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S/O Aspergers - autistic student - UPDATE: I give up

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shadowfox79:
I am a course admin for several postgraduate courses in a university. Last September a student, who I will call "Nazir", joined one of my courses. He failed to attend a lot of his lectures in semester one, missed all his exams and coursework hand-ins, and in semester two disappeared completely. This is not uncommon with international students, so the fact that we couldn't get hold of him by email or phone was no surprise.

However, halfway through semester two (around March of this year) he appeared with his older brother, who said Nazir was having problems with his timetable. By this point it was far too late for him to start attending, and I went outside (they were waiting in our seating area) to deal with them both.

From the moment I met them I had a good idea of what had happened. The older brother, "Tariq", was a lawyer and Ph.D, and extremely articulate. Nazir, on the other hand, was staring at the floor and refused to speak to me. It was explained that he was both autistic and dyslexic, and it became clear that he was not especially high-functioning - at one point his brother asked him why he hadn't attended his exams, and the response was "Uh, they gave me some books..." He had been unable to manage his online timetable, which meant his semester one classes had not shown up properly and he hadn't been able to bring up his semester two classes at all; similarly he had been unable to understand the student online portal so had not found the listings with deadlines and exam dates. He also couldn't work his student email or the voicemail on his phone.

The conversation didn't go well. The older brother was obviously looking for someone to blame and I suspect was also projecting his feelings onto me and getting angry that I didn't share them - "So you just left him to it? You just abandoned him?" I did try to explain that we have plenty of support for students but it has to be asked for and that postgraduate students don't receive the same level of immediate care as undergrads as they tend to be older, at which point he accused me of insensitivity to his embarrassment. In the end my manager sorted it out and the issue was referred to the Dean.

Nazir will be returning this year to start again with a clean slate, having had his fees from last year wiped. This is not something we normally do, but his mother is on the Board of Directors and his brother is, as I said, a lawyer. The course leader and the older brother have agreed a contract with Disability Support which essentially means Nazir will be shepherded from room to room to ensure he attends all his classes.

Is there anything extra I should do on his return to make things easier for him and to ensure we don't have a repeat of last year, either with him or with his brother?

Hollanda:
It sounds as though Nazir needs an awful lot of help and support in life, and it does make me question whether University is an appropriate setting for him. As a high-functioning Aspie myself, I can understand his desire to fit in with other people and do what "normal" (I hate that word) people do, but some things are just out of one's reach. As much as I would have loved to have gone to Uni with my friends, I can see now that it would have been a bad idea at the time since I had so many issues adjusting to college. 

Is there a Student Support system available to assist Nazir? OP, you sound compassionate and willing to help in any way you can, but unfortunately, unless someone is willing to work 1:1 with him every single day of every single semester, I cannot see how he can receive the level of support he seems to need. :(

Please keep us updated on this!

Steve:
Hi Shadowfox,

It probably is not your responsibility to solve the issues, but you could just keep your eyes open and let the people that do help him out know if there is something going on. Any difference you can make for him will probably have a profound impact.
It sounds like an excellent opportunity to 'do good' in a meaningfull way. I would suggest you be pro-active and ask him and his counsellors if there is anything you can do for him though, they would know better than we do.

ShadesOfGrey:
I wouldnt do anything extra for him except find the right person to communicate with about his progress.

shadowfox79:

--- Quote from: Hollanda on September 11, 2011, 06:04:13 AM ---It sounds as though Nazir needs an awful lot of help and support in life, and it does make me question whether University is an appropriate setting for him.
--- End quote ---

He apparently managed to complete a bachelor's degree (while living at home), so I'm guessing his family thought he could cope just as easily with a masters. However, postgraduate students are expected to be much more independent, which he wasn't prepared for.

We have a lot of support available, both from Disability Support and the Student Union. Unfortunately I'm worried there won't be a great deal else I can do. I can keep in contact with his various support staff but my primary mode of contact with students is by email and phone - if he hasn't managed to get the hang of his email yet then he could be floundering and I'd never know.

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