HAPPIER DAYS: After receiving help and support from Autism Queensland and his school, Cooper, 6, has come a long way since he was diagnosed with Autism last year. Cooper Hill and his Mum Peta. Photo Mike Richards / The Observer
HAPPIER DAYS: After receiving help and support from Autism Queensland and his school, Cooper, 6, has come a long way since he was diagnosed with Autism last year. Cooper Hill and his Mum Peta. Photo Mike Richards / The Observer Mike Richards GLA100316COOP

Cooper has come leaps and bounds since autism diagnosis

PETA HILL had been searching for answers for months before her son was diagnosed with autism in November last year.

An initial paediatric assessment told the Hill family that Cooper did not have autism, however certain "behaviour cues" Mrs Hill was noticing in her son pushed her towards a reassessment.

"We spent a whole year focused on his behaviour; why he acted the way he did," she said.

"I was referred to a paediatrician who diagnosed him with autism - and it definitely explained his behaviour."

The diagnosis answered a lot of questions for Mrs Hill, who said it was frustrating not being able to understand Cooper's actions.

"He was having trouble engaging and learning, and grasping concepts like turn taking and sharing," she said.

"It was hard - we thought it was just him being naughty, but it wasn't that at all.

"I was at a point where I was questioning myself, asking myself if I was doing something wrong."

But a difficult prep year for Cooper turned around in grade one after regularly attending Autism Queensland's after-school programs and the implementation of different support strategies in the classroom.

"These classes have shown huge improvements in his behaviour and learning pace," Peta said.

"His classroom and learning support teacher, occupational therapist and paediatrician are just amazing - they are so focused on improving his social skills and giving him strategies to understand social cues and interaction.

"He wouldn't be doing as well as he is without the unwavering support of his school and the intervention from Autism Queensland."

Peta said through Autism Queensland she had learnt not only to better understand Cooper but also her other two children - Daniel, 12, and Katelyn, 9.

"If something is on Cooper's mind you can see it on his face and it really affects his concentration," Peta said.

"Something I learnt to do when that happens is when I talk to him about it, I always start with 'It's okay Cooper, I understand you feel ...' and it calms him right down."

"Even just holding his hand when he is talking and having that touch helps him to open up," Mrs Hill said.

Cooper said he loved school, and his favourite thing was making inventions.

"I like making all different inventions and the niceness of my teacher," he said.

"At school at the moment we are learning how to be happy and healthy; I'm also learning the alphabet and how to count."

"But the best thing about school is playing with my friends."

Mrs Hill said Cooper was over the moon after coming home from class the other day with a ribbon.

"He's very interested in technology, he just loves everything to do with it," she said.

"The paediatrician tells me he's going to be the next Bill Gates."

Mrs Hill has shared her story in hopes of spreading awareness of programs and services out there available for those with autism and support for families.

Autism Queensland offers professional development for education staff as well as parental workshops and individual and group programs on a fee-for-service basis.

The Gladstone branch is located at 2 Joyner Cl, Glen Eden, for more information contact 49779600 or gladstone@autismqld.com.au.

Signs of Autism

Difficulty understanding what you say

Difficulty telling you what they want or need

Difficulty making conversation

Being awkward in a social situation

Unusual or challenging behaviours in response to their confusion and stress

Repetitive behaviours (such as hand flapping, body rocking, or finger flicking)

Unusual responses to sensory input including intense interest in or intense aversions to certain textures, sounds, movements, tastes or visual patterns or lights

Significant learning difficulties, outstanding skills in certain areas

Source: Austism Queensland



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