"I'm happy today mum" - those four little words showed Wollongong mum Nancy Sakun just how far her autistic son, Max, had come in the past year.
Not only had the five-year-old completed one of his first full sentences, he'd finally been able to express his emotions.
It's World Autism Day on Wednesday and the aim of the day is to raise awareness of the neurobiological disorder that affects one in 100 Australians, as well as to promote the importance of early intervention.
That's what's made all the difference for Nancy and Alex Sakun and their young son.
"We have two older children so we noticed that Max wasn't reaching his milestones - he didn't walk until he was two and he didn't speak till three," Mrs Sakun said.
"There were other signs too - many children with autism have sensory sensitivities and Max would just scream at everyday sounds like a tap being turned on, a vacuum cleaner or hairdryer.
"He was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at 3½, allowing us to tap into Autism Spectrum Australia's many services."
After attending an early intervention class at Towradgi Public School, Max - who also had a developmental delay - was enrolled into Aspect South Coast School at Corrimal last year.
"His gross motor skills have improved phenomenally; when he started he couldn't climb up or down stairs - now he's climbing stairs and even ladders," Mrs Sakun said.
"His fine motor skills, too, are much better - he had trouble holding a pencil but now he's holding one and tracing outlines.
"And he wasn't speaking in full sentences but now he's using beautiful full sentences.
"When he told me he was happy recently, I couldn't have been happier to hear it."
Aspect South Coast School principal Bruce Rowles said a focus on early intervention and diagnosis in recent years was paying off.
"Government funding has given parents an opportunity to access support services for children up to six years old and we are seeing the impact of that at school level," he said.
"Now it's important to focus on maintaining that support and the services that they will require into their adolescence and adulthood."
The Corrimal school and its satellite classes, will "Go Blue" for autism on Wednesday - with blue clothes and blue food - before holding a gala dinner at the Novotel Northbeach (which will also be lit up in blue) on Friday.