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Wanting advice on Asperger's and University Applications please

(27 Posts)
pannetone Sat 22-Jan-11 20:57:51

My DS has a diagnosis of Asperger's and will be applying to university this autumn. I wanted to know how others have coped with the application process and the question of disclosure. I think I would need to disclose for DS as he will require at least mentoring type support.

DS also has diagnosis of 'severe anxiety disorder' and takes medication. He gets rest breaks and extra time concessions in exams. Will universities make any concessions for him in terms of the grades for a conditional offer? Or are the exam concessions he already has deemed to make it a 'level playing field'?

Any advice/experiences appreciated thanks.

IndigoBell Sun 23-Jan-11 07:52:55

Post this on the SN childrens board and I think you'll get more replies.

Solo2 Sun 23-Jan-11 10:12:56

Pannetone, I don't know the answers to your specific questions but anecdoatlly, i do know of someone who has a DS with Asperger's who has had great support at uni - I think it's at Leicester, although I'm not 100% certain of this and I think they're supposed to have a great support system for people with Aspgerger's - from emotional/ psychological support to soecial concessions re. accomocation and of course, as they're deemd students with disabilities, financial help too.

The impression I get is that there are SOME Unis - but not all who are better with this than others. So in your position, I'd be researching which unis fit this category, as some may pay lip service to support but not really have things in place to help.

I'm not sure about your other questions but surely there must be some cetral 'body' that could help with this? Good luck.

BoffinMum Sun 23-Jan-11 10:17:56

Cambridge is excellent at this. There are a significant number of staff and students with ASD. They also have a special access scheme. I would give them a ring.

pannetone Sun 23-Jan-11 14:24:11

Indigo - I did post this on the Special Needs Pre teens and teens board first - but after a day with no replies moved it here. Now have several replies here and one in SN!

Solo2 - I've been surprised that there seems to be little guidance from the unis. It is clear that they are aware they cannot discriminate - but there is not much specifically to say how they will make adjustments especially for those with mental health issues. Maybe I need to find a website with lots of aspie students to get at least some anecdotal experiences.

BoffinMum - Would love Cambridge for DS2! DS1 in first year there and I can see how the collegiate system would suit DS2. He is also almost certainly as talented as his brother, but anxiety is affecting his studies and exam grades. And I'm sure the pressure of a conditional offer of A* A A (which DS1 had) wouldn't help his levels of anxiety! You have motivated me to ring Cambridge and find out more.

BoffinMum Sun 23-Jan-11 16:56:46

Offers on Special Access scheme can be as low as ABB if circumstances warrant this, depending on which course you choose.

arentfanny Sun 23-Jan-11 16:58:55

I hvae friends whose daughter is applying to uni. In every one they have seen they have taken the time to investigate the help and support that is available and have been very pleased. Might be worth contacting the student support team for the univeristies he is applying for to see what help is available.

Good luck.

lazymumofteenagesons Sun 23-Jan-11 18:54:42

I have a friend whose son was diagnosed with aspergers and went from a boarding school to Durham university. I believe that the support at Durham was very good and someone kept a close eye on him especially to help with organisational problems. I think the fact that it is a collegiate university (like cambridge) helped as the smaller college atmosphere where everyone knows each other is easier.

ancientandmodern Sun 23-Jan-11 19:01:45

I second the suggestion that you contact the universities he's interested in and check out their support. They will have a disability services unit and if you go to any of the open days in May/June you will find they have a prominent stall with information available. I went to a couple with my DS who has physical disabilities including York and thought that there was at least as much, if not more, emphasis on supporting students with mental health or other learning issues as on physical problems.

pannetone Sun 23-Jan-11 22:39:47

Thanks for all the advice. At this stage so much is an unknown. DS isn't yet sure what precise subject he wants to study - so rather a lot of unis still in the balance. I was hoping to steer him towards an Asperger friendly one! In reality that may mean a local one, so he can live at home if independent living doesn't work out.

Also I need to know if unis will adjust their offers to take account of his difficulties - some of the specialised courses he's thinking about require very high grades. He won't cope with the added pressure of a high grade conditional offer.

BlackandGold Sun 23-Jan-11 22:44:51

Don't forget he will be entitled to Disabled Students Allowance if he has Aspergers.

This is extra support for him at uni and is paid from a central government fund.

You need to apply to Student Finance England for this and it can take up to 3 months so please apply in plenty of time

I believe there is further info on www.direct.gov.uk

bundybear Fri 11-Feb-11 18:16:10

Hi there, I know I'm really late in replying to this, but I wondered if I might be able to help. I am a Disability Coordinator with specific (and sole) responsibility for students with autism spectrum conditions at a major Russell Group uni. I support students with ASCs throughout their university careers, from pre-application, application, transition, undergrad and postgrad.

The issue of disclosure is always a sensitive one, but I would always encourage a person with an ASC to disclose on their UCAS form. This is because the University is then required to make reasonable adjustments to the admissions process for that student, if required. This will depend on the admissions process for that course at that uni, but might include alternatives to interviews etc. This may also include lowering the offer requirement, in some cases. We start working with students at the point of disclosure, regardless of whether they actually come to our university.

Some students choose not to disclose at the Admissions stage, in which case it's really important to disclose as soon as they have achieved their offer - perhaps between A-Levels and starting at uni. Some universities offer transition support (I do this with student) which is a way of supporting the move from school education to uni. Things like early induction, talking to the academic department in advance, arranging orientation sessions, sorting out accommodation in advance etc. It usually makes for a much, much smoother start to uni. Support for students with ASCs needs to be in place from day one, or you risk the first term going wrong, which can in turn lead to the first year being more difficult than it needs to be.

Universities are required to make reasonable adjustments, as I said above, and this relates to all aspects of a student's academic study, their accommodation, their access to all facilities etc. But unis can't do this unless they know about a student's ASC.

The adjustments we make are totally individual to each student, so I could spend all day writing a list. I can give you more details on these if you would like them. When looking at universities, you might like to ask them the following:

Do they follow the NADP Template for supporting students with autism spectrum conditions?
Do they offering mentoring? (a key type of support for students with ASCs)
Do they offer strategy support?
Do they have a named disability coordinator for students with ASCs?
Do they do transition work (school to uni, and uni to employment)?
Are people in Halls trained in supporting people with ASCs?
Is their flexibility with accommodation, such as staying in the same Halls all the way through university, if that's appropriate?
Do they work with the NAS?

Your son will need to apply for Disabled Students Allowances in order to claim funding for much of the support offered at uni. This requires filling in a form, then having an Assessment of Need (pref at an Assessment Centre based at the uni he is attending)which identifies the support required. Ideally, this should be done before the student comes to uni, so support is in place from day one. Freshers Week is almost the most difficult week of a student's entire university career, so additional support is needed at this time - no good if the support isn't even in place. Most Unis should be able to advise on the DSA application process.

Have you seen this website: http://www.users.dircon.co.uk/~cns/
It might answer some of your son's questions.

HTH, happy to give you more info offline.

LaydeeC Fri 11-Feb-11 22:18:03

^^oh wow, bundybear.
That is a fantastic post. I have a younger son with AS and it is our, his and his school's intention that he progresses to uni. Although he is only Yr8, I have already started thinking about AS friendly unis. It is good to know that there is support out there as everything up to now has been a battle.
Just out of interest, why do you call it ASC rather than ASD?
Sorry, OP, not meaning to hijack

bundybear Sat 12-Feb-11 08:39:10

Hi LaydeeC, I wish your son all the best with his future plans - parents do face a real battle through school, and it would be wrong to say that that battle stops when their child enters uni. But, provided their child pick a good uni then there is plenty of support there. It will still be hard for them, as navigating university is such a monumental challenge, and there are often hiccups along the way, but the point is that the support is there to get through those hiccups. I have supported students through from undergrad to PhD and the most rewarding aspect of my job is watching individuals develop and achieve, even if those achievements might be different to what a neurotypical student might expect.

Understanding autism is still relatively new at university level. Many do not yet have specific, tailored support for students with Aspergers, and may lump them in with mental health conditions, or specific learning difficulties...but the trend is turning towards specific support, and academics are gaining more insight into the fact that students that might previously been called 'bright but eccentric' do require specific support, but give back a great deal to their academic departments, and are hugely committed and engaged students.

Re the ASC, that's a best practice thing we do in our Disability Team, where we try to move away from using the word 'disorder' in favour of condition, which obviously has less negative connotations. So although the medical diagnosis still uses 'disorder', we choose not to (unless that's what the student prefers).

Good luck to your son, remember to give uni's a grilling about their specific support - you'll soon spot the ones that do it well, and the ones who don't have a clue wink

LondonMother Sat 12-Feb-11 14:35:54

My daughter has Asperger's and has just applied to university (post A level, grades low for the course she has applied for, disability declared in the equal opps section and mentioned in personal statement and school reference). Results so far:

UCL - no (she applied for 2 courses there).
KCL - haven't heard yet but probably no.
Royal Holloway - interview.
Reading - unconditional offer.

She's also applied to Birkbeck to study part-time.

It's not at all clear to what extent the disability was considered in her application, but her grades are so far below UCL's standard offer for the courses she applied for (she got BBC and they are looking for AAB) that I'm really not surprised that they weren't prepared to take her. Their loss!

BTW, you say 'I would need to disclose for DS' - I know it's difficult with an AS child to do this, but you do need to grasp that it's your offspring that's applying, not you! You as a parent will have no rights in the process at all unless your child chooses to authorise you to deal with UCAS on his/her behalf. Once they're at university you will have no right to information at all.

LaydeeC Sat 12-Feb-11 23:19:51

Bundybear
Thank you (sorry for hijacking slightly OP)your posts have been hugely informative. Thanks for clearing up the ASC/ASD for me.
Yes, a real battle for any meaningful provision but we have fought hard already and he is in a residential setting for AS boys (not ideal for us as parents but the least worst environment for him iyswim). He is academically very able (particularly in maths) but we have had to accept that he probably won't achieve highly (in the GCSE sense) although we are hoping that the gains socially will be a price worth paying.
It is heartening to hear that there are unis out there that would be willing to support him (if he does end up at uni - and I hope he will).
Thank you again.

bundybear Mon 14-Feb-11 08:26:40

@LondonMother

Just wanted to add something about the applications process...

Universities are legally not 'allowed' to take into account an applicant's disclosed disability at the application stage. By which I mean they can't use that information to decide not to offer a place - they can only make decisions on offers based purely on their own published and documented academic admissions criteria. Of course, that isn't to say that there aren't some Admissions Tutors sat there working hard to find some academic reason to justify why they won't offer a place to a disabled applicant, because they have it in their heads that a disabled student will be difficult/disruptive/expensive/not worth the effort etc. This view is changing, slowly, and of course you'll never ever get any admissions tutor to admit to it, but I know it does happen.

What Admissions staff can do with the disability information is to look at their admissions procedure and see if it should be adjusted accordingly. This can include lowering offers, although that often involves a tricky argument to do with lowering academic standards, disadvantaging those who have not disclosed etc, and comes back to effectively changing their academic criteria for a course. So it doesn't usually happen at the offer stage (unless a student is part of a separate widening participation admissions scheme, which several universities have). What can happen is that a university may make an offer based on their required grades, but if a disabled applicant does not achieve those grades, they may make accept the student anyway if they feel the student didn't make the grades for a reason related to their disability.

Oh, and regarding parental contact once a student is at university - at my uni this can happen in some cases, but only where the student has given prior consent, and the student will always be privy to any discussions held with a parent. We recognise that it is sometimes in the student's best interests to have some level of parental contact, if the student wants that (and many do). It always has to come from the student though, not from the parent. We then work on reducing contact, and developing self-advocacy skills etc whilst they are at uni. So there is no parental right to information at uni level, but that doesn't mean to say that there isn't ever any parental contact. All unis have their own policies and working practices though.

LondonMother Mon 14-Feb-11 10:08:40

Thanks, Bundybear, really useful! Your university seems to have the balance about right. Lucky students!

Abbreviation Mon 09-May-11 19:40:43

Hi all, I'm new to mumsnet. I have spent a lot of time reading various threads on the site and I'm hooked! my ds is currently in yr 12 he has Aspergers and dyspraxia. We are looking at unis and arranging visits, although quite tricky as he doesn't know what he wants to study yet (or if in fact he actually wants to go!). We are putting no pressure on him and will let him decide but its a real 'biggy' for him. One of his main problems at the moment is that they are talking about their personal statements. This fills him with horror as he feels he will have nothing to put on it apart from his academic achievements. He has never taken part in any extracurricular activities, in fact has nothing to do with school life apart from lessons. He has never belonged to any clubs and doesn't have any part time job. Then again I suppose this is not unusual for somebody with Aspergers. How he is going to compete on his personal statement with all of the wonderful examples we have read together I don't know! One of his LSAs has posted on Tes for advice but has got nothing back yet. Ds is brutally honest and will certainly not 'exaggerate' his good points.

goinggetstough Mon 09-May-11 21:27:55

Don't worry school references cover these issues. Plus depending on the university many are concerned about the interest in the subject the DC is applying for. So your DS could write about books he has read about the subject etc My DD was told 70:30 academic to extracurricula but reading the papers I think this is maybe 80:20 now.
Good luck.

LondonMother Tue 10-May-11 13:47:09

Update on our situation. Further to post above, Royal Holloway interviewed my daughter and then turned her down, but fortunately in the mean time she had an interview at Birkbeck and came out absolutely glowing! The Admissions Tutor had almost immediately started talking about what they could do to help her, e.g. arranging for extra time in exams, seeking permission to vary the form of assessment here and there. She has decided to go there rather than Reading. This means studying part-time over four years and living at home. On all sorts of levels I am delighted. Fingers crossed now!

Idratherbemuckingout Fri 13-May-11 11:33:06

Hi,my DS2 has asperger's. He is 22 now and just finishing his 3rd year at University of Kent, Canterbury. He didn't get great grades at A level so we went in through the Clearing House (bit of a nightmare) and he ended up doing a Foundation Course first, so still has one year of his degree in Physics to go.
He could have support, but chooses not to. His joke about it is that a room full of aspies would be a very quiet room.
He has asked for no academic advantages - he says he doesn't need extra time etc and has no disabled allowance paid to him because he says he doesn't need extra things.
He has a friend who gets it for Dyslexia.
However, he really couldn't cope with living in a shared student house, so I have been able to get him onsite student accommodation for all but his second year and in the first year, a much sought after parking permit as he would find public transport unsupportable.
That has been very useful to him.
He copes well with uni, does well, works hard and even has a part time job in a supermarket now.
Uni has made him blossom, although he hardly ever goes out, preferring to sit in his room and work at whatever is obsessing him at the time.
There is a good support network in place, but he declares he doesn't need it.
Typically aspie really.
I find he does not like anyone interfering with him and prefers to remain private, quite happily.

Luckypasta Thu 26-May-11 02:49:25

Hi, I'm a newbie! My DS has aspergers and will be going to uni in September 2012, so like you, Abbreviation, I'm also worried about applying, personal statement, etc. DS never joined any clubs at school but he's been doing a lot of weekend activities at museums and galleries (eg. V&A and NPG in London both offer lots of teenage classes in digital/computer arts). So he'll be putting all this in his personal statement. My question is, while he'll be disclosing his aspergers in his UCAS application form, should he also mention this in his personal statement?

Parietal Thu 26-May-11 03:02:28

Re personal statements - I have a minor admissions role at a Russell gp uni.

Grades at gcse and predictions are much more important to us than personal statement. If you don't do clubs / extra curriculars, you can talk about books you have read. And why you want to study this course. We like to see that students are enthusiastic and have some knowledge of what they are signed up for.

If students discuss a disability or hardship they have overcome, that is fine but they don't have to if they don't want to.

Luckypasta Thu 26-May-11 21:32:42

Hi, Parietal, I note you've said that admission tutors also look at GCSE grades. How important are they? I wonder if my son's GCSE grades are good enough for Imperial College then. They're asking for A*AA for Computer Science. He's doing very well at A Level now and should achieve those grades as finally he can concentrate on what he's good at (Maths, Further Maths & Computing). However, at GCSE, he struggled with the coursework as most of it required lots of essay writing (e.g. Science in the News!) and his marks have been seriously affected by this and so only got A*AABBBBBCCC. Will Imperial take into account his condition and look upon his GCSE grades more leniently?

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