There are still many unknowns about what the recovery process will entail for Cooper Roberts, the 8-year-old boy paralyzed after being shot by a gunman who opened fire on Fourth of July parade-goers in Highland Park, but his family said they received some "unfortunate news" early on.
Cooper is showing signs and behavioral patterns that could indicate some "cognitive loss," marking yet another setback for the young boy and his family.
"Cooper wasn’t well enough or talking enough to notice these issues earlier while in the hospital," the family said in a statement Thursday. "Therapists are seeing short term memory loss, issues with word recovery, and loss of acuity around fine motor skills."
Experts at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab are doing a comprehensive neurological and psychological evaluation this week and working on new therapies, the family said.
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In addition, the family says they are preparing to alter their home for Cooper's eventual return.
"The AbilityLab team is also working with us to think through the long-term needs for Cooper once he is able to go home – the assistive technologies he needs to help him with daily living and the house features necessary for a child who will grow with a pediatric spinal cord injury. It’s overwhelming to consider," the statement read. "We remain grateful for every prayer, kind wishes, gift and donation, and for the good moments when our family can be together."
Last month, family members celebrated that Cooper was removed from his IV pain medicine and was able to eat the solid foods he'd been craving.
COVID protocols at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, where the boy is undergoing physical therapy, limit how much time Cooper can spend with his whole family. The family said Cooper and his twin brother, Luke, "really miss each other," adding that it "feeds their souls to be together."
Cooper also recently received a "special visit" from former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, who recovered from a spinal cord injury in 2017.
"Ryan was transparent, authentic, genuine and gracious in sharing insights with us about his path to recovery," the family said. "We are so grateful for Ryan’s motivational words and great kindness in spending time with Cooper and Luke."
As Cooper makes progress, doctors are still unsure about his prognosis and the limitations he might have to live with, according to the family.
"We do know that we are infinitely grateful for his survival, and for the many kindnesses we continue to receive, including from all who are working to help Cooper and others impacted heal from this nightmare," the family said.
In an earlier update, Cooper's family celebrated that the boy had started physical therapy and planned to return to third grade in the fall.
Going to school is "a huge motivation" for Cooper, according to his family, as they said he is excited to see his friends.
At the time, the family said Cooper will likely go to school for half of the day and participate in long-term outpatient therapy for the other part of the day.
Still, Cooper was expected to remain in in-patient rehabilitation services for six-to-12 weeks.
Both Cooper and Luke are partaking in private mental health services to support them as they heal emotionally and physiologically, the family said.
More than $1.7 million has been raised for Cooper's recovery via a GoFundMe page, according to the family.
A card-drive initiative has also been launched for supporters to send get-well messages to the boy.
Sen. Julie Morrison, who is running for re-election this fall, is heading the collection of cards to show support for Cooper and his family, she said.
Cards can be sent to or dropped off at 43 Highwood Ave. in Highwood.