Mother overwhelmed after son with autism curls up with new service dog

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XENIA, Ohio — Shanna Niehaus’ 5-year-old son Kai tried for many years to make friends but it never happened.

But when she saw young Kai, who has autism, cuddle up to his new service dog, she couldn’t hold back her emotions.

“Here’s my child who has struggled with communication making a connection with so much ease,” she told “That’s when it hit me. That’s when I got choked up.”

Niehaus can be seen sobbing quietly behind her son and his dog Tornado in a photo that was posted to the 4 Paws for Ability Facebook, page, where it has been shared thousands of times.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about autism,” Niehaus told Inside Edition. “Many kids on the spectrum don’t have many friends and it’s believed that these kids can’t have that connection, but that’s not the case. Kai has been searching for a really long time for that connection but he has a hard time sustaining that with people. … He’s always shown better communication with dogs and any parent draws on a child’s strength.”

A video shared by 4 Paws shows Kai running to his new friend and throwing his arms around him.

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