Autism is a disorder than impacts the nervous system. Symptoms can vary widely depending on the level of autism. Early recognition and therapies can help someone with Autism to live a full and happy life. Approximately 1 in 68 children have some form of an autism spectrum disorder, making it incredibly common. There are even service dogs that are specially trained to handle some of the symptoms that people with autism experience.
Because there are such a variety of symptoms that present themselves in differing severities, there is a spectrum that parents consult when they believe their child could be suffering from this. Shanna Niehaus’ son is five years old and has autism. He has experienced a lack of social skills and therefore has never had a true friend and has lived a very isolated life. However, that all changed when Shanna and her son were able to secure a service dog. They made their way across the country to find their perfect service dog, Tornado. The encounter was astonishing and emotional, to say the least.
Shanna then describes a photo of the moment when her son meets the dog and forms a tight and unlikely bond, “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.”
This story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. There is truly no relationship like that of a human and their dog. Everyone has different needs and different things that make them feel happy and content. I am so happy that this boy was able to find joy and comfort in this loving animal.