I am not great with people, I have to admit that I find conversations quite difficult but it’s something I’m working on and at the weekend I was given a challenge. As a young person living with Aspergers, social interactions are always going to be difficult but I won’t let it hold me back from fulfilling my dreams either. I constantly challenge myself (and mum does too) to do things out of my comfort zone, it’s definitely worth it to pursue these challenges. This weekend saw a really big breakthrough for me.

Last year my dad did a really cool nature stand at our Spring Fete, it was really successful so we decided to do it again this year – this time I would help him. We focused on native wildlife and the issues that they face but mostly we just want to show people what’s on their doorstep and how to find it. We had some furry friends to help us ;))

We talked about Red Squirrel populations and the problems they face – luckily we have a dominant red population and few greys. We heard lots of stories from people who frequently had visits from Red Squirrels and how much joy they gave them. We handed out lots of Fermanagh Red Squirrel Group leaflets and encouraged people to report their sightings. It was great to hear such enthusiasm!

We also got lots of people looking down the microscope, many kids had never seen or looked down a microscope before so it was great to give them the opportunity. I think it’s a really sad that Primary schools don’t really teach science, natural history or biodiversity – it would be relatively easy to have a few weeks at the end of term to dedicate to these issues.

My dad, who’s a great educator and a really big inspiration to me!

Another really cool thing I touched on was our local population of Buzzards – in years gone by the population was very low due to persecution but now it is rising and we want to keep it like that. We told them how Buzzards were highly unlikely to prey on anything bigger than a rabbit and how important they are to our Eco system. Letting people see our Buzzard, feel it’s feathers, beak and talons brought them closer to nature I think and decreased their fears. I got pretty animated about the birds once I got started and the kids were really enjoying my dramatics I think (swooping arms and lots of gestures;)). I got lots of questions and was able to answer them in a way that brought clarity and more enthusiasm for these gorgeous birds.

I think dad looks a little proud of me taking over!
There is another side to this story though, the distasteful looks, the ‘don’t touch, it’s dirty’ – mainly from parents! They think it’s ok to watch Planet Earth, but not for their kids to freely explore their environment! Clearly there is still work to be done!!! The connection has been lost for many people and it needs to be re-established, I think I played a small part in making that happen. The wide-eyed wonder of some of the kids and the fascination of these parents, made it all worthwhile. I found my feet and my voice and I can’t wait to do it again – because clearly we need to do it a lot more!

Thanks to the work of Ulster Wildlife, Fermanagh Red Squirrel Group, Butterfly Conservation NI and all those who help and support me to become the best I can be and thanks to my dad; for all his knowledge, enthusiasm and inspiration.

Thanks for reading
Dara ☺️