April: Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month and more than 1 million people in the United States have Autism spectrum disorder, according to the Autism Society. Like many of you, we are looking for a way to help raise awareness for the disability.  

One article from DRIVE Livestock really caught our attention a few months ago.

The article, entitled “Lessons Learned From Livestock,” talks about Josh Hargis an ag teacher who helped Graham, a student with autism.

Image courtesy of DRIVE

Graham enjoyed his ag classes and began working with livestock, and even showed hogs at his county fair. This work, helped him create a routine at home as well.

?His pig project paralleled everything he was working on at home. He didn?t want to brush his hair, but he would brush his pig. Within a couple of months, he was brushing his own hair. Cleaning pens showed him he needed to clean his bedroom. He made tremendous progress in a short period of time,? Hargis says in the article.

Now Hargis has gone back to school to pursue a Master’s degree in Special Education, because of his time spent with Graham and other students with disabilities. He has also created, Agvocates for Exceptional Individuals.

The mission for Agvocates for Exceptional Individuals is simple: Agvocates for Exceptional Individuals is a program designed to promote the cognitive, social and physical developement of children with disabilities. With emphasis on experiential learning in an inclusive environment, lessons are recognized to improve life skills and social concepts. With forward thinking, we enhance competencies necessary for transition beyond high school. Our goal is to develop a program the focuses on the abilities of children with special healthcare needs rather than the obstacles their disabilities poses upon them. Through this quality program and unique agricultural community outreach, this will allow us to fully complement childhood development through transition into the workforce.

According to the article in DRIVE, Agvocates equips schools with a program for individuals with a disability who have an interest in animals. So far, they have worked with students in Texas and Oklahoma. They also provide students with a mentor and help finding a job after high school.

Anyone can pursue their passions, Hargis and Agvocates for Exceptional Individuals is helping those with disabilities.

?Children with disabilities are like other kids,? Hargis says. ?They?re apt to learn when it?s something that interests them.?

In addition to Agvocates for Exceptional Individuals, there are numerous opportunities for celebrating Autism Awareness Month available at the national and local level.

Anyone interested in working with Agvocates for Exceptional Individuals is invited to contact Josh Hargis: at 1001 Oakwood Yukon, OK 73099 or by phone 405.760.5520 or email josh_hargis@hotmail.com