SUCCESS STORY: Six-year-old Max O'Rourke.
SUCCESS STORY: Six-year-old Max O'Rourke.

Mum thrilled as autistic child, 4, learns to speak

EMERALD mum Hayley O'Rourke thought her son would grow up being unable to speak.

But, with financial support and numerous therapies, Max is talking and Hayley could not be happier.

"He was four when he started to speak," she said.

"I was over the moon. Just for him to have a voice means everything."

At nine months, Max was diagnosed with Global Development Delay and, at two and a half, with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Hayley said she knew her son was facing challenges because he was not talking, walking or reaching other expected milestones at an early age.

Now Max is six years old, attends Emerald North State School and has fortnightly therapy sessions. And his mum has noticed terrific improvements.

"Max gets a lot of regular therapy-based supports, including speech, occupational and physiotherapy," she said.

"With all these supports we've really noticed the difference in him. Now he can spontaneously say hello and interact with people, where before he wouldn't. He would just go off to the playground and do his own thing."

Hayley is grateful for the backing of the NDIS and Yumba Bimbi Support Services in Emerald, and thinks there should be more providers in town.

"Financially, I feel lucky we are able to get all these supports for Max. Being a young family, we would never have been able to pay for it all.

"Some of these therapies can cost up to $200 an hour. When you have multiple therapies it adds up.

"There definitely needs to be more services in town - there's a big shortage. There's such high demand."

She recommended parents in similar situations not waste time speaking with a professional.

"If you think your child has additional needs, don't wait. Go and seek advice straight away.

"The earlier you seek help, the more it will benefit your child."

And as for Max, he is expected to keep building up his skills.

"We're going to keep doing the therapy," Hayley said.

"We think Emerald's a great town for him to grow up in."

There are now more than 300,000 Australians benefiting from the NDIS nationally, including more than 100,000 people receiving support for the first time.