The Autistic Journalist

Using words to explain the mind

Autism service dog leads own experiment

with 2 comments

Wendy Givens brings Madison to school. Photo by Michal Thompson.

FOX affiliate KPTV in Portland recently published a story about an autism service dog who found himself at the center of an experiment. Jordan Givens, a 10-year-old autistic fourth-grader, has started bringing his service dog, a German shepherd named Madison, to Patterson Elementary School in Hillsboro. Although the Hillsboro School District originally disallowed Madison to sit with Jordan in class because they said Jordan was adequately achieving his goals in his individual education plan, they are now allowing Madison in Jordan’s classes to find out if the German shepherd helps Jordan function more effectively in school.

Wendy Givens, Jordan’s mother, already believes Madison is a metaphorical portal. She says Madison is trained in behavior disruption, which means he helps Jordan’s bouts with aggressions and calms his senses. The school’s principal says Jordan’s teacher is considering the dog’s effect on other students, adding that his classmates appear prepared to adapt Madison into their routine. The experiment also has the support of the U.S. Attorney in Oregon.

The story points out the continuing efforts to spread autism awareness throughout all communities. Normally, dogs aren’t allowed on school grounds unless there are mitigating circumstances. Usually, such circumstances involve physical disabilities, which autism is not. Recall that the disorder can be difficult to detect with the naked eye, so even if Jordan’s school district is aware of his condition, there’s a possibility the school district may not see what’s wrong with him, and that may have caused the small ordeal about allowing Madison in school.

Madison has served as the Givens’ service dog for three years, although we aren’t told much about the shepherd’s impact with Jordan. The story’s focus was why the dog wasn’t allowed in school, so it’s not surprising that little information about the bond between Madison and Jordan is divulged. TV news stories have short windows for stories, so unless they’re airing a longer feature, broadcast reporters can’t spend much time on topics related to but not about the primary theme.

Depending on who comes across this story, Madison may not be just the center of a local experiment, but a regional or perhaps national one. Approaching autistic students still leaves school officials and parents scratching their heads because of low data for accommodations outside of special education classes. The development between Madison, Jordan and his classmates could provide some insight on the success of additional resources.

2 Responses

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  1. And the article shows the judicious use of an advocacy organisation to get the results you want.

    There are many blogs about service dogs, so I find them to get my information and also first-hand stories.

    (Looking at the related posts underneath too!)

    The article did make the point that Madison is a calming influence and probably does reduce “aggressions” and “behaviours”. (Aggressions and behaviours were probably not adequately differentiated).

    Also “behaviour disruption” might have raised a few eyebrows.

    Adelaide Dupont

    April 26, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    • The Forever Jordan Foundation has been following this experiment and would love an update if you have one.

      Was it successful?
      How were the reactions from the other students?
      Would you recommend it for other children?

      Please let us know, we are curious to find out!

      Sue Esposito

      find us on twitter and facebook (your blog is featured on both)


      July 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm

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