“As his parents we find it hard when people ask: ‘Why does Max talk differently?’"

Amanda and Luca Letizia’s son Max is like many other seven year olds – he loves swimming, playing outside and being a Beaver Scout. But Max suffers severe speech and language problems.

The schoolboy, from Abingdon, has a congenital brain condition known as Polymicrogyria. While he often knows what he wants to say, he has difficulty saying it. And much to his and his family’s pain, this means many children and adults shy away from him.

Mrs Letizia, 40, said: “When he was 14 months old, Max had a seizure while on holiday in Italy. This was followed by another seizure at 19 months. An MRI scan in Italy and subsequently in the UK showed that Max had Polymicrogyria.”

Six in every 100 children will experience speech and language difficulties at some stage of their lives. But while most suffer only a temporary delay and go on to develop normally, around one in 500 children like Max experience severe, long term difficulties and face the constant battle of making themselves understood, in an often impatient world.

Mrs Letizia added: “As he has grown, the difficulties have become more apparent. He can talk, but requires people who are good listeners and are willing to give time and patience to hear what he has to say.

“The main problem for him has been socialising and talking to his peers; as he speaks slowly, most children don’t have the time to wait and hear what he has to say.

“Max understands most things that are said to him and gets very upset and frustrated at times that he cannot express himself.”

Max started his school life in a mainstream school with the help of a teaching assistant.But he failed to make any progress with his speech and almost stopped talking as the pace of teaching and conversation was too fast.

Mrs Letizia said: “Max became isolated. But after a very difficult and stressful battle with the local education authority he was accepted into Caldecott Language Resource Base (LRB) unit at the age of four.

“The LRB is a fantastic facility for children with speech and language problems.

“We believe it is the only primary school facility in Oxfordshire with such specialist language teaching.

“The staff are very supportive and Max has speech therapy in group and individual sessions about twice a week.”

Max also attends the 30th Abingdon Beavers, where he is well supported by the leaders, although despite having attended for two years he has not yet made any friends.

“The other children tend to shy away from him,” said Mrs Letizia.

“But Max is eager to talk and is always willing to take any opportunity to practise his speech, although he does usually need an adult to support him.”

The Letizias have also gained help and support from Oxfordshire Afasic; a group representing the interests of children with communication problems which also provides support for parents and carers. In July the national arm of Afasic celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Oxfordshire’s branch is now in its 20th year.

Oxfordshire Afasic Chairman Gill Jenkins said: "Over the years, Oxfordshire Afasic has helped to support many families and although faces change, the types of problems they encounter remain the same.

“Even if children are diagnosed with a speech and language difficulty it is a very generalised term and covers a vast range of problems. Often there are other complex associated needs such as autism or a combination of difficulties that are never actually given a diagnosis.”