Watatunga Autism and Me

by | Mar 25, 2024 | Watatunga Blog

I was beyond excited to secure my work experience placement at Watatunga as part of my Level 3 BTEC in Animal Management CoWA Cambridge Campus. The placement was to develop practical skills in an animal sector and to give me opportunities to learn more about conservation which were linked to one of my college units of work. 

I am autistic and have ADHD so experience the world quite differently to neurotypical people. I often struggle with meeting new people and getting used to unfamiliar surroundings. As you can imagine, I was very nervous before starting my placement and this triggered my anxiety, so I started to overthink the first day ahead. The usual way I cope in these new situations is to mask my feelings which puts demands on me.

Large eland

My first day was challenging mostly due to the torrential rain that afternoon but I was put at ease by Julian & Dean, who were both very welcoming.

My work experience was in January/ February so we were mostly on the reserve where we went off on the quad bike or buggy to feed the animals additional food. The other jobs we did involved maintenance of the reserve.

I felt very privileged to get the opportunity to get very close to the animals and take photographs, which is a passion of mine.

I found cleaning out the stables and animal bedding areas the worst job as the smell wasn’t pleasant so I became overwhelmed due to my sensory sensitivities.

I felt more comfortable as the weeks went on and felt valued as part of the team. This inspired me to apply for the role as a volunteer shortly after I had started. I was offered the job and thrilled to continue my journey with Watatunga.

I hope this unique experience at Watatunga gives me a step in the right direction for what I need to follow my dreams into securing a job one day within conservation. I have grown in confidence,  learnt lots of information about the animals and begun to learn their Latin names!! 

I really felt that any autistic differences I showed were not only accepted but cherished. I really felt like I was an asset and finally autism was my superpower.

Antelope photos: Photo credit Ewan Bimpson

A boy with a yellow bucket and his back to us stands in a grassy area with grazing mouflon and deer

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