Viral photo shows how fast a service dog helped a child with Autism
A photo of a little boy and his dog has gone viral for an incredible reason. The child has autism and his dog is a service animal. Their relationship is making it possible for him to do things he couldn’t before, and for his mother, it’s a miracle to witness.
4 Paws For Ability shared the story of a five-year-old boy with autism and his service dog, Tornado. The organization provided the dog and the child’s mother, Shanna Niehaus, is amazed at how fast it helped her son.
I’m not sure why, but people still ask us why we place service dogs with children sometimes. Let me help you…
Niehaus writes, “See this moment? I’ve never experienced a moment like this.” The mom explains that the family are Americans living overseas in Japan and that they’ve waited nearly two years for this moment: to meet their son’s service animal. She says, “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.”
Niehaus tells of the social struggles her son has experienced as a child with autism saying, “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 alludes to all the therapies they’ve tried and that none of them made a meaningful difference. “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.”
Enter, Tornaod. 4 Paws For Ability explains on their website that aside from facilitating social connections like Tornado is doing for Niehaus’ son, service dogs can help with a variety of issues stemming from autism. They’re also useful for when kids with Autism wander away from home, as some are prone to doing. The dogs can help locate the missing child or even try to keep them from leaving to begin with.
Other benefits include behavior disruption, where the dog is trained in conjunction with the parent to show the child the right thing to do. An example would be walking down the street and stopping when they need to cross. The parent teaches the dog to sit and the child hopefully follows their lead.
For this mom’s son, the benefit is obvious from the photo; the dog is helping him accept touch and snuggle when his mother said that wasn’t happening previously. It’s amazing to see how fast it helped him, just a matter of minutes. And to think of how much they’ll accomplish together over the next several years.
Niehaus says, “It’s worth every fight for services for my son, every diagnosis, every new provider, every dollar spent, every paper filled out, every school meeting, every shed tear, every step forward, every step back, and every wonder of the unknown future. Somehow because of this – because of Tornado – I know everything will be okay.”
And we can only imagine what a relief that is.