A MOTHER of a Penarth woman with autism has spoken of her daughter’s inspirational rise from a shy teenager to a flourishing young adult, thanks to art.

When lockdown began in March Romana Thomas, aged 22, was half way through her third year at Weston House College in Bridgend, and was having the time of her life.

“Romana has problems with her speech and can’t really say much, but she was having a wonderful time at college and she’d really come out of her shell,” said mum Angela.

"When she was small I couldn’t even get her to paint a picture, but now she will sit for hours sewing, painting and creating.

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“I’ve been blown away by what the college has done for her, and we’re delighted she’s able to go back soon.

“It was such a wrench for her to leave college and come back here. We needed to get her back into a good routine again, and I knew I’d have to keep her busy with plenty of activities.”

As well as lots of trips to Cosmeston, Romana began her own small arts business on Etsy, and has received orders from all over Wales.

“It’s been a great way for her to focus on something and have routine again, which is so important for her,” Ms Thomas said. “Every Friday we go and get fish and chips and then come back to do some artwork. She loves it – I think we’ll always do it now!”

The business - Romana Makes - includes creations like driftwood wall hangings, tealight holders, embroidery, and air-dry clay pottery.

“With the money we get from the sales we’re going to try and buy a kiln so she create ceramics.”

On living through lockdown as a carer and mother, as well as looking after her seven-year-old son, Ms Thomas said: “It’s been very difficult. There’s been no respite and very little support. I’ve struggled to do normal things like go shopping, because there’s no way Romana would understand social distancing, although she is improving with it.

“I feel very lucky we found the Zoom sessions being conducted by the Follow Your Dreams charity.

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"They help young people and parents, and we’ve really enjoyed the weekly bingo sessions with them.

“The most important thing, which has kept me going, is making sure my kids’ mental health is in a good place. If that’s the case, then I’m okay.

“We’re very lucky to live in a lovely town like Penarth where we can isolate and still go for lovely walks along the seafront or to Cosmeston.

“Romana’s passion for creativity has helped us all through. She’s proud of what she’s done and we’re proud of her.”

To find out more about Romana's work visit https://www.facebook.com/RomanasMakes/.