Happy Trails Riding Academy

Visit Us: 2773 E. Oakdale Ave. (Ave. 256), Tulare, CA 93274
Mail Us: P.O. Box 572, Visalia, CA 93279
Call Us: (559) 688-8685 or EMAIL US 

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Kayla's Voice

Kayla has been riding and vaulting at Happy Trails for the past 12 years and I have only heard her say a handful of words. But that all changed in 2007 when Kayla started using “facilitated communication.”Before facilitated communication I was never really sure if Kayla was enjoying Therapeutic Riding and the work asked of her. Now that she can express herself so eloquently because of facilitated communication and other computer technologies, I know her true feelings and realize she is a very positive and inspirational young lady and that she loves vaulting! Last year, Kayla gave a presentation to the Happy Trails staff and volunteers on facilitated communication and we were all amazed. Kayla is so bright and funny. When I asked her how we could better help our students with Autism she said something I think about nearly every day at Happy Trails. She said “Assume competence and allow them to enjoy their ride” Of course! How simple! How profound! Great young lady-great wisdom, so glad we know her.

Lisa Cotta-Meek, Program Director

Kayla graduated from high school this year and was her class speaker.  Here is an excerpt from her graduation speech.

Hi! My name is Kayla Takeuchi and I am a person with Autism.  I am nonverbal and communicate by typing. This method of communication prevented me from getting a real education in my home school district.  I first got my voice in April 2007. I was 15 years old at the time. Imagine being 15 and getting your first chance to really talk to your parents. Needless to say, this changed everything.  I never had access to real educational books while being held hostage in Special Education.  My life’s dream was to get a real education.   Crescent View West Charter High School has given me the greatest gift a girl could ever ask for: my high school diploma.
I love this school.  Being nonverbal is a challenge because people also assume I am retarded.  Yes, I used the awful R word.  The truth about that word is it is used by professionals when they don’t know what to do with a student.

My newly found voice that brought my freedom was celebrated with great joy by my family, but was completely rejected by two local school districts. This was a huge disappointment for my family and me. They were willing to allow my presence in typical classes but I was not allowed to type. Imagine yourself sitting in a classroom full of your peers and not being allowed to speak. I remained alone surrounded by my peers who might as well have been miles away. This was intolerable for my parents and me.

The search for real education landed me here at Crescent View West Charter High School. The first thing that made me realize I was in the right place was that my method of communication was valued, not rejected.  Secondly, the IEP meeting didn’t involve 5 administrators, 3 psychologists, 4 experts in Autism, 2 lawyers and a partridge in a pear tree just to give me a real school book. I was in shock when I realized I might actually be able to get a diploma. In one simple meeting, the possibilities in my life went from spending my adult years being babysat and treated like an incompetent moron to dreaming about my college degree and how I would make a valuable contribution to society.