Iris Grace is autistic. She cannot speak, and has trouble interacting with others.
But this remarkable little girl has learned to express herself through movement and art, and since discovering her love for painting, her work has started to sell for up to £800.Iris was diagnosed with autism in 2011. Her mum Arabella Carter-Johnson, from Leicestershire, was told Iris, then two, was too young for a medical diagnosis, but she and her husband Peter-Jon were desperate to help their daughter, who was struggling to communicate.
"So many people advised that it was too young and it wasn't possible to get a diagnosis at two years, but we wanted to go ahead because we knew that it was the only way to evaluate how we could help her," Arabella told Parentdish.
"She seemed to be slipping away from us and I couldn't wait. For us, getting a diagnosis was a positive thing and while it was upsetting it also gave us hope that now we know exactly what is wrong we can learn how to assist our daughters development."
Following her diagnosis, Arabella started regular play therapy with her daughter, which led Iris to discover her passion, and talent, for painting.
We started with play therapy - including floor time and modeling - which helped her to look at me when I came in the room. We also used speech therapy, equine therapy, occupational therapy and music therapy, as well as looking looked at her nutrition.
"With the expert help of many therapists she changed dramatically in just a short space of time. She used to be consumed by books, eye contact was a rare occurrence and she didn't want to or know how to play with us.
"She had showed obsessive behaviours, got desperately distressed when we took her near any other children and her sleep patterns were all over the place.
"Following a mix of therapies and perseverance, she now rides on my back in fits of laughter, squealing with delight. She also plays, communicates by creating her own signs and her sleeping is much better.
"We still have a long way to go with her social skills and speech, but we are having many more 'good days' and one of her favourite activities is painting."
Iris started painting as a way to help her learn about joint attention and turn-taking. While they were pleased Iris enjoyed her artwork, Arabella and Peter-Jon were amazed to see the talent their little girl had with a paintbrush.
"We realised about three months ago that she is actually really talented and has an incredible concentration span of around two hours on each piece," says Arabella.
"We were posting the paintings on Facebook and had in incredible response; enquiries to buy her paintings were flooding in from all over the world. A framed print has sold in a charity auction in London for £830."
Iris is given lots of choice and a free-rein with her painting, and her talent is unlike anything else Arabella - or us for that matter - have seen before.
"I make up some cups of very watery paints, and she chooses which one she would like to use, and gets me to make more when she needs it," explains Arabella.
"Her autism has created a style of painting which I have never seen in a child of her age. She has an understanding of colours and how they interact with each other. She beams with excitement and joy when I get out the paints, it lifts her mood every time.
"Her other great love is nature, the garden, trees, wind, water, movement and we can see them all in her paintings.
She has found a way of expressing herself that is so beautiful, so we wanted to share it and thereby raise awareness of her condition, which is currently affecting around 100,000 children in the UK and these numbers are rising.
Arabella is working closely with The National Autistic Society and the Autism Research Centre to raise awareness and money for the two charities, and is planning an exhibition of Iris's work in London.
For more about Iris, and to enquire about her work, visit Irisgracepainting.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All profits from the sales of her art will go towards more art materials and her on going private therapists.
You can find out more about Iris's work on her Facebook page.
"Here, Arabella explains how Iris works on her paintings:"
All of her kit, the table she paints on and the equipment is left in the kitchen so she is free to come and go, painting when she wants to.
Iris indicates she would like to paint by walking up to the sink and pointing at her brush and the mug she uses.
I go to the cupboard and take out the paint bottles and she indicates which colour she would like to be made up. If the colour isn't there (like purple) she will find an item that is that colour to show me what she wants to be mixed.
I then add water and she tests it out. On many occasions she will take it back to the sink if its not the right consistency.
Iris paints with high flicks, dots, dabs, uses rollers, stamps, and a range of brushes and sponges.
When she is finsihed for that session she puts her tools down in the mug and leaves the table, waits for the painting to dry and then goes back to it to do some more in the afternoon.
For the moment we are naming the paintings as Iris doesn't speak, we try and make them relevant to what they look like or how she felt while painting them.
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