THERE were only two other children in Australia with microcephaly when Susan and Steve Pettit’s first son, Cooper, was diagnosed with the rare genetic condition at two weeks of age.
The Quakers Hill family were better prepared thanks to Lifestart when their second child, Oliver, was also diagnosed with the condition which affects brain growth and development.
The early intervention centre for children with autism, Down syndrome and other genetic disorders celebrates its 10th birthday this year. It has supported the family since Cooper, now 10, was 15 months old.
Mrs Pettit said she was in shock when she found out her sons had microcephaly.
‘‘We were just two normal people and healthy — how did this happen?’’ she asked.
‘‘We were told about Lifestart by the hospital.
‘‘I didn’t know what was involved. I just turned up and this lovely lady took me by the hand and led us in . . . and that was it. We started to see that he needed speech therapy, and occupational therapy, and physio — the whole thing. They guided us through.’’
She says social situations can be difficult for her children.
‘‘They’re not able to regulate their emotions as well as other children, so they can [get] very frustrated easily and lose their confidence easily.’’ Cooper goes to Mary Immaculate Primary School, where his brother Oliver will complete a transition term late this year before starting kindergarten in 2013. Lifestart’s Cumberland-Prospect branch is at 92 Seven Hills Road, Baulkham Hills. Details: 9686 9049.