'I love you'. They are the three words all mothers long to hear - and take for granted - from their children's lips – but words that have been denied to Rachel Adam-Smith. Until now.
For Rachel's 10-year-old daughter, who suffers from a rare disorder which leaves her unable to speak, has finally uttered those three magic words.
Francesca has spent her life desperately trying to communicate with her mum but has only managed to make a few sounds.
But with a monumental effort, the little girl said 'I love you' – and her mum captured the moment on video.
There is still a long way to go, but those three little words are a step in the right direction for Francesca, whose condition has left her almost entirely mute and is so complicated there is no other known case of it in the UK.
Now a specialist school that has seen Rachel's video has promised they could have Francesca talking properly within a year.
However, the school fees are £60,000 and, despite Francesca's local education provider recognising her urgent need, she has been turned down for funding.
But Rachel is determined her daughter will get help and has launched a fundraising drive to get her daughter enrolled while they appeal.
"Francesca tries so desperately to speak and gets increasingly frustrated and tearful when she can't,' said Francesca, from Wetherby, West Yorkshire.
She is bright as a button but she is locked in her body and needs this intensive therapy to give her the best possible chance.
"She is a unique child and it is destroying me that she cannot reach her full potential.
"To hear her tell me she loves me took my breath away. I know she has so much more she wants to say."
Rachel, who is her daughter's full-time carer after giving up her career with British Airways, added: "I am not wealthy and I have nowhere to turn. Doctors tell me we need to act now if she is to be in with a chance but the appeal process could take months.
"If I can raise enough funds to give her just a year at this school it would make such a massive difference."
St Mary's School in Sussex said if Francesca switched from her existing school she would receive daily speech training as well as other therapies.
A spokeswoman said: "The gap between Francesca's desire to communicate, her understanding of language and her ability to express this knowledge must be urgently addressed."
Steve Walker, deputy director for children's services for Leeds City Council, which made the decision to reject Francesca's application for educational funding, told the Daily Mail it could not justify the expense despite admitting the new school would be appropriate.
"Unfortunately, we only have a limited amount of money available to meet the needs of all our pupils with complex needs," he said.
"We accept that St Mary's would meet Francesca's needs but unfortunately we do have to weigh up the cost to the public purse."
• For more information or to donate to Francesca's school fund visit www.justgiving.com/FrancescaAdam-Smith.
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