She always seems to say what I need to hear right right when I need to hear it.  If you don't follow her on social media, I encourage you to.  This book is all about rejection.  We have all felt rejected in one way or another.  This book came out right at a time that I was experiencing some rejection in my life.  I was heartbroken, and I really felt the Lord speaking to me through this book.  One of the best reminders I gained from this book is at the root of every rejection, is satan.  He knows how to consume, control, and distract us from our purpose in Christ.  One of my favorite quotes from the book is, "We have an enemy, and it's not each other."  Isn't that the truth?!!!  I want to live in the fullness and abundance of Christ and not caught up in the enemy's attempt to distract me. I want to love others.  If you are hurting, I encourage you to pick up this book.  It was life changing for me.

6.  What is your biggest Fear?  Ugh.  Fear.  The struggle is real for me.  This is the deal.  Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.  I am not going to name any fears, as I am REALLY working on trusting and not being the control freak I can be.  I find my most powerful weapon when I feel fear is prayer.

7.  What are some of your Favorite things right now?  Ella Grace started a new school this year, and I absolutely love it. She has made the sweetest friends, and so have I.  I am loving watching her explore new sports and activities there.  Other things I love:  our church, Fixer Upper, swimming pools and anything Summer related, Jijamas (softest pjs on the planet), Pomegranate Fizz Sticks, frayed hem jeans, and A-Camp.

8.  What has been your biggest Failure?  I mess up constantly, but I would say my most current failure is my lack of commitment to fitness.  I used to run half marathons and loved it.  I got injured (and old) and have not been back at it since.  I really hope to one day.

9.  What do you do for Fun?  I love spending time with my family, nights out with friends, date nights with the hubs, and hanging out by the pool. 

10.  Tell me about what animals you have? (Furry things)  Derek and I always said we would never have a dog, especially one that was an indoor dog.  Well, meet Sophie.  She is our 3-year-old golden doodle rescue that not only is an inside dog but sleeps on my bed!  We are completely nuts over her.  She is really like a third child.  You can follow her on her Facebook page  "Oh Sophie."  

11.  What is your favorite FILM? (movie)  Father of the Bride.  I have no idea how many times I have watched it, but anytime it is on TV, I stop and watch.  I also pop in the DVD several times a year.  I just LOVE it!

12.  What is one Fact we might not know about you?  You will probably be hearing a lot about autism this month, as April is autism awareness month. Autism is very personal to me. My precious, sweet son, Evan, was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. As a mom, I feel a responsibility to be part of spreading awareness about autism whenever I can.

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