Her son wouldn't even hug his own mom, but he cozied right up to his new, furry friend.
Approximately 1 in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder, making the disorder more common than it used to be and a force to be reckoned with. There are even service dogs that are specially trained to handle some of the symptoms that people with autism experience that are a hindrance in their daily lives.
Since there are such a variety of symptoms that present in differing severities, there is a spectrum that parents consult when they believe their child could be suffering from the disorder. Shanna Niehaus’ son, who is five years old, has had it pretty rough his whole life because of his autistic symptoms.
With his lack of social skills, he has never had a true friend and has lived an isolated life. That all changed when the two were finally able to secure a service dog for the little boy. Shanna and her son made their way “across the entire ocean, stopped in multiple states, and uprooted his entire routine to travel the globe” and meet his new service dog, Tornado.
The encounter was astonishing and emotional, to say the least. A photo was snapped by the dog’s provider, 4 Paws For Ability, and Shanna added this moving caption to accompany the photo:
“See this moment? I’ve never experienced a moment like this….
“This picture was taken near the end of the day after my autistic five year old was finally able to sit down with his new Service Dog Tornado…. This boy is the strongest child I have ever met; he has faced countless rude and ignorant adults and children who do not understand him, who have hurt him, and who have not valued him because he is different. This picture captures the face of a mother who saw her child, who she can’t hug, wash, dress, snuggle and touch freely lay on his new Service dog of his own free will, with a purposeful unspoken attachment. This is the face of a mom who has seen her son experience countless failed social interactions on the playground in an attempt to have a friend. Any friend. Any kind of connection. She has sat with her son while he has cried at night for months because he has no consistent connections outside of the family no matter how hard he tries and no matter what he works hard on in his Autism therapies. It doesn’t transfer to the natural occurring world for him. And now she is sitting behind her son silently watching this moment, with the air sucked from her lungs, and no words to say.
“Holding her mouth and silently crying because she doesn’t want to distract him from the moment and break him away from a pure, honest, and truly fulfilling moment for her son-of his own free will. This is truly magic. Words cannot explain it.
“I have cried so many times for this boy, but this is the very first time I have cried for a reason like this.”
It’s heartbreaking to hear of her son’s challenges, but it’s heartwarming to know that he is now on his way to coping with his symptoms better with his new friend Tornado by his side.

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**This was originally featured on trueactivist.com

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