An autistic toddler in the UK has captured worldwide interest creating beautiful paintings far beyond her years.
Three-year-old Iris Grace Halmshaw – who is autistic and cannot speak – lives with mom Arabella Carter-Johnson and dad Peter-Jon Halmshaw and has been painting as a part of her therapy sessions.
At the age of two, the little girl was diagnosed with autism, and, in an attempt to regain a connection with their daughter, who could scarcely make eye contact or communicate, her parents began to try different types of therapies.
"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," says her mother, who adds that with the help of the therapists, a huge change was seen in her daughter.
"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," says Iris' mother, who lives with her family in Market Harborough, a town within the district of Leicestershire, England.
"She now rides on my back in fits of laughter, plays and communicates by creating her own signs."
Shortly after Iris Grace began painting as a part of her therapy, her parents knew they were seeing something special. Now the world has seen what this little girl is capable of – and they're lining up to bring a piece home!
"We realised about three months ago she is actually really talented," explains her mother, who first shared her daughter's extraordinary paintings via Facebook. "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' father tells This Is Leicestershire he was amazed when his daughter started painting:
"We're her parents so we think everything she does is amazing... But lots of other people started saying it was great. It went berserk from there."
The pint-sized artist's mother says Iris' autism has created a unique style and that her daughter "has an understanding of colors and how they interact."
"She beams with excitement and joy when I get out the paints," her mom shares.
All profits from the sale of Iris Grace's paintings go toward her art materials and funding her private therapy sessions.
Her parents – who have set up a website at irisgracepainting.com to showcase and sell the 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.
"We are having many more good days," adds her mom.
Michaela Butter, a co-director of Embrace Arts – the University of Leicester's inclusive arts centre – says, "As Iris Grace's paintings demonstrate so well, disability is no barrier to creativity."
The family is hoping to display the autistic girl's paintings at an exhibition in London.
[Image via irisgracepainting.com]