Wildlife Watch is the junior branch of The Wildlife Trusts. Dara McAnulty, a 12 year old member, shares his story of the impact nature has on his life. There is something we can all learn regarding the impact nature can have on our mental health and wellbeing.
 As soon as I was a toddler, my mum and dad thought I was ‘eccentric’, later, school thought I was ‘not typical’, kids my age just walked away, confused and bewildered. When I was a little older, I realised why: I was diagnosed with Asperger’s (on the autistic spectrum) – a different way of looking at the world, a different way of ‘being’.
My love and passion for the natural world has been constant; every flutter, every creep, crawl, screech and squawk; every element entrances me.
My obsession with nature and science helped me deal with anxiety, isolation, inner feelings I couldn’t understand; my world made sense to me. I had been recording and systematically observing nature for so long but it wasn’t until recently that I started to write about it on a blog. I was nervous but really, I didn’t think anyone would read it, let alone enjoy it! All of a sudden, I was connecting with people and discussing nature. It was a revelation! With the help of my parents and kind people who commented on my posts, my confidence has started to blossom. I had never had conversations with people about my passions in this way before.
Lots of people say that young people spend too much time indulging in technology but for me, it has become something which is so positive. These even remote conversations with other young naturalists and others who echo my own voice, my hopes, my dreams are really helping me. I have huge difficulty socially interacting with people but I feel through these social ‘rehearsals’, this will in time improve my actual ability to communicate face to face.
The natural world to me is full of wonder and fascination. It seems to me that when kids reach a certain age, the curiosity seems to fade away. I would urge young people, especially if the natural world gives them joy and knowledge, to keep the interest going – you too might feel the urge to write about it like I do and it might open up a world which will help you later on in life.
Nature and wildlife are wondrous, their ability to teach us so much about the world is limitless. Nature helps me to relate to the world around me and also to use the skills I have, as a young person with Asperger’s. My need to record things, problem solve, work out patterns, come up with ideas and inspiration to then write about nature, gives me such comfort and reassurance.
If you are reading this and it strikes a chord, please get in touch and please, celebrate your difference and know that you are not alone. We are all lurking under beautiful rocks and stones, hiding in the hedgerows and shouting from the mountain tops too. Let’s come together in our love for nature and show that we are proud wildlife watchers and we won’t ever stop!