Speech and language delays can be challenging for children and families alike. Not only do these conditions hinder childhood development, but the inability to effectively communicate thoughts and feelings can be a source of frustration for children and stress for their families.
The Watson family experienced those challenges firsthand. Their son Braylen was born premature at 26 weeks. He weighed just two pounds one ounce and spent 49 days in the neonatal intensive care unit before he was strong enough to be taken home. At age two, Braylen was not yet able to verbally express himself, instead using hand gestures that only his mother could understand. The following year Braylen was diagnosed with severe receptive and expressive language delay, a condition characterized by difficulty understanding words and expressing thoughts and feelings.
This was a challenging time for Braylen. He grew increasingly frustrated and was subjected to teasing from other children. Despite these difficulties, he maintained his love for playing and exploring the world around him. And with determination and an unwavering spirit, Braylen and his family remained determined to overcome his challenges.
In 2016, Braylen began receiving speech and language therapy through Beaumont Children’s and enrolled in the RE/MAX Communication Preschool Program – the first of its kind in Michigan. This hospital-based program helps children ages three to five develop the cognitive skills, comprehension, verbal expression, motor skills and academic readiness they need to reach their fullest potential. All instruction, tailored to each child’s specific needs, is provided by certified pediatric speech and language pathologists and certified teachers.
Thanks to this invaluable resource, Braylen gradually found his voice, expanding his ability to communicate and allowing him to connect with others on a deeper level. Today, he is a happy and healthy 11-year-old with an affectionate nature. Since his treatment, Braylen’s mother says his life has consisted of countless joys, triumphs and moments of infectious laughter.
“My hope to one day hear my son say ‘Mom’ came true,” said Francetta Watson. “It was the greatest feeling in the universe. Braylen has taught me the true meaning of perseverance.”
A couple of years after Braylen began receiving treatment, his parents recognized that his sister was experiencing similar communication challenges. Rylee was diagnosed with severe mixed receptive-expressive disorder in 2018, and at age four she began twice-weekly speech and language therapy at RE/MAX Communication Preschool. With incredible support from her family, friends and the many dedicated professionals at Beaumont Children’s, Rylee continues to make remarkable strides. She has remained vibrant and determined throughout the entire process, which has allowed her to develop a keen sense of empathy.
“Rylee’s journey is one of triumph and inspiration,” said her mother. “She reminds us all that with determination and support, we can conquer any challenges that come in our way.”
Rylee is now a confident, enthusiastic, and adventurous 10-year-old, constantly seeking to expand her horizons and explore new hobbies. Her creativity, artistic flair and sharp wit encourage her to think outside the box and her experience has made her a fierce advocate for others.
The Watsons are an extraordinary example of what can be achieved with access to resources like Beaumont Children’s and the RE/MAX Communication Preschool Program, whose dedicated educators and caregivers remain committed to helping children overcome challenges, build confidence and ultimately find their voice.