CHICAGO – Cooper Roberts, the 8-year-old who was shot during a Fourth of July parade and was paralyzed from the waist down, is expected to return to school this fall, his family said.
Cooper has been in the hospital since the day a gunman opened fire from a rooftop in Highland Park, Illinois, more than a month ago, killing seven people and wounding dozens more. Cooper was shot in the abdomen and suffered a severed spine.
Cooper's recovery has fluctuated over that time. But in a sign of progress this week, his family announced Cooper will rejoin his twin brother, Luke, in third grade at Braeside Elementary School in Highland Park.
"This is a huge motivation for Cooper as he is excited to return to the classroom and see his friends," the family said in a statement.
Cooper is expected to return to school for half-days after six to 12 weeks of rehab at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago, according to the family. He is also under the care of physicians at University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital.
This week, he'll go back to the hospital for a checkup after previous surgeries, including a heart graft and esophageal tear repairs, the family said.
Recovery update: Cooper Roberts finally goes outside – and enjoys a popsicle
Both Cooper and Luke are grappling with "emotional and psychological trauma" from the shooting and are participating in private counseling, the family said. Cooper is experiencing PTSD symptoms, including "flashbacks that are disrupting his sleep."
Meanwhile, the Roberts family is looking into options for wheelchair-accessible housing and a vehicle for when Cooper returns home. The family's home, a 100-year-old house in Highland Park, cannot be reconfigured to accommodate Cooper's needs, according to the family.
A GoFundMe page established to support the family has raised more than $1.7 million.
"The family continues to be grateful for and humbled by the outpouring of prayers and support as they begin to process what will be needed for Cooper when he eventually is able to return home," according to the statement.
Meanwhile, in downtown Highland Park, a memorial to the seven victims remains covered in flowers, handwritten notes and strips of orange cloth and yarn, representing gun-violence prevention. In the weeks since the attack, survivors and residents of Highland Park and the Greater North Shore community have been speaking out about their experiences and advocating for change.
Some survivors have been traveling to the nation's capital to meet with lawmakers to call for a federal assault-weapons ban. Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the topic last month.
As a result of the activism efforts, the House narrowly passed a bill late last month that would make it illegal for anyone to import, sell, manufacture, transfer or possess certain semi-automatic weapons. Weapons sold before the bill's passage would not be affected.
Advocates said they're focused on making sure the measure comes up for a vote in the Senate.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Highland Park survivor Cooper Roberts to return to elementary school