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Girl With ASD Couldnt Even Talk Until She Met Kitten

Her parents were close to giving up any hope. Her five-year-old girl had been diagnosed with severe ASD. She had difficulties establishing relationships with other people, and that wasn’t the worst part: she had barely uttered any word in all her life.

The parents were disheartened when the doctors told them that her mutism may last forever: she may never be able to talk. But then, this cat stepped into the picture, and everything changed forever.

Iris Grace Halmshaw is a five-year-old girl from Leicestershire, England. She was diagnosed with severe Autistic Spectrum Disorder very early in life, which has made her struggle in a number of areas of life. 

This mental condition usually causes difficulties with human relationships, communication, and expressing emotion in those with it. However, some cases, like Iris’, are more severe than others.

The five-year-old girl has experienced more difficulties than other kids with her condition. There are some things she’s afraid of, like water, for instance.

But without a doubt, the thing Iris struggles with the most is communication and interpersonal relationships. For years, it seemed like she was unable to utter a single word. But why was that?

In all aspects, it seems like Iris should be just as able to produce speech as any other girl her age. She doesn’t have any impairments hindering her from pronouncing words or understanding grammar and the meanings of the words.

A way of explaining Iris’ mutism is that she doesn’t feel comfortable enough around people to communicate her thoughts, wishes, or impressions. The doctors said she may never be able to talk. However, this would soon change.

One day, Iris’ parents were doing some research on the Internet on alternative therapies for children with ASD, and they came across a certain website offering advice.

They were surprised to discover that some researchers had noticed something: pets are often of great help when it comes to making it easier for children with ASD to open up and interact with others. As they kept reading, a plan kept taking form in their heads.

Cats were particularly recommended as companions to children with ASD. So they didn’t think twice: they would get a kitten for Iris.

The cat they chose was a one-year-old Maine coon named Thula. At first, the parents didn’t know what to expect: no therapist had ever mentioned how cats could help children with ASD, let alone recommend them to get one. But soon enough, they were surprised.

From the minute Thula walked through their door, Iris was pleased to meet her new friend. The cat seemed to quite like the child as well: from the first moment they saw each other, they started playing.

Iris seemed to enjoy walking the cat around as if she was showing her the house’s different rooms, while Thula followed her obediently. But that was just the start.

A few days later, Thula started meowing at Iris every time she wanted something. And the most surprising thing was that Iris seemed to perfectly understand what the kitten was trying to ask her.

Sometimes, Thula would meow at Iris, and the girl would immediately go to the kitchen with the kitten and tap her mother’s stomach: that meant the cat was hungry. Other times, the kitten would want to be taken to a specific room of the house, and she would meow at Iris to let her know that. And one day, the unthinkable happened.

One of Iris’ hobbies, which helped her calm down when she became overwhelmed by things around her, was painting. She quickly got used to working on her art in the company of Thula, who would usually sit right next to her and contemplate as she filled the canvas with color.

But one day, the cat seemed particularly excited and restless over something. Perhaps she was just bored and wanted Iris to lift her eyes from the painting and pay attention to her? Or maybe she wanted something? Iris’ parents were there, witnessing the scene, when something happened that they could have never imagined.

“Sit, kitty!” Iris said. Those were the first words her parents could remember her saying! It seemed like Iris understood all the principles of language but hadn’t been able to bring herself to use it until now.

The cat obeyed her immediately. The whole scene was amazing to see for Iris’ parents, who instantly felt their hearts jump when they heard their child utter her first words. And that was just the beginning.

From then on, Iris had an easier time dealing with daily tasks, communicating her desires, and avoiding getting overwhelmed by her surroundings. 

Thula has really served as a therapist to the little girl, who has found her best friend in the feline companion. This is how her parents recount how things have changed since the cat stepped into their lives:

“Ever since we came home with Thula, this precious, magical kitten has cast a spell over Iris,” Arabella Carter-Johnson, Iris’ mom, writes in her book ‘Iris Grace: How Thula the Cat Saved a Little Girl and Her Family’.

“They sit beside each other as Iris paints, and new doorways to communication have been opened, doors we had previously feared might be locked forever.”

“Thula has lowered [Iris’] daily anxieties in life and keeps Iris calm,” writes Arabella. “But equally has the effect of encouraging her to be more social. She will talk more to Thula, saying little phrases like ‘sit cat.'”

And that isn’t all. Now, Iris wakes up excited every morning to play and enjoy the company of her fuzzy best friend.

“Iris is more active first thing in the morning now. Before Thula, it was always hard to get the day going. She is easier to get engaged in activities, and there have been changes out on our bike rides.”

“Whatever activity we are doing, Thula is there and wants to help and be involved. Waterplay, playdoh, painting, bike rides, iPad, puzzles, marble run, drawing… she offers Iris her companionship and friendship and supports me in encouraging Iris to interact.”

Thula has even helped Iris start liking baths, which is often something difficult for parents of toddlers. “Iris has been through a stage over the last year of hating baths and having her hair washed. Thula has been getting in the bathtub with Iris and even letting me shampoo her as well to help Iris.”

In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead are entirely coincidental.


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