Thula, the two-year-old cat is credited for bringing severely autistic Iris Grace out of her shell.
Thula and Iris Grace are the best of friends, they go everywhere and do everything together. Unbeknown to most people, Iris was completely crippled by her autism before she met Thula. Autism is a condition which is apparent right from early childhood which creates many different difficulties such as communication barriers, anxiety and sleep disorders.
Iris’s parents now watch in joy as there once unresponsive, unsettled and unsociable little girl is now much more sociable and relaxed. Her parents decided to buy Iris a cat after they saw her bonding with and socialising with their friend’s cat. They chose Thula, a Maine Coon, the breed known for being sociable, gentle and affectionate. The name Thula, pronounced like “toola” means ‘peace’ in Zulu. It wasn’t long before the two became inseparable and Iris seemed to almost emulate Thula’s calm behaviour and she became more relaxed and didn’t mind doing things which would have made her extremely anxious before, like wearing clothes and bathing.
The biggest turning point for Iris and Thula was when Iris told her to sit, this was an amazing achievement as this was the first time the little girl had ever used words to achieve something or for a purpose, this was seen as a huge stepping stone for Iris.
Autism affects about 700,000 people in the UK. There is no cure for the condition and it can have lasting affects on people with anxiety attacks, meltdowns, OCD tendencies and sensory differences making it more difficult for people to socialise and create relationships with people. Iris once only spoke just a handful of words, didn’t sleep, avoided interacting with people, would panic in the car and hated baths. The symptoms for her autism started when she was just a baby when she wouldn’t sleep, wouldn’t look at faces and by the age of two she had completely drifted and made a social barrier which made her distant and unsociable. Iris was diagnosed with “100 per cent”, severe autism and her parents were told there was little hope for any improvement with the way Iris interacted with the world and the people in it.
Iris had a week trial with a specially trained Labrador after her photographer mother researched into therapy animals and found that they have improved the lives or people who suffer from illnesses such as autism, however, Iris could not stand the big wagging tail. Instead, they opted for buying a kitten from a breeder and, to everybody’s delight, Iris and Thula immediately hit it off. Thula has her own passport so she can be with Iris at all times, showing what an impact the little kitty has had on her life.
Iris has changed so much since she met her best feline friend, and although there will be difficulties, she has surpassed all the expectations that her diagnosis gave her and now has such a bright future, all thanks to her loving cat Thula.
You can find out more, and support Iris Grace by visiting her website.