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How Thula The Cat Helps A Girl With Autism Live Life More Fully

Thula is more than a therapy cat: She's an amazing best friend.

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After her diagnosis, Iris' parents looked for activities through which she could effectively express herself.

Facebook: Iris-Grace-Painting

They also introduced a new friend into Iris' life. In February 2014, they brought Thula the Maine Coone home, and it was the "beginning of a beautiful new friendship."

With Thula around, Iris became more verbal and open.

Facebook: Iris-Grace-Painting

Before Thula, Iris was extremely uncomfortable wearing clothes. With her new friend around, she began "wearing her clothes, sleeping better and communicating more."

She chats with Thula about all sorts of things, even teaching her about sea creatures when Thula joins her for a bath.

Facebook: Iris-Grace-Painting

Thula listens intently as Iris goes through the sea creatures one by one, waiting to get out of the bathtub until Iris is ready.

Despite her patience and good nature, Thula can be a bit mischievous like any other cat.

Facebook: Iris-Grace-Painting

She was caught playing with one of Iris' favorite paintbrushes one afternoon. "Anyone else would've been scolded for it, but Iris made an exception for her best friend."

Thula even received a gold star from Iris' special sticker collection.

Facebook: Iris-Grace-Painting

Before Thula, Iris' mother attempted to use the "gold star routine" to reward good behavior. Iris was horrified, though, when a gold star sticker would be removed from the paper. The stickers were stowed away in a safe place until one afternoon when Iris went in and pulled one off the paper, placing it on Thula's forehead.

Thula even helps Iris' mother during their homeschooling sessions.

Facebook: Iris-Grace-Painting

She joins in with every activity, helping keep Iris engaged. Here she plays along in the sand as Iris is encouraged to say the names of different creatures.

Find out more about Iris' amazing artwork and her adventures with Thula on her Facebook page and website.

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