In the early days life itself seemed distressing for Iris. She was withdrawn, not speaking and seemed to be locked away behind her books, avoiding all social and eye contact, and not developing language.  She was highly sensitive to noise and other stimuli.  It was only when she was in nature or left alone with the colourful pages and stories of her books that she could be calm, but because of her lack of speech she seemed locked into her own world.  Slowly, I learned how to connect with her by following her interests, seeing the world of nature through her eyes and allowing her to set the pace. It wasn’t always an easy road, but it led to Iris discovering her talents as a painter. When she was in front of her painting table, her incredible ability to focus shone. 

She produced art which has moved a wide audience: news of her paintings spread throughout the world, her art lined the corridors of hospitals, calming the patients and lifting their spirits, children in schools heard about her story,  and celebrities including Angelina Jolie bought her work, bolstering autism awareness worldwide.  It was an incredible experience watching her story grow and the positive impact she had on people’s lives.  Our little girl who struggled to communicate was reaching and inspiring so many.  

Gradually, I found a path to real communication with Iris.  And this path grew ever wider after Iris formed a strong relationship with her Maine Coon cat Thula.  It was Thula who helped Iris overcome her fear of water, who solved her troubles with sleeping and who led her into playing with others. Thula’s role was life-changing, for Iris and for all of us, and she became an inspiration for others: when I set up The Little Explorers Activity Club for other families in similar circumstances, it was often Thula and our other animals who would bring the children out of their shells.

We share our experiences to show that there can be a bright future, even with a severe diagnosis.  Our message – if we follow our children into their world, we can learn, understand and discover that different is brilliant. 


60 thoughts on “About

  1. Sarah Henjum says:

    Absolutely stunning art! Like Monet is guiding her hands. Your efforts to provide your beautiful daughter with tools for communicating and interacting with the world around her are to be commended.
    Has she ever had an opportunity to to therapeutic horseback riding? The program I used to help run had many miraculous stories of young children speaking and/or walking for the first time. It taught out autistic spectrum students how to interact with their horse, volunteers and fellow students.
    Looking forward to seeing more beautiful art from Iris.

    • Carter-Johnson says:

      Thankyou Sarah for your kind words, we have tried Equine Therapy but a couple of years ago now, we have booked in a few sessions this summer to see if Iris shows anymore interest as she didn’t seem to be that keen when we first tried. I have seen though, how amazing animals can be at encouraging communication with her Maine Coon Kitten, their relationship is beautiful to watch.

  2. Marcia Higgins says:

    Iris Grace is an amazing child. Your patience, understanding and love have helped her bloom. I have only met one person with Autism. He was the 23 year old son of a co-worker. Your daughter has given me a totally different view of Autism. To say I was ignorant is an understatement. Thank you for sharing your journey with Iris Grace. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose eyes and heart have been opened. ❤

  3. Carter-Johnson says:

    Hi, She names a few of them but mostly I name them. They are always relevant to what was happening when she painted them or her inspiration. There are some stories in the blog section of the website.

  4. Kylie Carter says:

    Hi there.
    I have been deeply moved by your story. I once had the pleasure of looking after a little boy with autism and though it was a challenge he was an absolute pleasure to be with. He too was creative in his own unique way.
    I would like to know if any of these pictures are for sale on canvass? I would love to buy one. I find them absolutely amazing, they are also extremely calming I find and I could sit and look at them for hrs lol this wouldnt be a commercial buy pure for my own enjoyment. If you could let ke know id be really grateful. Thanks  

    • Carter-Johnson says:

      Hi Kylie, Thankyou for your interest in Iris’s art and your kind words, we really appreciate it. There are some Canvas prints for sale here – http://www.zazzle.com/irisgracepainting/art I was going to update the site with some more of her recent paintings but it all got rather busy this evening so if there is a particular painting you would like just let me know, you can email me at irisgraceainting@yahoo.com and I will upload it to the zazzle site – http://www.zazzle.com/irisgracepainting/art

      • Yvonne Parsons says:

        I purchased a notebook from the zazzle.com site. I’m so excited to use it at work and show it off. Her paintings are amazing!

        My son has a mild form of Asperger’s and loves to paint as well. It’s wonderful to see how consumed he gets with it. His other interest is math and he was amazed when I told him that you can combine math and art together (shapes, geometry, color, sacred geometry, tessellations…)

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