Autism is a poorly-understood neurological disorder that can impair an individual’s ability to engage in various social interactions. But little 5-year-old Iris Grace in the UK is an excellent example of the unexpected gifts that autism can also grant – her exceptional focus and attention to detail have helped her create incredibly beautiful paintings that many of her fans (and buyers) have likened to Monet’s works.
Little Iris is slowly learning to speak, whereas most children have already begun to speak at least a few words by age 2. Along with speech therapy, her parents gradually introduced her to painting, which is when they discovered her amazing talent.
“We have been encouraging Iris to paint to help with speech therapy, joint attention and turn taking,” her mother, Arabella Carter-Johnson, explains on her website. “Then we realised that she is actually really talented and has an incredible concentration span of around 2 hours each time she paints. 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.”
“I first noticed how effective art was with Iris when I was trying to establish joint attention, I would draw stick men and make up stories and she would laugh and guide my hand to do more,” Carter-Johnson told Bored Panda. “I used to tape down large sheets of wall paper liner down onto a wooden coffee table and we would work or drawings together.”
“Then, when we tried painting with her, it was on an easel and that didn’t work at all as the paint dribbled down the paper and upset her so I thought I would let her try on the same table as we used for her drawing. She took to it straight away and filled the paper with colour. So that was how it all came about. I quickly learned how effective it was as a therapy, to help with her moods, communication.”
“[Painting] wasn’t something that the doctors suggested although I wish they had. That is something a lot of the media have got wrong,” Carter-Johnson explained to Bored Panda. “It came about because I was educating her at home and I was trying to follow the national curriculum and mark making, drawing, painting was one of the things on my hit list to do with Iris.”
When asked about what Iris had to say about her artwork, Carter-Johnson said, “‘Yummy’ seems to be a favorite word about some of them, also she giggles. She loves looking at Anima and jumps around with excitement and then will inspect all of those tiny splashes of white.”
Carter-Johnson said that she named most of the artworks, “although Iris has chosen ‘A-Where-Wa.’ They are always relevant to her inspiration, how the painting made her feel or music she was listening to.”
“I can see so much of what fascinates her in her art, I believe she can see things in more detail, or notice things in more detail. She has always been interested in water and movement, nature and there is so much of that in her paintings.”
“Her visual memory is excellent and it allows us to see how sometimes life must become overwhelming. It’s now easy to understand that, for Iris, when things get to be too much she needs quiet and peace.”
“Her art has opened up our eyes to the possibilities in her life and of others on the spectrum – follow their ‘spark’ and wonderful things can happen. I am a great believer in giving as many opportunities to children as you can.”
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