How an autistic teenager’s passion for nature led to his first book deal

This article was first published in November 2019.

This 15-year-old found solace in nature – and a vocation. Dara describes himself as a bullied, silent and isolated child. He first realised he was, in his words, ‘different’ around the age of four, when he would be outside his nursery digging around in the soil for worms whilst the other kids were inside. But Dara soon realised that nature was a form of escape for him.

Dara became fascinated with the natural world, and aged 11 began to write a blog, about his passion and concerns for the environment. That was the moment he found his tribe. Suddenly he wasn’t alone anymore, as he realised that other people shared his concerns around what they believed to be a world in crisis.

Turning fear into action

Like many young people, Dara is terrified of what the future holds for planet Earth. Through his interactions with his online community, Dara gained strength and confidence – and decided he wanted to put his words into action.

Anger alone is a useless emotion – it needs to be coupled with action.

He knew he wanted to do something about nature – but he wanted his social action to help communities in a tangible way. So he decided to come up with a pledge: to ensure that local government and organisations give precedence to the connection between youth, nature and mental health.

Author and ambassador

This transformation from isolated child to confident teenager has led to a book deal. Something Dara describes as a ‘bombshell’. He is also now an ambassador for the #iwill campaign, which aims to make social action part of life for 10-20 year olds.

Dara has joined other children who are striking from school and says he no longer feels alone but ‘empowered’. He believes that not only did the climate movement give him solidarity and hope, perhaps most importantly it enabled him to express the fear he felt inside. Now that has made him want to shout louder and become more active. Alongside his tribe.

If you need support

You should always tell someone about the things you’re worried about. You can tell a friend, parent, guardian, teacher, or another trusted adult. If you're struggling with your mental health, going to your GP can be a good place to start to find help. Your GP can let you know what support is available to you, suggest different types of treatment and offer regular check-ups to see how you’re doing.

If you’re in need of in-the-moment support you can contact Childline, where you can speak to a counsellor. Their lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

There are more links to helpful organisations on BBC Action Line.

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