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Aspergers, A-levels and stress

(23 Posts)
BirdintheWings Thu 30-Jan-14 11:07:38

Going round in circles with this on my son's behalf.

He has Asperger's, with a full-time support statement, so I might put this in both Sec Ed and SEN for advice.

He was originally predicted high A-level grades (three straight A*) and has four A at AS. He has university offers on that basis, but is currently struggling to work at all and has seemed on the edge of breakdown for months -- missing lessons and meals, way behind on project work and homework, crying, rocking, breaking things....

He's been diagnosed with moderate to severe depression, plus OCD. No help available for this till at least June.

If he was at work, he'd have been signed off. But A-levels don't allow time for someone to vanish for a while and be depressed.

He says he can't just stop, because he would lose all the project work he has already done, and 'then he'd feel even worse'.

School don't think it's an option either, and aren't really willing to have the discussion. So are we just left with him battling on, getting low final grades and missing his uni offers (obviously not the be all and end all, just what he thinks he's aiming for at the moment)? Or is it in fact possible to take a break and re-start a second year of A level?

Does anyone know if work can be carried over rather than wasted? This seems to be his biggest concern, though the practicalities of statements, school transport and support are also fairly big issues.

BirdintheWings Thu 30-Jan-14 11:08:52

Should add that he's currently scraping along at the B to C mark -- not bad given how rough a time he's having, but not enough for his vague life plans of engineering or physics.

PolterGoose Thu 30-Jan-14 11:41:22

Poor ds sad

There is no rule that says you have to get A Levels at 18 and go straight to university. I would talk to school and see what is possible. He could take time out and re-do the year, he could drop to 2 or even 1 A Level to focus on, knowing that next year will be easier as he's already done most of the syllabus.

I went back as a mature student and the difference in maturity between the 18yo students straight from school and those just a year older who had taken a year out, or a year extra, was marked.

Other options are distance learning for traditional A Levels or even an OU foundation course. It sounds like he needs to get well, there really is no rush with education, well-being is far more important.

BirdintheWings Thu 30-Jan-14 12:12:13

Thanks, Poltergoose (great name!). That's how I feel, and I want to try to thrash it out at his annual review. At the least, he would defer university for a year anyhow, as he is not really able to care for himself.

DS is scared at the thought of losing the day to day structure (and incidentally his Oxbridge hopes -- he got rejected but was hoping for a second go). DH is not currently able to help me think this through as he's pretty unwell himself. Meanwhile, the assumption is that DS will just carry on, not quite coping, not enjoying life, poor kid.

Ineedmorepatience Thu 30-Jan-14 17:39:38

I agree with polter, I got completely lost halfway through 6th form, it wasnt really the right place for me anyway and I was trying to resit o'levels at the same time.

I stopped the world and got off for a while and went back to 6th form college the next year!! I was at an advantage then because I had already covered some of the work.

It was along time ago I suppose but I am sure your Ds could still do it!

As an aside I never did get to the end as I got offered a full time job and accepted it in a second, academics were never my thing smile

I hope your Ds gets the support and help that he needs, he is lucky to have you fighting his corner.

Good luck smile

NoHaudinMaWheest Fri 31-Jan-14 00:17:26

My ds also with Asperger's and OCD is currently just starting on A levels. He just wasn't coping with the increase in work and expectations in addition to having had to move schools for 6th form. Fortunately his school was very willing to allow him to spread his A levels over 3 years and he is now only doing 2 AS subjects. This is giving him time to settle in and also means that a forthcoming hospital admission for his OCD won't have too great an impact.

Really his school gave the impression that doing A levels over 3 years was no big deal and said they had done it several times before. Obviously your Ds is a bit further ahead and I have no idea what would happen about project work. He wouldn't have to stop study altogether - just do less. I do understand what you mean about trying to keep normal routine.

You might want to push this option further with the school. Is the wait until June to see CAMHS or is he already in adult services? It might help with the school if you could get medical backing for your opinion. Can you push to be seen sooner? In my (bitter) experience OCD tends to get worse if it is just left.

BirdintheWings Fri 31-Jan-14 10:20:57

Adult services, sadly, Wheest. They considered putting him on the CAMHS list but said (probably accurately) that he would be 18 before he got seen anyway and then would have to start again at the bottom of the adult list.

I do have the letter saying he is depressed, has a recurrence of OCD and is on the waiting list. Let's see if that sways anything. It's very interesting to hear how other schools do it. I think, as far as they are concerned, he's capable of A or A*, has proved this in the AS levels, so what's the problem?

It's all complicated by him only being at that school by virtue of his statement, and having free transport there at the moment, but those are logistical details really.

Yes, OCD's a bugger. Just the Asperger's alone would probably be fine!

BirdintheWings Fri 31-Jan-14 10:29:32

Thinking about it, my ideal for him would be to pause the coursework, do maths and physics this year, then finish product design and maybe take further maths AS next year during/after the MH intervention, with ideally a weekend job to keep him grounded in the real world.

No idea how a university would potentially view a candidate with results spread over three years, though, and this does matter to him -- even if it's a way off yet.

PolterGoose Fri 31-Jan-14 10:35:40

Universities are well used to taking students who have all sorts of combinations of entry requirements, many mature students and foreign students will have different qualifications. That really isn't a big thing.

Your plan sounds like a good one.

BirdintheWings Fri 31-Jan-14 10:49:15

Ah, thanks! Sometimes it's hard to see the bigger picture in between the 'how the hell do you do homework while ignoring intrusive voices and sleeping two hours a night' bits of life.

wetaugust Fri 31-Jan-14 12:54:07

birds

There is provision for a student who is ill during their 2 year A level course of study to repeat an A level year.

Someone should be able to dredge the document up for you. I'd definitely push for that.

Sometimes you have to take a step back and put their mental health before academic achievemenst - even if they themselves think that continuing with this stressful study is the thing to do. And it's an incredibly difficult deciison to make - speaking as the mother of a DS who dropped 8 GCSEs due to illness.

Things are different these days. It's not 2 years of GCSEs followed by 2 years of A levels folled by gap year / Uni. You can take as long as you want over qualifications unless you are reaching for the dreamy academic spires.
DS - 3 years for GCSE 3 years for A levels 5 years at Uni and now has 3 degrees.

Don't let him pressurise himself.

kalidasa Fri 31-Jan-14 14:20:26

Definitely don't worry about what universities will think. It's true that doing, say, one A level a year for four years is less demanding than doing them all together over two, and we would raise an eyebrow at an ordinary candidate who had done that, but I really don't think spreading things out a bit, or taking a full year out or whatever would make any problems for him given the difficulties he is dealing with. We see plenty of students who have done things slightly differently for all sorts of personal reasons - bereavement, illness of all kinds, caring for a parent, leaving foster care, being a mature student etc.

FWIW, I am a personal tutor at university and if he was my tutee I would without hesitation recommend that he intermit at this point - stop, take the time out, come back in a year or so when he is in a position to manage it and to fulfill his potential. In my department, there is no problem carrying over e.g. coursework, but of course I don't know how it works at school.

BirdintheWings Fri 31-Jan-14 14:58:12

Thank you -- you don't know how much it helps to have a different perspective from the school's (which is, he has good offers that other students would envy; you'd be mad to pass them up).

wetaugust Fri 31-Jan-14 15:04:23

... and will school be planning to visit him when he has a breakdown? angry

Sorry - that just makes me cross and it's all about league tables and not concern for the child.

All teh qualifications in the world are meaningless if he's too unwell to use them.

School tried to disenrol ny DS when he was too ill to attend school so his GCSE results would not be accredited to the school. angry

BirdintheWings Fri 31-Jan-14 15:11:03

To be fair, it's been a brilliantly inclusive school for him from years 7 to 11. It seems to have fallen apart in the sixth form, though, as he's tried to appear more 'normal', for want of a better term, and especially since he's been discovered to be really rather bright.

But yes, I suspect they would love to be able to say, here is the child who has come up through our autism unit and is now whizzing off to an RG university.

wetaugust Fri 31-Jan-14 16:00:01

Has he had a Disabled Students Assessment yet? That identifies the support he may require at Uni. Laptop, printer, dictaphone etc are pretty much standard requirements that DSA will pay for.

BirdintheWings Fri 31-Jan-14 16:03:24

No -- I need to get on with that!

moralimbecile Sat 01-Feb-14 17:04:59

Can he study part time when he goes to uni? Much easier emotionally.

BirdintheWings Sat 01-Feb-14 18:35:53

Now there's another good thought.

BirdintheWings Fri 10-Oct-14 14:23:59

I'm reanimating this zombie thread as I had such helpful advice here when we really needed it.

We paid for counselling for DS for a while, and he sat his A-levels on time in the end, and got two A* and an A grin. He's taking a gap year and has just been offered a temporary job with a local design firm grin grin. University decisions are being deferred for the moment but he'll probably start afresh and decide whether to reapply without so much pressure.

Kleinzeit Fri 10-Oct-14 14:31:32

It's nice to hear your DS is making good progress, and well done him on his exam results! My DS is 16 with an ASC diagnosis he's bright so his school want him to head off to university (and so do we!) but it's really reassuring to hear that if he does get stressed out there are ways round.

Aprilissa Fri 10-Oct-14 18:11:57

Yes indeed...I have read this today with great interest and am delighted to hear the follow -up.I too have a ds with an ASD in secondary school.
So pleased it is all working out.I said this on another thread actually...kids like this need to be supported and have some of the pressures taken away if necessary.So what if it takes that bit longer?As long as they get there happily without having a nervous breakdown is the main thing smile

BirdintheWings Fri 10-Oct-14 19:15:43

Thank, and best wishes to both your boys!

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