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Alex Douglas-Kane shares her experiences and understanding of Discover Nature Awareness

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Tracking with Asperger’s

  1. Can people with Asperger’s make good trackers?
  2. Is there a line of work were they can utilise their skills, if so what is it?
  3. How do they see tracks on the ground?

These are all questions I feel that need to be explored and no doubt as the answers appear more and more questions will arise, great can’t wait.

I would like to share with you some tracking experiences I had while working with young men who presented with ADHD and Asperger’s.

It has been hope for some time now to be able to use tracking as a therapeutic intervention.

My first experience with Asperger’s was when I went tracking one day up to some sand dunes near to where I live with some young men and several adults, the idea for the day was to see how these young men would get on with tracking.

I asked one of my colleagues to go and hide anywhere in the dunes without us knowing where he went. After taking the boys through some basics off tracking, we set off to have some fun in locating my colleague who was hiding among the grass in the sand dunes. Being as we were tracking in sand it would prove not too difficult a medium to work with for the boys.

I asked my colleague to set up some critical points along the way, these where places where he would stop for a while to make a decision as to which direction to go in, he was instructed to move around a bit looking for the best way to go and I would use these points to ask the boys questions, for example "what happened here"?

As we followed the staff members trail, we came across an area of fouled tracks, and I could see his boot tracks in and out; however one of the boys could actually see the tracks in amongst all the other tracks. I could not see a thing a short while after leaving the foul tracks behind the same boy then said that we were no longer following the same boot print.

So we took a closer look at it, we measured it as we had already taken measurements from the first track with our tracking stick and sure enough and to my surprise, we were following a different person with the same tread on their boot as my colleagues and there was only a small difference in size.

How random is that.

We back tracked and the young man pointed to where he could see the real trail leading off to the right, we duly followed this and within moments we located the member of staff’s hiding place.

So how was he able to see tracks on the ground, where I could not?

Sometime after that day I came across a video on YouTube were a lady was explaining about autism in particular Asperger’s. She was saying that people with Asperger’s see in the same way horses do, in pictures and she gave an example of a cross.

If you will, picture a red cross that is made up of hundreds of tiny red crosses, where I would see just on big Red Cross someone with Asperger’s would see the hundreds of little red crosses. When I heard this suddenly it became clear to me how that young man was able to the tracks in the muddy foul tracked area. This got me thinking about other possibilities. Such as how can I expand my understanding and bring it to my work and encourage these young people to work with the skills they have rather than assume that they need our help all the time. In other words what can I learn from them?

Another time I was with a group of boys who were following a trail laid for them until they lost it. I encouraged them to spend time trying to work out what had happened and to see if they could pick up the trail again. What happened next for me was wonderful. These boys find it hard to stay still let alone focus on one thing and here they were, all three of them sat by a footprint for twenty minutes discussing what might have happened, working together by asking each other questions and getting each other to go off and check the mole hills and other soft soil areas for tracks that look the same as the track they were following.

They were in fact on the wrong track, but the value of letting them problem solve and work together far outweighed the task of tracking, which we were able to pick up latter anyway. That, for me was one of those magic moments in life.


Can people with Asperger’s make good trackers?
This I am not sure about yet as I would need to take them out more and set up exercises where I can measure the outcomes. However, I feel there is some potential here, and it may be that like us not everyone is suited to tracking.

Is there a line of work were they can utilise their skills, if so what is it?
I do not know the answer to this question but it is worth exploring, I do know however, in the case of these young men with more practise and encouragement from me, and for them to realised the potential in themselves and the value of what they are doing for one or two of them in their mature years the possibility may have been there. But they would have required more hands on from staff to encourage them in this field, is that realistic. Well if you want it bad enough then why not.



The Coopers Hawk says goodbye


At the end of our bird language course we were gathered around giving our feedback on the course and as often would happen on this course people would burst into song and dance… so today was no exception there was drumming and in between people shared their experiences of being on the course.

Then, we all became aware of a bird that had been elusive to most of us all week long, suddenly it was up and circling above our heads on a wonderful sunny day.

It was as if he had come to say goodbye to us all and to join in the musical celebrations as well. The bird was of course the Coopers Hawk.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Pileated Woodpecker wins the day


Having just completed a sit-spot with everyone from the Bird Language in California, we were heading back to camp. 

As I was chatting with one of the group I heard a call coming from behind me and up high. I said to the person with me that sounds like a woodpecker as I turned and looked up sure enough there was a Pileated woodpecker flying overhead

There were around ten other people observing the woodpecker as well, and you could hear them saying wow as they stood looking up in amazement.

All week we talked about and seeing the Coopers hawk or the Great-horned owl, we spoke about the effects we might be having on the local Bob cat, we saw Coyotes and heard them in the distance and yet the Pileated Woodpecker in my view stole the show.

Monday, 14 May 2012

When the Great-horned Owl swaps shifts with the Cooper's Hawk

Please check back later to read about some of the experiences I had while on the Bird Language Course in the states...

Friday, 4 May 2012

Natural Awareness - Keys to the Kingdom

I would like to share with you something that I feel is deeply powerful and that shows the benefits of working with people in Nature whatever form that takes. I met this lady several years ago in rehab.

"Natural Awareness is a precious gift. it has given me a sense of purpose, belonging and feeling of well being. I can feel wind, water, earth and sun; and am able to hear the music of life.

I have a new found freedom, a free spirit, peace and serenity which is guaranteed when I depend on my God's direction. Burdens were lifted while taking part in nature awareness groups. I was trusting my conscience to be my guide. Hard to describe but I feel I am letting the partnership work, ultimate trust, simplicity, at peace with the world, at one.

A feeling of direction straight from the heart. I've felt inspired, connected and energised in Natural Awareness groups, magic moments.Natural Awareness focuses me, it fills what's empty and empties what's full. It gives me opportunities to still my mind and the messages I need will come. The process is simple, if I want to follow it. The answers await if I really want them. I need only sit quietly and ask my God for the guidance I need.

It enables me to do life on life's terms. In exchange for a bottle and a glass I have been given the Keys to the Kingdom".

I have to say, this brought tears to my eyes, it is just such a powerful insight into this wonderful persons life and I am grateful to her for sharing it with me and allowing me to share it with you, my friends.

Spiritualty vs Science

I feel these are exciting times as science continues to make major advances in their understanding of the world around and beyond us. It now seems that many of the things they are finding are backing up the work that I and others have been talking about for a long time.
  • How the heart is receiving information from outside the body more so than the brain
  • How the Placebo effect works
  • How modern medicine focuses too much on singular aspects of our health instead of the whole
  • The Power of Nature
I believe that there is no conflict between Spirituality and Science as long as we stay open minded and continue to look at the whole and if we avoid getting caught up in our words. Words are important but only with regard to the meaning we give to them, there is much more beyond words. Lets not forget only 7% of our communication is verbal.
Someone once said to me "what's on the box is what you get" I say, "climb up the box open the lid and take a good look around".

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Message from the Peregrine (Falco peregrinus).

After attending the Bird Language course in the states I went out birding for the day with a local guy called David Assmann. During our time out we had an encounter with a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), which I would like to share with you.

Having visited a lighthouse to see some of California’s shore birds we were returning to the car by way of 332 steps up this hill. About half way we stopped to look out over the sea when I saw a Peregrine flying straight for us at eye level, it passed us just a few feet away, it was an awesome sighting.

Later we went off to see if we could see a Snowy Plover on another part of the coast, and as we passed some reeds at the side of a large pond I became aware of two Red-winged Blackbirds calling, one was to my left and the other was to my right and at eye level, suddenly they made a sound I had not heard before and I concluded that it was an alarm, just then flying at great speed another peregrine flew straight at me and passed only inches over my head. The blackbirds were I believe using David and myself as a barrier to protect them from the falcon.

So, over the next few days I was wondering what this meant as I nearly always look for a spiritual connection with the birds that I encounter, and on my return I looked up what the Peregrine meant as a totem animal. Below is what I found.

The Falcon animal totem comes to us when we require higher vision, or higher knowledge in solving current dilemmas in our lives. 

The Falcon is a solar solar emblem for success, victory and rising above a situation.
Further evidence of its solar influence, the Falcon was symbolic of the rising sun in Egypt. It is also the king of all birds where many gods were shown with the head or body of the Falcon (including Ra).

In European tradition, the Falcon represents the huntsman and is associated with the Germanic sky-gods Wodan as well as Frigg and the trickster Loki. In European culture the Falcon is considered a warlike symbol

At its core, the Falcon animal totem represents visionary power, wisdom, and guardianship. This powerful bird awakens visionary power, and leads you to your life purpose. The Falcon carries with it a message of transition and change - perhaps in your vocation, work, career, etc.
A quick-list of falcon animal totem attributes:
  • Superiority
  • Spirit
  • Light
  • Power
  • Focus
  • Prophecy
  • Freedom
  • Aspiration
  • Intensity
  • Determination
So now that I know what this magnifcent bird represents I shall be foucusing on my passion, which if I am being honest I was doing before I went away, but this time with more clarity.