I'm personally pleased to notice that there are several stores popping up all around that chronicles the lives of children diagnosed with Autism. They truly treat us to surprising tales about the difficulties they have because of their condition, but also the gifts that come with it...and how much they can outweigh the negative impacts thereof. In the first week of April, I had a chance to dive into the early life of Iris Grace, who opened herself up to people, both socially and even creatively, with the help of her parents and the most least expected of friends.
Shortly after Iris was born, her parents were tackling the issues of her condition with a heavy weight on their shoulders; they almost didn't make it in communicating with her or even getting her to respond to anything. Even some of the doctors' appointments they made shortly after they made the discovery of what the disorder was didn't help. Thankfully, none of the parents gave up on Iris, and once they picked up on clues as to what Iris liked, they used them to their advantage in the hopes that they would finally and carefully communicate with their daughter. It turned out to be just the first stepping stone of what they would've trodden on along the way. They used Iris' hobbies, including, most of all, her love of art, to speak to her, engage in her activities, and let Iris communicate to them in return. Their communication to Iris through her art reached its zenith when Iris painted multiple paintings that have since been given public attention, were acclaimed for the symbolic, emotional imagery, and were even sold off one by one. After that, the parents decided to have a social club in their house. It all tied into Iris' favorite subjects and invited families who had autistic children of their own to engage in social activities for each other, especially for Iris. Amazingly, Iris' parents' blossoming attempts to have Iris open herself up more didn't stop there. In fact, it intensified once they brought home a pet kitten for Iris, who they later named Thula. Thula became a good friend to Iris, always staying by her side in times of stress, and she even helped her with tasks that were difficult for Iris to handle before, like baths and haircuts.
As soon as I read the first chapter and a half of Arabella and PJ's life stories, from then on I felt like I was experiencing the events as they were written with them. I pondered over the situations with them, especially about Iris, I felt sorry for them for their misfortunes, including their attempts with Iris that have gone askew, and cheered for them and Iris when they made their breakthroughs. This is especially helpful for readers who feel the same way as they would literally be studying the statistics of Autism through Iris' actions, just like her parents did when they studied her.
Speaking of, I should discuss about Iris Grace herself and Thula, who are both amazing in their own ways. Starting with Iris Grace, there were several things about her that I can relate to, such as her tendency to spend some time alone on what she likes (but only whenever she sees fit), her love of art, books, and even cartoons (she watched Tom and Jerry at a very young age), her inability to communicate with complex sentences (as of yet - don't forget, this was caused by her Autism) and her continuing strive to just be herself with the aid of others. What really made her exceptional, however, is just how much she excelled in the creative forms of communication. The edition I read of her book showed some of her abstract paintings, and they were a sight to behold. They were just overflowing with color, and the imagery as seen from Iris' point of view was subtle enough to be noticeable while still being clouded by its beautiful emotional atmosphere. There's a reason why some people would call her the child Monet, because for paintings made by children between ages two and six, they were THAT good. She was one of those people, not just those with Autism, who proved that where there are inabilities in certain areas, in others, there's a treasure trove somewhere that's just waiting to be uncovered and unlocked.
The pet cat, Thula... I'm just astounded by what she was capable of. She was patient with Iris as well as her parents, she could've easily engaged herself in human activities no matter where she went, and she even dived into the bathwater with unflinching determination, even if it was to teach Iris that getting into bathwater was harmless. Normally, you would expect cats to freak out when in the water, just like Iris when she was very young. Thula might have been one of the bravest, most noble pets I've ever read about, and I think the family was lucky to have her as a pet. She was a bit like a guardian angel to the family, to say the least.
There's nothing more I can say about this book, except you need to read it to believe it. It is a beautiful portrait of a little girl who, in the first six years of her life, had to deal with the disadvantages of her Autism but also, slowly but surely, exposed to us the real her through her hobbies. Given that this book documented only the first six years of her life, and that it was published last year, I personally would be interested to see how far Iris Grace and Thula have come along after the publication. If you love stories that glorify the power of self exposure in the face of adversity, or are just interested in the hidden gifts and identification of those diagnosed with Autism, give this a read. You'll feel just as happy about her journey as I was.
Originally published on Facebook, April 15, 2017