Those parents who have autistic children know how much of a struggle it is. Especially those that are nonverbal, or non-physical, or sometimes even both. Those who do not allow their parents to hug, touch, or snuggle with them, and who do not like to be physically comforted even when they are struggling.
One such mom knows exactly that struggle. Her name is Shanna Niehaus, and she has a five year old that is autistic. Her son recently was given a service dog named Tornado from 4 Paws for Ability, and when her son met Tornado it brought her to tears.
Her son has always had trouble making friends and being connected in general. He is very interested in trying to make friends, and has tried to make friends consistently throughout the years with many failures. He simply cannot express himself in a way that makes other children want to be his friend. He has gone to therapy for his autism to try and learn how coping strategies, but even with the time he has put into working on his therapies, he has had no real success. He has no real connections to anyone outside of his family.
This was not the case when he met Tornado. He quickly bonded with the dog, and they had an almost instantaneous connection. While Niehaus’s son was playing on his iPad, he leaned casually against the dog in a comfortable position, completely relaxed. The reason that this is such a big deal is because he has never casually made physical contact with any human being, and he was also sharing his experience of his iPad with his new companion. It was an absolutely wonderful experience for his mother, and an absolute relief for her to know that he now has a companion that he can continuously count on.
See the photo below. It’s beautiful.
Here’s an excerpt of her original post describing how meaningful the moment
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.