By Hannah Schenker
Autism is something we are all aware of now, with as many as 1 in 100 in the UK affected. We know that it is a “spectrum” condition, which means that while there are some common difficulties for all people on the spectrum, it manifests differently for each individual. Autism is a “lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them” (source).
For some it can mean a relatively independent life, for others it may be accompanied by learning disabilities, mental health issue or other conditions that require a lifetime of specialist support. It is not something that can be “cured”, it is not a disease or an illness. Rather, it is something to learn how to manage and live with, in order to create a rich and meaningful life. Many autistic people have highly focussed interests where they channel their energy, and for a young girl in the UK – Iris Grace – this turned out to be art. And her pussycat, Thula.
We spoke to Iris’s mama Arabella to find out more about this wonderful little girl. Read on for more about Iris’s incredible story, and to see some of her beautiful artwork.
Iris Grace is a beautiful little girl from the UK who, from a very young age, barely communicated, avoided social interaction with other people, and rarely smiled. From both before her diagnosis of autism and after, she seemed trapped in her own world, unable to connect with those around her.
One day, her mother brought home a Maine Coon kitten for Iris, even though cats aren’t typically thought of as therapy pets. Thula, named after one of Iris’s favorite African lullabies and meaning “peace” in Zulu, immediately bonded with Iris. Whether exploring, playing, sleeping, or taking a bath with Iris or accompanying the family on a bike ride, Thula became so much more than a therapy cat. With Thula’s safe companionship, Iris began to talk and interact with her family.