Cumbernauld mum goes the distance for autism

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A talented mum from Greenfaulds is doing the London Marathon to support the charity which helped her son learn to speak.

Leigh Ann McKenna (36) is an actress, model and dancer but her most important role is as mum to , Sonny (4) and baby Lilli Anna.

Leigh Ann said: “Sonny has autism and was late in learning to speak more than about ten words.

“He was really struggling and although he could more or less make himself understood to me he was very shy when we were out and about, his inability to express himself meant he was shy and easily got upset and frustrated.”

A family friend guided Leigh Ann and partner Johnny to the Speur-Ghlan Early Intervention Service, a registered charity based in Bridge of Allan and they signed up for Pivotal Response Therapy. Speur-Ghlan is the only provider of this therapy in the UK.

The treatment is not free and unavailable on the NHS, but Leigh Ann is a firm believer in its power to help pre-school children.

“We said we would give it a month, but after the first week Sonny was chattering away in the back of the car on the way home.”

Leigh Ann has noticed a huge change in Sonny’s behaviour thanks to this therapy.

“Now when we go to nursery Sonny runs in, leaving me behind and loves chatting away to the other children.”

To raise funds and awareness for Speur-Ghlan, Leigh Ann has signed up for the London Marathon on April 24.

Although she is a former dancer who played Morrighan, the Temptres in Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance for years, Leigh Ann has been finding the training tough.

“I was a dancer, never a runner,” she said. “While I was physically fit ten years ago I simply haven’t had the time to keep myself in shape since having the children.

“I chose the Marathon because I knew it would be a big challenge so people know how much I’m putting into this.”

To donate, visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ and search for “Leigh Ann McKenna”.