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.

1. Iris Grace Halmshaw is a 4-year-old girl from the U.K.

In December 2011, Iris was diagnosed with autism. She struggled with communication, expressing affection, and social interaction.

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

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.”

3. With Thula around, Iris became more verbal and open.

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

4. Thula is more than just a therapy cat, she’s Iris’ faithful best friend.

5. The pair are inseparable, as Thula stays by Iris’ side as much as possible.

One of Iris’ favorite activities is painting, and Thula is Iris’ assistant, sitting quietly while watching her work.

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

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

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

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.”

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

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.

9. The pair does nearly everything together, and Thula is innately in tune to Iris’ emotions and needs.

10. They share a daily after-lunch nap…

11. …and they also go on bike rides together all the time.

12. At night, if Iris is restless, Thula is there to comfort her.

13. While Iris eats breakfast, Thula waits patiently in the paint room for her — knowing her place as Iris’ devoted friend and artist’s assistant.

14. They play hide-and-seek in the wood near their house…

15. …and Thula accompanies Iris on all of her backyard adventures.

16. Thula even helps Iris’ mother during their homeschooling sessions.

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.

17. Thula plays along with Iris whether the Play-Doh is out…

18. …or the jewelry, which is one of Iris’ favorite toys.

19. Iris and Thula share a special bond, Thula giving undeniable love and loyalty to “her girl” and Iris loving her back just the same.

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

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