‘Autism is worth a grade’

(93 Posts)
Extracurricularfatigue Wed 10-Jun-20 09:09:56

Sorry, this is a bit long.

DS is year 12 and has late diagnosed ASD (15) and ADHD (17). He is very bright to talk to and in his freestyle written ideas but wasn’t able to cope very well with the GCSE structures or revision so has a mixed bag of grades. He has continued to struggle at A level. He’s currently predicted 3Bs and we’re waiting to find out what his AS grades will be with no great optimism for much higher.

He has refused to engage at all with university courses until the last week or so, however hard we’ve tried, but has now finally got interested. He has decided he wants to study physics, with maybe computer science. This is a turnaround as until now he’s only ever wanted to do computing. He got a 7 for Physics GCSE.

Obviously none of these grades is bad in themselves, but he is refusing to accept reality. He wants to apply for universities like Durham and Imperial, which are looking for A*s and As. He won’t engage with the reality of things, and says a friend has told him ‘Autism is worth a grade’ in offers.

I understand that a good interview and reference together with his diagnosis might lead to a contextual offer which may be slighter lower than standard. But I really doubt he can bridge the gap to the extent required, and I’m so concerned he will end up putting enormous pressure on himself and failing to get in anywhere.

In my day back in the last century, physics courses went into clearing even at Russell Group because they were so undersubscribed. I don’t know if that’s still the case but I assume he would be fine in clearing regardless if it came to it - particularly if he did end up with 3 Bs. But it would be so much better for his mental health to apply for places he has a realistic chance of getting into, wouldn’t it?

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Nikhedonia Wed 10-Jun-20 09:13:33

Physics is a really challenging degree. Do you think he would put the effort required in?

Is he currently doing a physics a-level?

Divoc2020 Wed 10-Jun-20 09:17:13

A 7 in Physics at GCSE doesn't sound like it would track towards an A at A level to be honest.

There's no reason why he couldn't apply to a couple of aspirational universities like Durham and Imperial but then balance it out with universities wanting much lower grades. His friend is right to an extent - some universities make contextual offers up to two grades lower for students with a SpLD or SEN diagnosis (my son got one from Reading).

The universities are going to be really badly hit by drops in student numbers (this year) and also overseas students, so who knows what might happen by next year!

Looneytune253 Wed 10-Jun-20 09:20:35

@Divoc2020 a 7 is the equivalent of an A at gcse anyway isn't it. I know an 8is an a** * and 9 is a star star so that's my understanding anyway. Not sure how it converts for further education tho.

Divoc2020 Wed 10-Jun-20 09:23:52

I meant to say, however, it's more important for him to find a university course and environment where he would feel comfortable and not struggle with the workload.

I don't think Physics with computer science is a very common combination? Also he may find a joint degree more difficult from a structural/ organisational point of view (if this is an issue).

Extracurricularfatigue Wed 10-Jun-20 09:26:27

I am highly doubtful that he can get an A* although I suspect he might pull an A out of the bag. His interest in physics has really picked up in the last few weeks at home so going from a B to an A might not be out of the question if he sustains the work.

But that’s a BIG If. And he also has maths and computer science. He spends almost his whole time gaming and has done for years. Having him at home since March was our nightmare as his school has only done a handful of Zoom lessons in that time and none of his teachers has offered any real structure. He has managed to get As on tests, which is I think what is behind his thinking, but it’s in the context of reading 2/3 weeks worth of material in one go and doing the test immediately, which isn’t what will happen next May. He doesn’t take notes, and has never been able to revise at all.

At parents evening right before lockdown his teacher told him he was looking at a B or even C at his current rate.

My boyfriend at uni did physics. In both his first and second terms his tutor groups went from five to him alone as so many people dropped out!

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Divoc2020 Wed 10-Jun-20 09:28:00

A lot of sixth forms ask for a minimum of a 7 at GCSE in order for the student to take it for A level. Ours said if you got a 7 at GCSE you should be capable of getting at least a B at A level.


Extracurricularfatigue Wed 10-Jun-20 09:29:12

Divoc there do seem to be a few joint honours courses out there. But I have many, many reservations about all of it. The issue is that he tends to be an immovable rock once he has decided something, and before entering battle I wanted to ask you clever lot on here about the contextual offer thing so I can take an informed position!

From one extreme (wouldn’t talk about uni at all) to another is the story of our lives.

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Extracurricularfatigue Wed 10-Jun-20 09:31:44

some universities make contextual offers up to two grades lower for students

Was that across the board (all grades required) or just in the relevant subject? Presumably that’s for students they particularly want rather than a general approach? Does school make a difference? He’s at a state selective so won’t be ticking any other boxes.

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Tish008 Wed 10-Jun-20 09:32:09

I have a degree in physics, and you will fail unless you have the passion for it.

It is incredibly hard. If he wants to do it, which is great, he needs to knuckle down and really apply himself.

My year started with around 70 students, by the last semester in year 3, there were 12 of us.

You have to love it to succeed

Extracurricularfatigue Wed 10-Jun-20 09:35:00

I won’t be able to move him on subject. That’s a lost cause at this point, and I think to be honest whatever subject he chooses will challenge his motivation and organisation more than his intellect.

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Extracurricularfatigue Wed 10-Jun-20 09:36:17

I should say, those will be an issue wherever he goes. Obviously the lower the academic requirements, the more easily he will be able to meet them if he is struggling to get work done.

He has always been adamant he wants to do a PhD but we will very much cross that bridge when we come to it!

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YangShanPo Wed 10-Jun-20 09:36:32

The question is not so much would be get in, as if he didn't he could progress to clearing or have a rethink, but would he like the course and do well in it if he did get in.

Extracurricularfatigue Wed 10-Jun-20 09:41:07

Yes, I do get that. But he tends to take a black and white approach, unsurprisingly, so the grade requirements are the quantifiable issue right now I suppose. He has looked at course content to some extent but is not being realistic about his own challenges.

I think probably the issue is that when he was younger and revision/formal courses weren’t as much of a challenge, he got by on pure intellect and got a lot of very positive feedback from teachers. He saw himself as Oxbridge material, and although his GCSEs alone make that impossible as an undergraduate, he is, I think, unwilling to let go of his own ambitions and look at realistic course options. He won’t accept his school’s advice, and ours, to look at a spread of options.

My heart breaks for him when we’re not arguing with him!

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Extracurricularfatigue Wed 10-Jun-20 09:46:58

Literally as I posted, the school emailed their advice on UCAS applications. They are telling the parents:

They should use their AS predicted grades to help them make the right choices based on their grades. We recommend that students select one aspirational university, one ‘insurance’ and three at their predicted grades. For example, if a student is predicted 3 Bs they should select 1 aspirational university entry requirement at ABB, 3 at 3 Bs and one insurance choice at BBC/ BCC.

I think ABB is possibly not what I would call ‘aspirational’ for BBB prediction myself but I’m aware I have a very 90s perspective on all this!

I should add that his personal statement will have a couple of additional computer-related things he’s done at school but otherwise an echoing wasteland of extra-curricular. My username relates to his siblings.

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Alarae Wed 10-Jun-20 09:50:33

Perhaps change tack and say regardless of what his friend told him, he should be attempting to achieve the grades on his own to prove to himself he can (and not defining himself by his autism- not meant in a bad way) as the course itself will not be made any easier for him than anyone else.

You could also mention that there are likely to be more people fighting for fewer places next year due to the pandemic and people this year opting to defer, so he really should be trying to put himself in the best light possible with the best grades.

Divoc2020 Wed 10-Jun-20 09:54:35

@Extracurricularfatigue Have a look here - it is across the whole offer e.g. ABB becomes BBC

It varies by university - you will need to search contextual offers for each to see what their policy is. It seems to me that the top tier universities only offer contextual offers for socio-economic disadvantage, not disability.

In contrast, although Loughborough mentions disability contextual offers they gave DS the standard offer (to be fair though, his predicted grades were already higher).

Divoc2020 Wed 10-Jun-20 10:14:05

Computer science is one of the areas where there is lots students can still do this summer to add to their UCAS forms! I've stolen this from a post in The Student Room where it was being discussed: www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=6531484&p=89127442#post89127442

Microsoft Visual Studio - Community version is free to download and it's an IDE that can be used for a wide range of programming languages, including Python, VB.NET and C#.
W3Schools - Tutorials for HTML, CSS, Javascript, SQL, C#, C++, Python and more.
MIT - App Inventor. A website that helps you to develop your own app.
Raspberry Pi Foundation (FutureLearn) - Getting Started With Your Raspberry Pi
Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (FutureLearn) - Debugging and Defensive Programming
University of Sheffield (FutureLearn) - Building a Future with Robots
Lancaster University and the Institute of Coding (FutureLearn) - Introduction to Physical Computing
University of Leeds (FutureLearn) - MedTech: AI and Medical Robots
Coventry University and the Institute of Coding (FutureLearn) - Introduction to Cryptography
Coventry University and the Institute of Coding (FutureLearn) - Basics of Network Security
Coventry University (FutureLearn) - The Cyber Security Landscape
University of Edinburgh (FutureLearn) - Supercomputing
Abertay University (FutureLearn) - Video Game Design and Development: Introduction to Game Programming
University of Reading (FutureLearn) - Begin Robotics
Keio University (FutureLearn) - Understanding Quantum Computers
University of Dundee (FutureLearn) - Data Science in the Games Industry

Extracurricularfatigue Wed 10-Jun-20 10:21:58

Thanks for both posts, Divoc. I can share that list with him and see if anything comes of it. His existing non-school stuff is around coding but part of his swivel to physics is deciding that he doesn’t really enjoy programming which is an actual sensible conclusion but does leave him even less able to access non-curricular stuff!

I will have a good look at contextual offers but I fear he has locked himself into those top tier unis mentally. When he was talking computer science I found some great looking courses for BBB that looked like they’d suit him very well, and he refused to engage and said he wanted to go to Manchester (AAA). The Physics grades are now even higher...

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PeppaisaBitch Wed 10-Jun-20 10:23:29

I would steer him away. If he isn't getting the grades at a-level he isn't going to cope any better at degree level diagnosis or not. He'd
Be better looking at the university's which are best able to support his autism. Do as much research as you can.

SpockPaperScissorsLizardRock Wed 10-Jun-20 10:31:11

Would he consider Electronic Engineering?

I wanted to do Physics at that age but switched decided on an the above as it was the part of physics I enjoyed the most and at the time the job prospects were much better.

Also the percentage of autistic students on the course is enormous, me included!

Extracurricularfatigue Wed 10-Jun-20 10:36:05

He can’t easily be steered. I probably can’t convey in MN posts exactly how difficult it is. If there is something behind the contextual offers I can at least find out what some of the places he’s looking at MIGHT offer and at least see if we can point him in that direction.

Obviously the reality of doing the work once he’s there is huge, but at the moment any attempt to address either the work needed for A level or a degree is met with accusations that we have a low opinion of him and gets us nowhere.

Basically I think we want to get to the outcome of him ending up at a university that he can cope at as painlessly as possible. Ideally it would be by applying for one and making his offer, but I suspect we are heading for clearing via a lot of stress and panic.

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Ironoaks Wed 10-Jun-20 10:38:31

DS applied to five Russell Group universities for physics this year. He has ASD and ADHD. He got five offers but all of them were the typical offer; none of them gave him a lower offer.

There is a section of the UCAS form where applicants can declare disabilities and specific learning difficulties, but I don't think this part is visible to the admissions teams at the universities.

It's wise to apply to universities which will give a range of offers (DS's offers ranged from A*A*A down to AAA/AABC) so perhaps you could use this as the start of a conversation about what level to aim at.

Most places will ask for A in Maths and Physics, but if they aren't able to fill their places on results day then they drop the requirements. E.g. Bath makes an offer of A*AA for Physics but last summer the course was in Clearing requiring BBB.

Extracurricularfatigue Wed 10-Jun-20 10:42:18

Spock I will suggest! Sounds potentially very him.

The most motivated and, basically, happy he’s been since the start of GCSEs was work experience on a service help desk doing computer support. My attempts to suggest that a degree with a high level of practical application rather than pure academics have fallen entirely on hard ground.

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Extracurricularfatigue Wed 10-Jun-20 10:45:13

Thanks, Ironoaks. That’s helpful to know, re offers and clearing.

Am I right in thinking that if a student significantly exceeds their predictions, they can also look at clearing, even with a firm offer? If he thought he could theoretically ‘upgrade’ that might help him take a more sensible approach initially.

I’m also wondering what sort of reference the school will write if he’s applying to universities they think are well outside his range!

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