Three year old autistic girl Iris Halmshaw in the UK has gone on to capture the public’s imagination with a body of work that goes far beyond her actual years.
The girl, who is autistic and can not speak lives with her mother, Arabella Carter-Johnson and father Peter-Jon Halmshaw was put on a regiment of therapy sessions after it was diagnosed that at the age of two she was autistic. At the time their daughter struggled to maintain eye contact with her parents or communicate and often withdrew.
Told the girl’s mother: “We started with play therapy and we’ve had speech, equine, occupational and music therapy, looked at her nutrition and quite a few other methods,”
“She used to be consumed by books, eye contact was a rare occurrence, she didn’t want to, or know how to, play with us and got desperately distressed when we took her near any other children,”
“She now rides on my back in fits of laughter, plays and communicates by creating her own signs.”
It wasn’t though when her parents had Iris start painting that they noticed something remarkable.
“We realised about three months ago she is actually really talented,” explains her mother, who first shared her daughter’s extraordinary paintings via Facebook.
Continues Iris’ mother: ‘One day I drew some stick men and Iris found them really funny. My mum bought an easel and we got the paint out. Iris made one brush stroke and the paint dribbled down to the bottom of the page. She was furious and burst into tears.
‘But I figured out the problem: it wasn’t the paint, it was the fact she couldn’t control it. So I put a sheet of paper on a table instead of the easel and straightaway she filled the whole page. She seemed to know intuitively what to do.’
It wasn’t too long when Iris’ mother began showing off her daughter’s paintings that she knew Iris had a very special talent.
“Inquiries to buy her paintings were flooding in from all over the world and a framed print sold in a charity auction in London for £830.”
Iris’ parents – have since set up a website at irisgracepainting.com to showcase and sell their daughters paintings – couldn’t be happier with the effect that art therapy has had on their daughter, but say they still have “a long way to go” with other aspects of Iris life, such as speech and social skills.
Reflected Michaela Butter, a co-director of Embrace Arts – the University of Leicester’s inclusive arts center: “As Iris Grace’s paintings demonstrate so well, disability is no barrier to creativity.”
Tells Iris’ mother: ‘Since she started to paint, her mood has lifted; her communication has improved; she is saying more and more words and she has started to enjoy making eye contact.’
A solo exhibition in London, and subsequent auction, are planned. Proceeds will be used to maintain Iris’ therapy exorbitant therapy sessions.