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The Boy Who Can't Be Hugged: Mom Cries As Son With Autism Bonds With Service Dog

First Posted: Oct 22, 2016 04:00 AM EDT
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Autistic boy meets his dog.
(Photo : Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Shanna Niehaus' son was diagnosed with autism when he was four years old. After more than one year of waiting, he met his service dog and instantly bonded with him.

According to Mirror, Kia who is now five years old could not stand being touched or hugged by anyone. He struggled to form connections and socialize with others despite the best efforts of his family.

After raising $15,000, Kia's family traveled from Japan to Ohio to meet the dog specially trained for his needs. He is a Golden Lab named Tornado. Shanna hoped his son would get along with Tornado, but she did not expect it to happen soon. To her surprise, Kia jumped out of her lap upon seeing the dog. He shouted his name and instantly petted and snuggled him.

According to USA Today, Tornado was born at 4 Paws for Ability, an Ohio organization that trains service dogs and place them with children with disabilities as well as veterans who lost hearing and use of limbs. In the next two weeks, the family will learn about Tornado while he learns about Kai.

Training service dogs begin right after they are born. They are expected to be fully trained within 12 to 16 months. Kai's behavior showed that he connected more with animals than with people; hence his parents searched for service animals for him. They found the 4 Paws program and after Kai was accepted for a service dog, they raised money for the dog's training.

Tornado underwent training for companionship due to the struggle of children with autism to make social relationships. Shannon said Kia wanted to build connections but does not know how to do it. Moreover, Tornado likewise underwent training in behavior disruption and for tethering.

Kia's first encounter with Tornado moved Shanna to tears. She made an emotional post on Facebook about it, which received thousands of reactions. The post especially touched people in similar situations.

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