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River’s
Story

River is eight and has lived with his foster dads, Andrew and Karl since he was a baby. His parents run the bustling bistro at the local pub – where he is well known for entertaining the locals with his antics. He spends many hours running around the beer garden imitating his favourite superhero – the Hulk.

Make-believe and imaginative play is an important part of child development. It builds imagination and promotes social, emotional and physical development. By engaging in imaginative play, children learn about rules and the boundaries of their world.

But sometimes, when a child is unable to distinguish appropriate times and places for this kind of play, it can land them in ‘trouble’.

River loves pretending to be the Hulk, but as his dad Karl explains, sometimes he “takes it too far”. In fact, Karl and Andrew have been called to the school multiple times to discuss River’s behaviour in the classroom.

River’s teacher highlighted concerns around his ability to transition from pretend playtime to class and focus-time. She reported that he often keeps up his Hulk imitations through lesson times, disrupting the class, and on occasion, has overturned tables and chairs. His teacher also flagged noticing River sometimes struggling to follow everyday rules for conversation – like taking turns and using verbal and non-verbal signals. He often interrupted people and when he was finished speaking, would simply walk away.

Unfortunately, without the right understanding and care, children like River are at risk of being branded ‘the naughty kid’ early on in their school life. And when this happens, the life-long impacts can be profound.

River’s first couple of years at school were tumultuous. He struggled to settle in and make friends – much to the surprise of his parents.

Karl explains;

River was raised in a very social environment. He was often at the bistro when we were working, so we assumed that being part of that kind of environment would mean socialising at school would come naturally to him. But that wasn’t the case at all. He just didn’t seem to gel with any other kids or build a group of mates like we expected.”

Throughout childhood, children learn how to develop boundaries and recognise other’s social cues. Imaginative play is a big part of this development. Children naturally learn at different speeds, but River seemed to find reading his classmate’s cues more challenging than most of his peers.

His teacher also flagged noticing River sometimes struggling to follow everyday rules for conversation – like taking turns and using verbal and non-verbal signals. He often interrupted people and when he was finished speaking, would simply walk away.

Karl and Andrew knew they needed extra support for River but had no idea where to turn.

After a lengthy wait, Karl and Andrew managed to secure an appointment with a local GP. They were apprehensive in the lead up to the appointment, knowing something bigger was happening with their little boy.

The GP gently suggested that considering River’s challenges, he would need some autism specific assessments. But the services in their area simply would not be able to provide what he needed.

Our Paediatric Developmental Program is designed to offer comprehensive, multidisciplinary assessment, diagnosis, review, and treatment for children with complex developmental and behavioural concerns. For rural and remote families like River’s, it is often the only option for connecting their child to the kind of services most city families have on their doorstep.

And it’s people like you who make this program possible.

Families and schools need a clear picture of what is happening for their child – and often a diagnosis – to be able to secure classroom assistance, therapy funding and other support services which can make all the difference to a child’s progression.

Without access to the right assessments at the right time, children like River are in danger of falling through the cracks of our health and education systems.

During his stay at Royal Far West, River was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Whilst a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder can provide answers and clarity about what is going on for a child, it is almost always stressful for parents, and can sometimes come as a shock. It brings with it a multitude of questions about how to best support a child in a health system that is complex and daunting – particularly in rural and remote Australia.

With the compassion of generous people like you, Karl, Andrew and River are stepping on this new journey bolstered by the knowledge that River has a team of heroes behind him.

 

* To ensure privacy and confidentiality for our client families, our stories are representative in nature and real names or images are not used.

Will you make a generous donation today to set a child like River on the path to a brighter future?


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