Josh Hargis

last updated 1/27/2018

Josh Hargis

Program Director at AGVOCATES FOR EXCEPTIONAL INDIVIDUALS INC

Location:
3201 NW 63RD ST, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States

General Information

Experience

Owner - Teacher's PETS Inc

Agricultural Education - Evadale ISD

Education

BS - AgEo Animal Science , 

M. Ed. - Special Education , University of Central Oklahoma

degrees - Agricultural Education and Animal Science , Oklahoma State University

Affiliations

Parent Advocate, Spokesperson and Chairman of the Special Needs Committee - Tulsa Area SafeKids Coalition

Member - As­sociation of Fundraising Professionals

Recent News  

Agvocates

Josh Hargis, Program Director
C: 405-760-5520 E: josh@agvocates.org

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Oklahoma Autism Network

Josh Hargis, MEd, BS AgEo Animal Science
Founder and Program Director, AgVocates for Exceptional Individuals Josh Hargis received his degrees in Agriculture Education and Animal Science from Oklahoma State University. After a decade of teaching high school Agriculture in a fully inclusive classroom, Josh will be receiving his M. Ed. in Special Education. Josh has worked with families across Oklahoma and Texas using animals to teach self-advocacy while shaping character and work ethic. Jennifer and her husband John are the parents of two beautiful, active children, Josh and Reagan. When Josh was diag­nosed with autism at the age of three, it became Jennifer's passion to help fami­lies affected by neurological disorders and to keep children safe. She currently serves Tulsa Area SafeKids Coalition as a parent advocate, spokesperson, and chairman of the Special Needs committee; and as a member of the As­sociation of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).

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Pigs Helping Kids - Outlook - Edmond and North OKC Oklahoma Magazine

First, meet Josh Hargis, the agricultural teacher who threads these stories together.
Hargis was so affected by this first story that he went back to school, started the nonprofit Agvocates, and is now endorsed by leaders in autism including the world-renowned Temple Grandin. The Middle-Schooler With Pig According to Hargis, "When you work in a public school, children with disabilities are usually mainstreamed into a hands-on class such as agriculture. I had a 14-year-old autistic student whom I will call Greg. He sat by himself and rarely talked, but he'd light up whenever we went to the barn, he would greet the pigs and rub their bellies." Seeing the change in Greg around the animals, Hargis consulted with Greg's parents about raising a pig as a project and they agreed. Instead of focusing on a traditional 4-H or FFA (Future Farmers of America) livestock project, Hargis focused on transferable life skills that would help Greg transition into the workforce after high school. "Greg got into the routine of brushing that pig's hair every day," Hargis said. "His mother called one day, ecstatic, and said, 'Did you see Greg this morning? He brushed his own hair today!' This was a huge breakthrough for this family, to see their child begin caring for himself after caring for an animal." To fast forward, Greg's animal-care skills advanced to the point that Hargis entered him into a county pig show. That meant walking in an arena with about 20 other people and their pigs while keeping eye contact with the judge. "We worked on eye contact and he made tremendous progress," Hargis said. "Greg competed against 100 other kids in his age group-not in a special education category. It was a huge deal, with 4,000 people in the stadium, but Greg focused-and he won Grand Champion of the whole show! Greg's dad rushed down from the stands and said, "Josh, thank you for helping my son. I'd given up on ever seeing him compete in anything, let alone win. That really resonated with Hargis. "I thought about all that livestock shows had to offer, regardless of athletic ability or cognitive function. Anyone can interact with an animal." Greg won a belt buckle as his prize, and he wore it every single day to school. "And this non-verbal child became talkative at school because he had something positive to talk about," Hargis said. "After having similar results with another student, I felt like God was putting this path in front of me, and I'd be a fool not to do more with it." So, Hargis made a dramatic change in his own life. He moved from Texas to Yukon, Oklahoma, and got a master's degree in special education. He also founded Agvocates for Exceptional Individuals, a non-profit organization that connects students to their local 4-H and FFA organizations, develops therapeutic plans and works to provide financial assistance for animal expenses. In the long-term, he hopes to purchase a small farm and have a breeding stock of animals to provide to students. And then he met the Howell triplets... The Triplets "This is a crazy story. I was looking for participants for my master's thesis when I met a family with triplets, all on the autism spectrum-and they lived three miles from me," Hargis said. Triplets with Pig Jacob, the highest-functioning child, seemed to have plateaued in occupational therapy. Plateaued at 11 years old? That was unacceptable to Hargis. "Jacob was so focused on walking from point A to B to C, that if someone was standing in between, he'd walk right over them," Hargis said. "I believed that he could learn to walk the path with his pig and maneuver around a maze of obstacles." As before, Hargis saw so much improvement in Jacob, and then his brother Keegan, that he encouraged them to enter a traditional 4-H competition. In addition, the family found a new social circle, which, according to Hargis, is tough for parents with special needs children. In 2012, Hargis and Howell presented at the Oklahoma Autism Conference. "Afterward, she made a beeline toward me and said that Agvocates was the most exciting thing to happen in the autism society in decades," Hargis said. "She's written an endorsement for our program and promotes it all over the country. We've had emails from 24 states, asking how they could get involved in Agvocates. On Grandin's website, she says, "The true meaning of life is to do something that makes real change for somebody." The families who've worked with Josh Hargis are quick to testify that he has made "real change" in their lives-even if the acts of hair brushing and walking in a line seem like simple acts to most people. "These amazing kids are competing with typical peers, and not just competing, but winning," Hargis said. "Josh needs a huge award," Howell said. Learn more by calling Josh Hargis at 760-5520 or visit agvocates.org.

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