Volunteering – Walkden Sixth Form Centre

Work experience/volunteering

Where:

Walkden Sixth Form Centre, Walkden. Lancashire.

When?

July 2015 – July 2016.

I began working at Walkden Sixth Form Centre in the animal unit shortly after the completion of my 2 year Animal Care and Management Diploma, in which I proudly received a D*D*D* qualification.

My roles at the college consisted of basic animal care and husbandry (cleaning, feeding and watering), alongside assisting Student’s practical sessions within the animal unit. I also took regular trips to the local vets with unwell guinea pigs Gerald and Harold, who became poorly shortly after neutering.

I also became involved within the Hedgehog unit within the animal care centre, and worked closely with rescued hedgehogs. The first being an male, named Teddy, who was released months later. We worked on a rota, I engaged in the morning duties and often the afternoon duties before going home. This involved feeding, daily weight checking (to ensure healthy weight gain was occurring), recording and cleaning out the enclosure.

The role allowed me to build on my people skills, whilst growing in confidence and gaining experience with a collection of animal species. Ranging from small and large mammals, reptiles, birds and fish.

Chester Zoo 31/05/2019

Animals

I’ve been a regular, proud visitor of Chester Zoo from an early age. I became introduced to the Zoo during fulfilling and memorable family visits as I grew and developed and learned more about a variety of different animal species. I distinctively recall standing in awe, gazing at the towering Giraffes and becoming mesmerised by the Flamingos unmistakable pinkness.

My friend and I headed to the Zoo yesterday. The weather was in our favour, as it remained dry and temperate throughout. Though, I wouldn’t have minded either way. I’ve visited the Zoo in snowy conditions and warmer ones, and all experiences have been a joy!

https://www.chesterzoo.org

I wanted to give an insight into my favourite species. I particularly have a soft spot for Ungulates, which I guess heightens my admiration of Goats…

I particularly favour Chester Zoo. The animals’ enclosures resemble natural environments as closely as possible, and aim to encourage both mental and physical stimulation through enrichment and the exhibiting of natural behaviours. This is important, especially in captivity as it helps to reduce stereotypical and abnormal behaviours, such as: Pacing, head banging, pica (the consumption of non-food items) and bar biting.

Giraffes (Giraffa Camelopardalis)

Place of origin: Africa.

I had the pleasure of seeing the Zoo’s newest, and most beautiful, Giraffe calf’s who stood elegantly at approximately 6 feet tall. Twins: Mburo and Karamoja, and newest arrival Mojo. They were lightly coloured and curious animals, covered in patches that are totally unique like fingerprints. They successfully widened the smile on my face, with being my favourite African mammal. Giraffes are currently near extinction, and the Zoo aims to conserve and protect species for future generations.

Okapis (Okapia Johnstoni)

Place of origin: Southern and Central America, Asia.

The Okapis continue to fascinate me greatly, with a horse like appearance and zebra-like stripes situated on the legs and the behind. Fascinatingly, they’re known as the closest living relative of the Giraffe and they share similar features. Ie: they’re both ungulates and herbivores. This Okapi in particular was enjoying a watermelon slab, before sharing it with the small Deer inhabiting the same enclosure.

Elephants (Loxodonta)

Place of origin: Africa.

The Elephants at Chester Zoo are a related herd, named the hi-way family. Heartbreakingly, two members of the herd have tragically passed away (October, 2018) due to the spread of the lethal EEHV virus, which is known to attack membranes, resulting in bleeding and a fever. Almost all Elephants carry the virus, yet, it only turns into an illness for some. I believe another member, one of the youngest, has also recently been treated for the disease and it currently making a speedy, successful recovery. The herd were being bathed during our visit, as they contentedly soaked up the water and widely opened their mouths, almost like a smile.

Find out more about EEHV here:

Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)

Place of origin: Africa.

Tapir (Tapirus terrestris)

Place of origin: Southern and Central America, Asia and Africa.

During my previous visit to the Zoo, the Tapirs were running around energetically outside. This being when the weather was dramatically colder. This time around, the group were relaxing indoors before one slowly proceeded to wake up. There are 5 species of Tapir, which inhabit forested regions in America and Asia. The youngest individual was easily identifiable amongst the others, due to white markings on the body. The markings are typically present from birth, but fade significantly during development.

 

More of my favourite images:

A farm reunion and my new goat companion!

Little Owl Farm

My second University year is quickly approaching an end, and what an incredible year it’s been! I’ve expanded on my knowledge, developed new interests and, wholeheartedly, become more confident as an Animal Behaviourist. I’m currently away from Bangor for the Easter break, as I focus heavily on my studies in preparation for my upcoming May exams: Behavioural Ecology and Conservation Practice.

Let your mind and heart rest for a while. You will catch up, the world will not stop spinning for you, but you will catch up. Take a rest.

While I’ve been increasingly motivated to engage in my studies productively, I also began recognising that I was in dire need of a break after running out of fuel following the dedication I possess with regards to meeting deadlines and completing my assignments to the best of my ability. I regularly engaged in 14 hour library study periods and soon began feeling overwhelmed. I’m *slowly* learning that breaks are OK, and necessary in order for us to thrive and concentrate fully.

Thankfully, I’ve seized the opportunity to reunite with my wonderful friends at Little Owl Farm (animal and human) who continuously welcome me back lovingly with a warm embrace. Whilst also balancing revision, blogging and allowing myself to appreciate valuable family time. It’s been a pleasure spending time in my happy place, and I’m excited for the upcoming Summer months.

Being the goat lady of the farm, I was extremely excited to meet new arrival, Gabriel, son of Poppy and little brother to Mary-Jane. I was ecstatic after hearing of his arrival and I desperately wanted to leave Uni early to meet him, but I persisted nonetheless and counted down the days until I had one extra goat companion. This made the usually lengthy journey to the farm increase accordingly as I sat eagerly waiting to arrive in Oldham. Gabriel received his fitting name as per the “cross-like” marking on his head. Izaak wanted to name him Elvis, which I believe to be his middle name.

Of course, he was jumping around excitedly as I arrived at the farm while I cooed over his cuteness and remained in awe over his long legs, in-between suckling and making himself comfortable with other inhabitants of the farm. He’s begun favouring the Donkeys as he jumps into their enclosure contentedly.

Lots of quality time allowed me to recognise his distinctive brown eyes and soft, fluffy fur. And similar to Poppy and Mary-Jane, he had stunning markings and a wonderful personality.

As an animal behaviourist, I love spending time observing the different behaviours exhibited by animals and concluding the reasons behind them. It became apparent to me that Poppy is an incredible mum, she groomed Gabriel within seconds of giving birth and he’s certainly developing into quite the character! She also observes him carefully, allows him to suckle without rejection and enables people to get close to him.

Gabriel is currently under a month old and he continues to thrive and grow at Little Owl Farm, surrounded with his family, staff and volunteers who adore him.

 

 

Olivia’s story: Animals + mental health

Mental Health

“There will always be a reason why you meet people. Either you need them to change your life or you’re the one that will change theirs”.

I had the privilege of meeting my wonderful, courageous friend, Olivia, through the use of social media. She very kindly opted to share her story about how rats have aided her (ongoing) recovery from multiple mental illnesses. I’m incredibly inspired by her continuous strength and bravery!

Olivia’s story:

Rats have a very unfair reputation in society.

Most people judge rats before they get to know them, they’re known as bad, something to be afraid of, something to avoid. A bit like mental health. People are too quick to judge those suffering with mental health problems, many people are demonized for their mental health, depression is a subject that’s avoided, anorexia an illness that’s so harmful yet people refuse to take seriously. Psychosis, personality disorders, the kind of mental health illness that people fear purely through ignorance.

Olivia’s companion helped her to overcome one of her fear foods implemented by her Anorexia battle, as he kept her company and provided a happy distraction.

When I say ‘people’ it’s not relating to anyone in particular and I also want to make it clear that there are SO many wonderful, supportive, understanding, patient people in this world that help others each and everyday. It’s just a shame that even with all the good a few negative comments, a few people that refuse to be educated can be more visible than all the good.

Anyway back to animals (as you can probably tell I find it hard to stay on topic ah!). Rats especially have had such an important part in my recovery and in my everyday life.

Animals are your silent support system, and are true proof that actions speak louder than words.

I’ve had lots of rats over the years and all have helped me massively.

Olivia doesn’t just love rats, she’s an all-round animal lover. Using her compassionate side to befriend friendly geese, alongside other animals.

My first three rats helped me through some really traumatic events in my life, my anxiety was at an all time high, I couldn’t sleep and suffered with flashbacks. My three rats helped to bring me back to reality when a flashback would happen, kept me company when I couldn’t sleep and helped to keep me calm.

My next rat honestly saved my life (even my crisis worker at the time agreed!) when I couldn’t go to school due to suffering with psychosis, self harm and suicidal thoughts he was there to help show me that it wasn’t such a bad thing I couldn’t go to school and that achievements don’t always just have to be academic. I knew I had to get up, feed him, take care of him, he gave me a purpose and would often come to crisis and CAMHS appointments with me so that I wouldn’t hallucinate as much or get so upset.

My next two boys helped me so much too, they were not with me very long but we got them as they were unwanted by their previous owners, they taught me and reminded me that it doesn’t matter if you don’t feel ‘loved’ or ‘wanted’ it’s only a feeling, not a fact. There’s always someone or something (two legged or four legged!) that needs you and loves you and that you’re important to.

My rat who lives with me now has and continues to help me each and everyday. I didn’t leave the house for about 2 months before he came, once he was there he gave me the confidence to leave the house again, he was my safety blanket and continues to be. He helped me when i couldn’t walk because I was so weak from anorexia, he laid next to me for days, sat with me at every meal I was forced to eat, he helped me to not be sectioned and most importantly he continues to help me recover each and everyday.

He was patient when I couldn’t go out because I was too ill, when I was crying, when I couldn’t sleep and when I refused to eat. When family members told me ‘just eat it’s easy’ ‘you look so much better now you’re slimmer’ ‘I wish I could loose that much weight’.

Rats are intelligent and loyal and I learned that even though people speak, sometimes it’s better to just not hear what they’re saying. Sometimes it’s better to be silent than to be unhelpful. During this time birds also really helped me. They were a symbol of freedom for me. I watched the baby geese and ducks grow up and get stronger and that’s when I realised that animals don’t care what weight you are. Animals don’t care how you look.

Animals look for inside qualities, it’s more important that they trust you than what the scales say, they showed me that eating is normal, something that you can enjoy and shouldn’t feel guilty about. Animals can be one of the best kinds of therapy (I’m absolutely all for medication and counselling and anything that’s safe that helps too!) and I’ll forever be grateful for all my animal friends.

My rats taught me that it’s important to be kind, patient and they gave me reason to live and continue to each day. They don’t measure my worth by my weight. The geese had to eat, had to grow so they could be free to fly, to not be stuck in the same place.

That’s what I want and why I’m determined to recover.

I want to be free just like the birds.

Florida – Day seven: Part two 🇺🇸

The Florida Files

After the talk we received from Jerry, we were quickly divided into two groups after stepping outside to enable us to carry out two different activities throughout the refuge.

This allowed us to smoothly alternate between the activities we were occupying at the time.

I noticed various resources during my visit at the reserve, even amongst the beach, issuing advice and key information to the public about different issues – including plastic use and its impact on marine life, whilst encouraging people to avoid littering as a method of keeping beaches clean and protecting animals.

The first activity we engaged in was shell collecting to allow us to complete a dichotomous key. We went shell collecting along the secluded beach to enable us to create a factual dichotomous key with a sample size of ten shells per group (working in small groups of three). Dichotomous keys are often used in an assortment of species identifications typically amongst zoologists and biologists.

The shells differed in their size, shape and colour which could serve as indicators to enable us to easily distinguish them all (similar to those carried out in animal behaviour studies) Some shells gathered were small and pointed, whereas others were larger and more rounded.

During the shell collecting activity, we learned the seriousness of taking shells off the beach and the fact it can result in severe punishments in the eyes of the Law. Shells were not to be excluded from the beach as they were closely protected. But Jerry’s licence, aswell as his profession as an educator to people of all ages, enabled us to gain the permission to do so.

Dichotomous key: A tool that allows the user to determine the identity of items in the natural world.

Seine fishing: A method of fishing that employs a fishing net that hangs vertically in the water with its bottom edge held down by weights and its top edge buoyed by floats. 

We became involved in a method of fishing named Seine fishing, where four individuals of the group would stand in the sea with a gigantic net, allowing them to easily encircle a variety of fish species.

The net was then dragged to land, myself and the other students (including teenagers from a local high school) had the job of picking the fish up from out of the net and placing them into an assortment of grey coloured treys.

The process was speedy, as we wanted to limit the number of species’ deaths during the experiment as a result of them remaining out of water for too long.

We categorised the fish to allow us to discover the frequency of the fish we had entangled within the net, with the aims of detecting whether some species appeared to be more abundant in comparison to others.

Throughout the duration of the experiment, we unfortunately experienced a mass of fish moralities due to accompanying reasons such as stress and heat exposure. In scientific research, moralities are expected due to many underlying factors. And the remainder of the fish were luckily freed back into their natural, open environment after the research had been carried out and recorded.

Seine fishing can withstand both pros and cons: It’s an excellent method for catching schools of fish, though the method can quickly become unsustainable if the population of that species cannot withstand it.

Florida – Day Two 🇺🇸

The Florida Files, University

BAREFOOT BEACH RESERVE

Following a well needed sleep after a lengthy (though enjoyable) travelling period, we were ready to embrace our first full day in Florida, whilst fending off jet lag!

Meeting at 8am, lathered in sun cream and covered in protective gear, filling two buses we eagerly headed off to The Barefoot Beach Reserve. The drastic temperature increase was a delight, the sun was beaming down blissfully. Although it felt odd to be wearing minimal layers after succumbing to Bangor’s identifiable declining temperatures.

We had a scheduled talk from Jimmie Trulock – an (extremely knowledgeable) ex park ranger at The Everglades and a current volunteer at the reserve. And Florida’s Master Naturalist.

Jimmie kindly guided us around the reserve, showing us an array of beautiful fauna and tree species, aswell as telling us about their histories and their uses. Ie: some trees being used for pharmaceutical purposes. The talk was super interesting and Jimmie displayed a strong passion for nature and his work, which we made notes about in preparation for our assessed blog posts.

We were blessed to see animals freely inhabiting their natural environments, some of which included stunning gopher tortoises, brown anoles, raccoons and feeding pelicans.

We then had another lecture, listening to another naturalist talking about sound pollution, the different types of sound and the ways in which we can be kinder to our senses.

Following a few insightful hours at the reserve, we had 3/4 of an hour free time to roam around the reserve as we pleased. The majority of us headed to the beach, captivated by the stunning, soft, white sand and the dashingly beautiful blue water. We swam, splashed, and experienced animals feeding naturally – and peering for fish, whilst laughing lots and creating wonderful new memories.

Canoe time! We paired up and ventured out on the canoes, it was my first time canoeing so I was a little rusty; I soon grasped the concept of manoeuvring around the peaceful reserve, after frightening Carla a handful of times with my unpredictable steering methods (oops!) and it turned out to be a pleasurable experience, navigating around mangroves and embracing our surroundings.

Rowing our way eagerly around the calm waters, we witnessed gorgeous dolphins (my favourite marine mammal!) swimming both elegantly and closely to our canoes. The experience was incredible, it felt magical and captivating – to say the least. We also saw a number of magnificent bird and fish species, boats, and bubbly Americans.

Our accommodation gratefully has a pool, which we all went in afterwards for a swim and a cool down, before a debriefing about the day we’d experienced and the plans for the upcoming day. It was incredible to spend a day with wonderful people who share my passions and my admiration of animals, whilst experiencing new things and visiting new places!

SPECIES LIST OF THE DAY

  • Dolphins
  • Gopher tortoise
  • Brown anole
  • Ospreys
  • Red breasted woodpecker
  • Cuban tree frog
  • Raccoon
  • Ant lion

Day one – Arriving in Florida 🇺🇸

The Florida Files, University

Arriving at the meeting point following an agonising wait for the day to arrive, it was finally time to head to Florida, ready to engage in an incredible field course, offering new experiences and unforgettable memories.

With it also being my first time in The US!

6am sharp, we were packed up and rearing to go. Handing the bus driver my luggage proceeding to sit comfortably on the mini bus, gently wrapped up in my oversized fleece to accommodate the typical British weather. Freezing. It was dark, it was cold. But I was excited. All 16 students (myself included) alongside 3 of our wonderful tutors were set to go on a big American adventure!

We arrived at Manchester airport at approximately 8:30am, approaching check in, handing over our passports for checks and receiving seat numbers and boarding passes in return. The wait wasn’t too lengthy. And after successfully passing through security checks, my friends (Beth, Annabel, Carla, Beth, Georgina) and I wandered through to some shops, passing the time before boarding time approached.

Our trip to Florida consisted of two exciting plane journeys.

Plane one was our trip from Manchester to Philadelphia, lasting roughly 8 hours. To my amazement, we were issued individual televisions with a vast selection of movies, tv programmes, games and music. And watching Mamma Mia Here We Go Again millions of feet in the air, wrapped in a blanket and rested on a pillow, made me incredibly happy. The airline staff were wonderfully kind and accommodating throughout the journey, which definitely kick started my first American trip as a delightful one.

8 hours later…yay! We arrived in Philadelphia, undoubtedly restless but ready to collect our luggage so we could check it in for the next flight. The time difference already began to confuse me, but I remained confident I’d adjust in no time.

The second flight (Philadelphia to Fort Myers) lasted approximately 3 hours. In comparison to the earlier flight, time *literally* flew by and we arrived in next to no time. All of us feeling the exhaustion, but also the contentment of finally landing in our destination.

After locating and reuniting with our luggage, we headed over to the bus hire centre in order to receive the vehicle we required for our transportation to our accommodation – Vester Marine Field Station. We waited patiently and chatted away with minimal energy after a lengthy day spent travelling.

We finally reached our destination which was set to be our home for the upcoming 10 days. After a 30 minute drive, we unloaded the bus and chose our preferred rooms with the people we’d opted to stay with, afterwards packing and making our beds in preparation to fend off jet leg and to welcome our first full day in Florida.

University – life lessons, goats and second year!

University

A year ago, I set off on a new and exhilarating adventure. University life.

My first year as a University Student… Exciting!

I’m now just a week away from beginning my second university year. Following my studies in Zoology with Animal Behaviour as I aim to become a voice for those in need of one. My animal companions in need of a friend.

First year issued me with valuable lessons which I aim to apply to myself, and my studies, throughout the upcoming academic year.

A study carried out recently at Buttercups Goat Sanctuary (UK, Kent) found that Goats LOVE a happy face. A happy Laur equals a happy goat. Goativation? Therefore, for my caprine companions, it’s my upmost mission to be as happy as humanely possible as I embark on life’s next academic challenge.

BE THE GOAT FOR THE GOATS

As a student, and a young person in general, it’s very easy to become caught up in what those around me are doing. But I’ve concluded that I must make myself, my health and my happiness my biggest priority if I wish to succeed in my journey.

With just five basic lessons, I am confident second year will be increasingly more enjoyable than the first.

STOP BEING SO HARD ON MYSELF

During my first year, I became awfully distressed whenever I received a lower grade than I anticipated. Though, I wish to focus more on my efforts and areas for improvement as opposed to my so-called “failures”. Focusing on the positives leaves less room to dwell on the negatives, I believe. And trying my hardest can never result in failing.

My grades do NOT define me, or my worth.

“Giving up is the only sure way to fail.”

CONFIDE IN OTHERS DURING TIMES OF STRUGGLE

I’ve learned the importance of reaching out for support during my times of need, coming to the realisation that seeking help is perfectly acceptable, there is always an ear to listen and I don’t deserve to suffer alone, or in silence. University is a wonderful place filled with the most supportive people (tutors and friends) and nobody will think of me any less for needing a helping hand.

Speaking up releases masses of tension and encourages others to seek help, too. A win win situation!

PRIORITISE HAPPINESS AND SELF CARE

Finding a comfortable, maintainable balance within my studies and “other things” is still a work in progress, but one I am keen to apply to myself. Ensuring I create time for the things I love outside of my studies – spending time with friends, volunteering and engaging in the clubs and societies I am involved with and have a passion for. The understanding that spending countless hours in the library, buried in text books or behind laptop screens isn’t healthy or necessary amongst the pathway to graduating. Nor does it make me a “better student.

FINDING MY STRENGTH

Moving away to Uni was a strength in itself, but my mission now is to maintain it. Finding the strength to carry on when things don’t necessarily go to plan, or when the day has been tough. A bad grade? Read the Tutor feedback and prioritise it next time. Speaking to my Tutor about it, a problem shared is a problem halved. A fall out with a friend? That’s okay. They happen, Uni is stressful and friendships are bound to begin showing some cracks; take a break, resolve it afterwards. A heightened struggle battling mental illness’ that day? Again, it happens. Prioritise self care, learning helpful distraction techniques and keeping myself safe.

SEARCHING FOR THE HAPPINESS IN EVERY DAY THINGS

I’m embarrassingly talented at dwelling on my nasty, more intrusive thoughts (Sigh!) So I’m ensuring I work tirelessly to focus more on the positives in my life, and less on the negatives. A balance of alone time, but ensuring I am not too withdrawn. Searching for the happiness in every day things, regardless of how small they may appear so that during my darker times, I can reflect upon the better times. Never underestimate the healing powers of a cuddle with an animal, a cup of tea or a simple stroll along a scenic route via a Beach or a Forest.

Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from the negative

Here’s to second year, another year in which I aim to succeed, exceed my own expectations and make some unforgettable memories with the incredible friends I am blessed with.

A splendid Summer at Little Owl Farm

Little Owl Farm

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Well, Summer at Little Owl Farm has officially drawn to a close. My second Summer spent at the farm and I am extremely delighted about that! It’s been an incredible, fun packed few months spent volunteering with my upmost enthusiasm and the best of people who continuously bring me joy and happiness.

It’s been thrilling witnessing Cindy and John swimming in success with the emphasis that all of their hard work, and planning, has paid off as they’ve welcomed many visitors and carried out the best themed days throughout. Creating an enjoyable day for people of all ages. They truly do deserve The World.

Throughout the duration of Summer at the farm, I’ve had the pleasure of making new friends (both animal and human, yay!) aswell as catching up with familiar faces, including the wonderful Lizzie – a kind hearted friend of mine and an extremely talented face painter who often visits the farm to amaze myself and visitors with her dazzling, colourful creations.

https://www.facebook.com/lizziefacepaints/

I simply wouldn’t have opted to spend my time anywhere other than the farm. A place I view as a second home. (Well, I do live with the goats now…) where I am continuously welcomed with a warm embrace, aswell as my trusty wheelbarrow, surrounded with my gorgeous animal friends and the loveliest of people.

It’s been a pleasure resting from my hardworking first year of University down at the farm, expanding my knowledge and working hard to ensure the animals are content and spoiled rotten with abundance’s of love and cuddles. Oh, and the odd banana or two…

Could anybody resist that face?

I did have trouble choosing from my increasing collection of goat photos. Though, you can never have too many. Right? Poppy eternally brightens my day and widens my smile with her cheeky personality and charismatic face.

Countless hours spent travelling to the farm via buses and the treasurable number 407 which remains the most scenic, eminent route where I am dazzled with the most stunning views in Oldham upon my venture to the farm. Every visit is worth the 7:30am set offs where I am guaranteed the most happiness enhancing time where no two days ever replicate each other. The rapture of working with animals!

It’s been an incredible Summer, filled with smiles and hugs and I can only say how eager I am for Summer, 2019, and every day in advance.

Be sure to check out my fabulous friends’ social media for regular updates and the most adorable photos of our furry and feathered friends!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LittleOwlFarm/

Instagram: @littleowlfarm

Autism and me – an acceptance journey

Autism

That’s the thing. I never anticipated being a 19-year-old sitting face to face with my Therapist discussing the possibilities of an Autism diagnosis.

It seems, my wonderful Therapist had picked up on possible Autistic traits in me during our sessions together (for my Anorexia Nervosa) which had mutually been a struggle for a while. My inability to express my feelings, thoughts and emotions without great difficulty and high intensities of distress and agitation. I could willingly speak endlessly about animals, but every other subject seemed to be a chore. I also struggled to maintain eye contact and would often stare at the floor or at the wall during our chats together, when I could actually form a sentence instead of nervously giggling. Alongside an inability to cope with changes in appointments (I adored sticking rigidly to Thursdays at 12!) and my inability to understand sarcasm.

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with Autism. (ASD). My condition unknowingly present from birth, but not picked up on until later in my teenage years after a lengthy assessment process where I became increasingly distressed and impatient. I always remained aware that something about me was different, but I could never quite pinpoint what that was. The wait was gruelling and torturous and each day I would hurry home excitedly hoping to be met with an appointment letter, with my disappointment only growing as I waited longer and longer.

An Autism diagnosis is life-changing, but not defining.

With increasing numbers of adults diagnosed with the condition, mostly due to the ability to mask and imitate those around us as a means of fitting in and seeming less “odd”. Though, the thing is, I never purposely intended to be the same as those around me. So, personally, Autism has been a real journey of self discovery, finding out who I really am beyond the copying and uncomfortable habits I forced myself into.

And no. Autism isn’t solely a “Children’s condition” and it most certainly doesn’t disappear magically whilst growing up. Autistic children become Autistic adults – it’s a lifelong, developmental condition.

Unfortunately, I was prone to the stigma attached to Autism and (alongside my lack of knowledge) due to minimal awareness I thought I knew what Autism “looked like” in an individual, a huge part in the reason I like to raise awareness of my condition. So people understand, and accept, people for their uniqueness and their quirks. And so people stop putting a “face” to Autism, the condition affecting one in a hundred of us.

Autism isn’t a label that fits all.

To begin with, I viewed my diagnosis as a bad thing and became upset for a short period of time, until I grew to learn more about my new diagnosis and what it meant for myself and others.

Over two years along the line and I have finally found, not only comfort, but also acceptance in myself which may not have met without my diagnosis. Something I never imagined myself to need until it became present in my life. Fitting in the “missing puzzle” that had previously been vacant from my life and filling it with knowledge, happiness and self-worth. The acceptance of learning to love myself for the crazy goat lady I am. Animals being my interest, whilst others on the spectrum may have other areas of passion and happiness!

I grew determined to ensure my Autism didn’t restrict, or define, me in any way possible. Meaning I have overcome anxiety-ridden fears and have tackled many obstacles over the years. Including, my ability to use public transport alone (giving Ive planned the journey strictly!) my transition to university life in Wales, a completely new setting, being introduced to people I hadn’t previously met. And my recently new found ability to vocalise when I am finding a situation stressful – particularly busy places or loud noises.

Whilst challenging myself is exhilarating, it is also exhausting and I usually require days to rest after fighting my anxiety.

Autism doesn’t have a cure, though I wouldn’t choose to cure mine for The World. It remains as a lifelong condition with each day being a learning curve and a milestone in each individuals journey!