6-year-old who barely speaks finds a voice in art

ByCrystal Isaac KTRK logo
Saturday, July 23, 2016
Iris Grace Artist
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6-year-old girl with autism who barely speaks gains worldwide recognition for her art

For one six-year-old girl, pictures are worth a thousand words and a few bucks too. Iris Grace Halmshaw spent most of her childhood without uttering a word because she suffers from autism. However, she is using art to break through the silence of her condition and her paintings are speaking volumes.

"She is now starting to speak, but that doesn't come easily to her," said Iris' mom, Arabella Carter-Johnson. "But she expresses herself beautifully through movement and art."

Iris was diagnosed with autism when she was two-years-old.

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Iris Grace exploring the countryside

"Eye contact was a rare occurrence and she didn't want to or know how to play with us," said Carter-Johnson.

Carter-Johnson said with the help of therapists, Iris started to show some improvement. When Iris turned three-years-old, she started to paint to help with her speech therapy. But as soon as Iris picked up the paint brush, her parents were blown away by how she approached the painting.

"It was on her first painting I noticed a difference in her painting compared with how you would normally expect a child to paint," said Carter-Johnson. "Her autism and incredible concentration span has created a style of painting which I have never seen in a child of her age."

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Iris' parents decided to share her artwork online to fund her therapy and raise awareness about her condition. Iris' worked grabbed headlines - earning her the nickname, "Little Ms. Masterpiece" and some have even compared her work to Monet.

Her work also grabbed the attention of Angelina Jolie. The actress purchased one of Iris' original paintings. The pint-sized painter has her own website and also has nearly 200,000 followers on Facebook, but her parents say nothing has changed in Iris' world.

"We are trying to keep our lives as normal as possible for Iris, so our same routine continues," said Carter-Johnson.

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One element of Iris' routine that she cannot survive without is her cat and best friend, Thula.

"They had an immediate affinity," said Carter-Johnson. "Iris started to open up and communicate with Thula in a way that she hadn't done before."

Now whenever Iris is painting outside, Thula is at her side.