Iris’s love of nature is the foundation of her development, the inspiration for her paintings and where I have found she learns best. Our Forests of the World project started last November in Costa Rica and is taking us all the way around the world to some unexpected but totally inspiring places. In September 2018 we visited the Forests of Slovenia and we were blown away by it’s magical landscape. These trips have become more than just education for Iris they are a journey of self-discovery, pushing limits and has given her a confidence that I couldn’t have imagined years ago when she was first diagnosed with autism.
In the picture above Iris crossed this river which at first glance may seem like a risky option to take with a kid on the spectrum. I know most parents will be worried even looking at the image, no handrail on one side, the dangers…but she was listening to me and concentrating hard, taking in all of my instructions. I trust her and she trusts me and with that, she gains a strength that she will need to overcome many challenges in the future. It’s a fine balance of course, how far to let them explore before you jump in and hold them tight but the more I try the better I get at judging and understanding these boundaries.
Sometimes her excitement gets to the point where she quite literally rockets to the sky flying so high. I adore these moments as her joy passes to me and it’s an incredible feeling but I know that I need to be there for her to help her self-regulate. Sometimes it’s just to allow her to hold my hand or for me to repeat the sounds she makes, reply to her riddles of phrases and parts to songs. Then at other times she brings me close, she wraps my arms around her slim body and presses my hands. She enjoys the deep pressure, it comforts and restores her balance, giving her what she needs to move on.
Out in the forests of Slovenia she became an intrepid explorer and at times it was hard to keep up with those long legs of hers. She moved like a mountain goat up the steep rocky hillsides to see the beautiful waterfalls and we found many intriguing creatures along the path.
Our travels to The Forests of the World are a tale of freedom, of education and adventure. They teach me more about being a parent than anything ever has and for Iris it’s giving her happiness, teaching her adaptability and encouraging independence.
Photography by Harry Speller & Arabella Carter-Johnson