ELLISVILLE, MS (WDAM) - Ellisville native Kayla Knight did not know if she could handle the future she knew awaited her now four-year-old son, Kayson.
"I think it was more terrifying before I had him though," Knight said.
At 20 weeks pregnant, Knight found out her soon-to-be first born would face down syndrome, a heart defect and Duodenal Atresia.
"(It's) where the bottom end of his stomach and the top part of his intestines were webbed together," Knight said.
After his birth, Kayson survived major surgeries and received a pace maker.
But then came another hurdle.
Three years ago, Knight noticed her son was old enough to say words but he was not speaking.
She knew Kayson needed help.
She found The Children's Center for Communication and Development on The University of Southern Mississippi's Hattiesburg campus, which is a school for children with special needs.
"He came to us doing a lot of pointing and gesturing and grunting a good bit," said Sarah Myers, assistant director for The Children's Center.
Myers was one of Kayson's first speech-language pathologists.
"We did some additional testing for him and found out he has a diagnoses of childhood apraxia of speech," Myers said.
Myers explained childhood apraxia of speech is considered a neurological speech disorder.
"So we had to do a lot of work with opening your mouth to make a vowel sound, closing your lips and humming to make a M sound," Myers said.
Myers said Kayson understands so much, but the apraxia makes it difficult for him to express what his brain tells him to say, but the center has found a way to give him a voice.
It is called Augmentative and Alternative Communication Methods or AAC.
It works in conjunction with an app of pictures and symbols called Proloquo2Go.
"The best part is he can generate a message that is autonomous to him. He can make a decision on exactly what he wants and put a sentence together that would be something his friend can say also at the four-year-old level," Myers said.
Speech-Language Pathologist Monica Bridges will work with Kayson this year and she said every interaction teaches him levels of communication.
"We get to model language and help the families with things that they need to happened at home, or when they go shopping with their kid, or to a restaurant in ways they want them to communicate," Bridges said.
Knight said now Kayson can form sentences using the app on an iPad, and he can say some words.
These victories are encouraging, but Knight said she knows working through the apraxia will take time, but she said she is just happy to finally hear what her son is thinking.