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The Student News Site of Fort Collins High School

Spilled Ink

The Student News Site of Fort Collins High School

Spilled Ink

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@fchsspilledink: The Lambkin cross country team raced at FCHS this morning against other local schools. Both the boys and girls placed third.

Service dog supports senior

Nevara Yocom
During her second period Graphic Novel class, senior Caira Adair draws panels to show the six different types of transitions as her dog Freckles watches her intently waiting for her next move. Freckles is a trained service dog, Adair depends on her to get through the day safely.

While autistic students are an integral part of the school community, whether or not they feel respected here varies according to the individual. 

Autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a common disorder that impacts the nervous system. People bearing the disorder all experience it in different ways, hence the word “spectrum.” It can impair the ability to communicate and learn, among other challenges. ASD is heavily stereotyped, and autistic people of all ages have experienced discrimination, often making it difficult for them to get jobs or receive appropriate education.

At FCHS, senior Caira Adair finds staff members to be understanding of her needs, but students have generated some trouble for Adair and her service dog, Freckles.

“FCHS is the most welcoming and accommodating school I’ve ever attended,” Adair said. 

Her guidance counselor is always willing to work with her and make adjustments to her 504, a plan developed to ensure a student with needs identified under the law receives accommodations to support academic success. Adair also said she has had amazing teachers who help her with her unique learning style.

“The school itself isn’t a problem,” she said. “It’s the students.”

While teachers and staff help Adair to feel respected in the building, students often disregard her because they see Freckles walking with her. She gets the sense that other students see her as a novelty rather than a human being.

One of the central issues is a lack of understanding of why Adair has Freckles. Freckles is a working animal. Her purpose is to accompany Adair and help her in times of need. In severe situations, Freckles is able to retrieve an adult to help.

“Freckles is trained in DPT (Deep-Pressure Therapy),” Adair explained. “Basically, she becomes a weighted blanket.”

Deep-Pressure Therapy is a method in which the service dog will lie across part of the body of the person in need to relax that person by lowering their heart rate. 

Freckles is also trained to prevent self-injury, and acts as a barrier between Adair and other people, only ever walking on her left.

As a service dog, Freckles is on duty with the goal of tending to Adair. Often, other students are not attentive to the work that Freckles is here to do, according to Adair.

“They’re either oblivious and step on or kick her, or they call her out and greet her,” Adair said. “Sometimes people take pictures, and all of it without my consent, nor by people I know. It really bothers me.” 

While on duty, Freckles wears a bright red vest. Though it is plastered in patches reading “DO NOT PET” and “NO EYE CONTACT,” students and some substitute teachers still reach out to interact with Freckles, something Adair wishes they would stop.

The school still has work to do before students like Adair can feel truly at ease in the building. One step toward creating a more inclusive learning environment would be understanding the work Freckles does and giving the two some space.

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About the Contributor
Nevara Yocom
Nevara Yocom, Managing Editor
Nevara Yocom is a senior at Fort Collins High School and is a managing editor of Spilled Ink. One of her favorite things to do is write and she is honored to work for Spilled Ink. When she isn’t writing, you can find her playing her heart out on the softball field. You can also find her spending time with family and friends, watching just about any baseball game or movie, going for bike rides, snuggling with her two cats and four chickens, and going for long drives in her car, Myk. Her dream job is becoming a play-by-play Radio announcer for the Colorado Rockies. 

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