Meet 5-year-old Iris Grace ‚Äď beautiful and talented artist, who was diagnosed with autism in 2011. Because of the condition, Iris cannot communicate with many kids of her age and is frequently thrown into panic by the world around her.
Nevertheless, Iris managed not only to find her passion in painting, but also a cute and fluffy friend ‚Äď Thula the cat, who joined her family just before Valentine’s Day this year and changed Iris‚Äô life.
The pair are now inseparable ‚Äď and Iris’s parents credit the gentle Maine Coon with helping their little girl become more tactile and affectionate, as well as influencing her already much-acclaimed works of art.
‚ÄúShe has been at Iris‚Äôs side since she arrived and slept in her arms during her first night here,‚ÄĚ Iris‚Äô mother, Arabella Carter-Johnson, wrote on their website. ‚ÄúIt seemed like they were old friends as I watched them on the sofa, the kitten attentively looking at the iPad screen with Iris.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThula‚Äôs constant presence and gentle nature is having a remarkable effect upon Iris who is nonverbal most of the time,” Carter-Johnson continued to write.
‚ÄúI am hearing more words. Iris is giving instructions to Thula … Iris says it with such authority that the kitten obediently sits down with her striped legs neatly together. Unlike most children of Iris‚Äô age, she doesn‚Äôt maul, stroke or pick up the kitten constantly. Their relationship is based upon companionship.‚ÄĚ
Girl‚Äôs parents say Iris, whose impressionistic work is often compared to the paintings of French Impressionist master Claude Monet, draws much of her inspiration from the long hours she spends sitting outdoors, gazing at the beauty of nature.
‚ÄúShe has a fantastic concentration span but as her parent and educator I have to keep an eye on that and help her move onto other things,‚ÄĚ said her mom, Arabella Carter-Johnson. ‚ÄúI can see nature in her paintings, water, trees, flowers, and also we can see Thula her cat in many of them.‚ÄĚ
The little artist, who lives with her family in Leicestershire, began painting last year, and has been praised by buyers, collectors and galleries for her incredible work. Celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher have shared Iris‚Äôs work on social media, while three-time BAFTA award winner Olivia Colman showed her support by reading a poem for a¬†video about Iris.
Iris‚Äô works fund her private therapists, cover the costs of her art supplies and also help fund the Little Explorers Activity Club, a club for autistic children run out of the Halmshaw home.
‚ÄúThula has lowered her daily anxieties in life and keeps Iris calm,‚ÄĚ says the artist‚Äôs mom. ‚ÄúBut equally has the effect of encouraging her to be more social. She will talk more to Thula, saying little phrases like ‚Äėsit cat.’‚ÄĚ
Girl‚Äôs mom adds: ‚ÄúIris has been through a stage over the last year of hating baths and having her hair washed. Thula has been getting in the bath tub with Iris and even letting me shampoo her as well to help Iris.‚ÄĚ