Support of Norton Children’s Autism Center helps this teen thrive

Through therapies and services received at Norton Children’s Autism Center — along with parental support— this teen now has tools to learn and communicate.

How you can help

The 2023 Bourbon & Bowties event in June honored James Vaughn, who receives care at Norton Children’s for his autism spectrum disorder. To make a donation in support of autism care anytime, visit

When Mary Vaughn thinks back to when she realized her son needed help, one moment stands out. When he was young, she took James to jump on bounce houses with friends. It was busy and loud. He quickly became overwhelmed and upset, but he couldn’t form words to explain why.

“I knew the words were up there, but he couldn’t access them,” Mary said. “That was one of the points when I knew we needed to do more for him.”

James, who has autism spectrum disorder, is now a teenager and thriving. Through a variety of therapies and services he has received at Norton Children’s Autism Center, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine — along with support from his parents — James now has the tools he needs to learn and communicate. He excels at math, swims on his high school swim team and loves riding his bike.

James was honored in June at the 13th Bourbon & BowtiesTM, presented by Northwestern Mutual at Fleur de Lis Farm in Prospect, Kentucky. The event benefitted Norton Children’s Autism Center through the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation.

The need for autism services is growing rapidly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent report from 2018 data, 1 in 44 U.S. children has an autism diagnosis. In 2000, that number was 1 in 150. Early intervention provides the best chance for these children to receive the care they need to improve learning, communication and social skills.

James’ dad, Kris Vaughn, said James wouldn’t be where he is today without the therapies and support he received, including advocacy from providers like Grace M. Kuravackel, Ph.D., psychologist and clinical director of Norton Children’s Autism Center. Mary and Kris hope that by sharing James’ story, they can inspire the community to support the center through Bourbon & Bowties so it can reach even more children and young adults.

“Year after year we are humbled by the way the community shows up at Bourbon & Bowties with such generous support for the children we serve,” said Lynnie Meyer, R.N., Ed.D., FAHP, CFRE, senior vice president and chief development officer, Norton Healthcare. “Since the Gant family partnered with us to begin this event in 2009 in memory of their son Charles, we have raised more than $2.6 million for care and services at Norton Children’s. Now is the time to support autism care, as the need continues to grow every day.”