Source: Inside Edition / Lydia Warren
For years, Shanna Niehaus had seen her son Kai attempt to make friends — but to no avail.
So when she saw the 5-year-old boy, who has autism, cuddle up to his newservice dog as if it were the most natural thing, she couldn’t hold it together.
“Here’s my child who has struggled with communication making a connection with so much ease,” she told InsideEdition.com. “That’s when it hit me. That’s when I got choked up.”
A photo showing Niehaus sobbing silently behind her son and his dog, named Tornado, was posted to the 4 Paws for Ability Facebook page, where it has been shared thousands of times.
It was a long journey to that moment, both emotionally and literally. Although American, the Niehaus family lives and works in Tokyo, Japan. They travelled to Xenia, Ohio, earlier this week to meet Tornado after Kai expressed an interest in having a service dog.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about autism,” Niehaus said. “Many kids on the spectrum don’t have many friends and it’s believed that these kids can’t have that connection, but that’s not the case. Kai has been searching for a really long time for that connection but he has a hard time sustaining that with people… He’s always shown better communicationwith dogs and any parent draws on a child’s strength.”
Before they flew to the U.S., Kai’s parents spoke to him about what he could expect from a dog.