Autistic boy leaves mom in tears after making first friend with service dog


Mom Shanna Niehaus, 36, from Florida, introduced her autistic son Kai to his new service dog, Tornado, and their emotional embrace made her cry as he rarely hugs or touches anyone – now the two are inseparable best friends

boy and dog
Kai and Tornado’s friendship is like no other

A mother introduced her autistic son to his new assistance dog for the first time – and his sweet reaction touched the hearts of people around the world.

Kai was diagnosed with autism at the age of four and his unique sensory preferences mean he doesn’t always enjoy being touched.

But that wasn’t the case when he met golden Labrador Tornado, who he quickly hugged with a huge hug.

Mom Shanna Niehaus, 36, of Florida, was caught on camera crying silently behind the couple and soon went viral online.

Five years later, Shanna shares how the six-year-old tornado changed every aspect of her son’s life.

She told The Mirror: “Tornado has been an absolute joy to welcome into our family and my heart fills to the brim every day as I see my son living with his best friend around the world.

It was a heartfelt moment when they met


Shanna Niehaus)

The couple is inseparable


Shanna Niehaus)

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On October 17, 2016, Shanna and Kai traveled from Tokyo — where her family had lived temporarily — to Ohio to meet Tornado for the first time.

Shanna had raised nearly £11,500 to help 4 paws for skill partially cover Tornado’s training costs and a further £16,800 towards travel and expenses.

Just hours after meeting, Kai surprised everyone and donned Tornado to feel his heartbeat.

Shanna was so taken aback that she started to cry – but covered her mouth so she wouldn’t make a noise and possibly distract Kai.

“I definitely didn’t expect the moment to be so emotional,” said Shanna.

Tornado and Kai have a special bond


Shanna Niehaus)

Shanna couldn’t be more grateful to 4 Paws for Ability


Shanna Niehaus)

“When Kai and Tornado met earlier in the morning, it was exciting and fun. Tornado, Kai and I’s viral photo moment happened later.

“The stillness of the afternoon had given me space to reflect on everything I had done to get us to this point and my emotions just came through.”

Kai had always been attracted to dogs and had asked several times if he could have one as a pet.

Finally his dream came true and it was worth every penny.

“Because Kai is autistic, his sensory processing is different from that of many other children. Kai has his own unique sensory preferences and he enjoys hugs on his own terms,” ​​said Shanna.

Kai loves hugs if they’re on his terms


Shanna Niehaus)

“When I hug and touch my son, I do so with his consent and with consideration for how his sensory processing is functioning at a given moment.”

The duo have grown closer over the years, and Shanna says Tornado has “unconditional love and support for him — through absolutely everything.”

“It doesn’t matter to Tornado if Kai makes weird noises, wears silly clothes, or looks different from other kids. Tornado adores and supports Kai no matter what others think,” said Shanna.

“It offers Kai a unique kind of safety and security, allowing Kai to authentically be himself, without judgments or expectations. Isn’t that what we all want at the end of the day?”

You have an unbreakable bond


Shanna Niehaus)

Every day, Tornado helps Kai navigate the world with autism and ease the pressures of society.

“Outside of his formal duties, Tornado offers Kai acceptance, partnership and a very best friend,” said Shanna.

Tornado has about two working years left before he retires, and Shanna will begin fundraising for his surrogate dog later this year.

“Tornado will remain a very valued member of our family for the rest of his life,” she said.

“I will forever be grateful to 4 Paws for Ability for bringing him into our lives and bringing a furry spark of life to my son.”

You can keep up to date with Kais and Tornado’s friendship Facebook site.

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