Young Girl With Autism Learns To Express Herself Thanks To A Very Special Cat

by Laura Caseley
Laura is a writer, illustrator, and artist living in New York City.

Even when she was young, it was clear to Iris Grace Halmshaw’s parents that she would need some extra help. Iris has severe autism, and as a result, she was unable to communicate for very long time.

That didn’t stop Iris from wowing people with her incredible artistic talent, though.

The 6-year-old found refuge, and a way of expressing herself, through her abstract paintings, which have been sold around the world. That’s no small feat for any 6-year-old, but when it came to day-to-day life, Iris struggled.

She was easily overwhelmed in the presence of other children, and found it difficult to sleep. What most children would consider simple, everyday things — wearing clothes, riding in cars, and taking baths — Iris struggled with.

She also had no means of communication, which meant that she couldn’t express her needs and feelings, even to her parents.

But that all changed when Iris got a therapy animal. And while you might be imagining a dog, Iris’ companion is actually a Maine coon cat named Thula. It might seem like an odd pair, but it’s one that works magically.

See Iris and Thula’s adventures below, and you’ll see how having an animal friend really makes such a huge difference for all children. And be sure to watch the video of these two friends, too!

[H/T: Distractify, Mashable]

This is Iris Grace Halmshaw. She was born with severe autism that makes her unable to speak.

For a long time, she was unable to communicate, even nonverbally. Her mother, Arabella Carter-Johnston, described her as “trapped in her own world, unreachable.”

Iris found solace, though, in painting.

These colorful, abstract paintings show a precocious talent, and her art has caught the attention of people across the globe.


Her paintings, created with paint, ink, and glitter, are dreamy and show a remarkable talent and sense of color.

They were also a way for Iris to express her feelings and creativity, since she was having so much trouble communicating.

But everything changed when the family adopted Thula, a Maine coon cat.

Carter-Johnston noticed that Thula and Iris immediately took to one another, and that Iris was suddenly, as if my magic, able to communicate.

“So many things changed after Thula came into our lives,” Carter-Johnston says. “It was as if all [Iris’] difficulties were being sorted out one by one by her trusty companion.

Iris and Thula are inseparable, and Thula watches over Iris as she plays, paints, and explores.

Studies have shown that having a pet helps children with autism to develop their social skills.

For Iris, Thula provided company and comfort and made things like riding in the car or getting a haircut, both things that Iris found traumatic, much easier.

In fact, her anxiety about them seems to have evaporated completely.

Thula never leaves Iris’ side. Here she is watching Iris working on one of her masterpieces.

And even though she’s learning to communicate more freely, Iris hasn’t lost her creative drive and her love of painting.

If anything, she’s getting braver with experimenting, and is learning to try new things and branch out.

And her faithful friend, Thula, is always there to help her creative process.

Carter-Johnston also noticed that as Iris became more warm and social with Thula, she also started opening up to her family.

She’d previously disliked being hugged or kissed, but has since become more affectionate.

“It was as if she was opening up to all of us after Thula came into our lives,” Carter-Johnston says.

Iris has also been using her words more to communicate, rather than pointing or gesturing. She talks not only to Thula, but to her parents, too.

For a long time, Iris also had trouble sleeping, and would frequently wake up in the night feeling afraid.

But once again, Thula was the answer.

The two love snuggling up, and if Iris wakes, Thula is there to comfort her.

Carter-Johnston is amazed at the progress her daughter is making, and describes the friendship as “a powerful connection that we had been searching for all this time.”

Check out the video below to see Iris and her best friend in action, and see how amazingly they work together.

Please SHARE if you think animals bring out the best in us!

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