MAR 31, 2016 04:45 AM PDT

How a Cat Unlocked Autism for One Little Girl

Autism is a disorder that is at the forefront of neuroscience research, because of the large numbers of children that are being diagnosed with it. It’s not just one disorder though, it’s referred to as a spectrum and those who meet the criteria are diagnosed as having an “autism spectrum disorder” (ASD) or more simply said, “on the spectrum.”
A love of art and a cat has helped one girl with autism

The latest number on cases of autism in children stands at 1 in 68 children. of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) now stands at 1 in 68. In 2014 a CDC report cited a 30% increase among 8 year olds in a two year period between 2008 and 2010, most of which was due to better diagnostics. 
 
Autism presents differently in each patient and is widely varied. For the most part ASDs are characterized by functional impairments in a child’s social interaction and communication, as well as the presence of restricted repetitive behavior problems. Children with autism can have trouble focusing, be rigid in routines and have difficulty transitioning from one activity to another, making school very difficult.  It’s commonly accepted that autism is a chronic and permanent condition.
 
With all the complex parts of autism and the incredible difficulties some families face, there is one family that is shedding some much needed light on the disorder and how it changed their lives. Arabella Carter-Johnson wrote a book about her daughter Iris Grace who has autism. The book, “Iris Grace: The story of a little girl whose talent unlocked her silent world” was published in February and in it Carter-Johnson credits an interest in art and a therapy cat that came to live with the family for bringing Iris Grace out of the darkness that autism can cause.
 
In an interview with The Independent, Arabella, who is a professional photographer and has documented Iris’ art and her adventures with Thula the therapy cat, said, “I feel we are seeing a positive shift in attitudes towards autism. People are seeing potential and the media coverage has been very encouraging. I am seeing more and more stories about employment opportunities for those on the spectrum which is very exciting, and my hope is that this continues. There seems to be less emphasis on a ‘cure’ or ‘cause’ and more on how we can improve the lives of our loved ones now, how we can help, how we can assist them to live fulfilling, happy lives, accepting their differences and seeing the brilliance within them.”
 
When Iris began to paint, her parents saw some small improvements in how Iris connected with the world but it was really when Thula, a Maine Coon cat, came along that they noticed real progress. Iris began to speak more, and venture out more with her parents. Thula has a special jacket and leash and rides in the basket of a bike when the family goes cycling. Thula even gets into the tub with Iris, and is by her side constantly.
 
While researchers spend hours in labs, looking at brain scans, counting genes and studying different treatments and therapies that may help unlock the mystery that is autism, for one small girl it simply took a paintbrush, some color and a friendly cat to open the door to a world of art, family and yes, even fame. Take a look at the video below to learn more about these two friends. Good job Iris and Thula!
 
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
JAN 18, 2020
Neuroscience
JAN 18, 2020
Scientists Create Memory of Courtship Song in Zebra Finches
A new study published in Science shows how a neural circuit in Zebra finches, involved in forming the learning of a courtship song, can be manipulated.&nbs...
JAN 18, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
JAN 18, 2020
Imaging Tool Provides New Insight Into How Proteins are Moved in Cells
Motor proteins ferry cargo to different parts of the cell. Scientists have now learned more about how specific molecules get to the right places....
JAN 18, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
JAN 18, 2020
Can Aspirin Prevent a Brain Bleed?
Can aspirin prevent a brain bleed? To answer the questions, researchers rummaged through a database system looking to see an association between aspirin us...
JAN 18, 2020
Neuroscience
JAN 18, 2020
Gene Mutation Identified that Protects Agaist Dementia
For over two decades, researchers have been studying an extended family of over 1,200 people from Columbia known for having a rare genetic mutation that le...
JAN 18, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
JAN 18, 2020
New Ultrasound Treatment for Parkinson's Tremors
A non-invasive ultrasound procedure may provide lasting relief from tremors in people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and essential tremor (ET), accord...
JAN 18, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
JAN 18, 2020
College Kids Exchange Alcohol for Weed in Legal States
Researchers have now found that legalization of marijuana has significantly increased the number of college-aged pot smokers, while significantly decreased...
Loading Comments...