Author Topic: S/O Aspergers - autistic student - UPDATE: I give up  (Read 28587 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

shadowfox79

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2864
S/O Aspergers - autistic student - UPDATE: I give up
« on: September 11, 2011, 05:49:53 AM »
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?
« Last Edit: February 25, 2012, 04:31:22 AM by shadowfox79 »

Hollanda

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2675
  • Believe in yourself.
Re: S/O Aspergers - autistic student
« Reply #1 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. 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!
Knowledge is knowing tomato is a fruit.
Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.


Steve

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 902
Re: S/O Aspergers - autistic student
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2011, 06:36:36 AM »
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

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 12682
Re: S/O Aspergers - autistic student
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2011, 07:32:14 AM »
I wouldnt do anything extra for him except find the right person to communicate with about his progress.
Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning. - Maya Angelou

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. - Maya Angelou

shadowfox79

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2864
Re: S/O Aspergers - autistic student
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2011, 07:49:14 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.

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.

Knitterly

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1566
    • That other knitting blog
Re: S/O Aspergers - autistic student
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2011, 01:29:03 PM »
It is not your responsibility to babysit one student, no matter what their disability is. 

I would ensure that he is properly referred to the Disability Services department and ensure that contact has been established.  Disability Services will ensure that his needs are met and that proper accomodations are made for him.

Beyond that, it is inappropriate for anyone to expect you to take on the additional work of ensuring one particular student succeeds.  It is not in your job description and you are not appropriately trained to do so.  I think expecting you to constantly lean over his shoulder is unreasonable.  You have, I presume, plenty of other students who also require your attention. 

shadowfox79

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2864
Re: S/O Aspergers - autistic student
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2011, 02:06:58 PM »
Knitterly - yes, I do. The reason everyone is so earnest about this student is his family. With a mother on the Board and a brother who is both a lawyer and a nasty piece of work (I wasn't present for the meetings with the Dean, but my course leader was, and he was threatening lawsuits the whole time) everybody is terrified this student will crash and burn and we'll all be held responsible.

Disability Support are aware of him, so hopefully they will take the brunt of the work.

Onyx_TKD

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1380
Re: S/O Aspergers - autistic student
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2011, 02:50:57 PM »
I have no experience dealing with autism, so take this with a grain of salt, but this is an idea I'd consider.

From what I've heard, people with Aspergers or Autism tend to be very rule-oriented. Maybe Nazir and his family should receive packets spelling out how to get in touch with Disability services for various issues, so that he knows exactly what the "rules" are for how to deal with a problem:
E.g. At the beginning of the semester, talk to this PersonsName at [contact info]; they will make sure that you have access to your class schedules, have your books, and answer any other questions you have. If you need special accommodations for a class or exam, call [Phone#] or go to [Office]. For advice on time management, contact [Office]. If you need help with something else, go to [Office] and they will figure out who can help you.

Make sure you have a record that Nazir, his mother, and his brother have all received this information and know that if he needs help, he needs to contact Disability Services ASAP using the contact information he was given. Emphasize that you want to make sure he gets the help he needs, but they cannot help him if he doesn't contact them about the problem. Then, if the mother and brother throw a fit about him not getting help, the first question to ask will be "Did he contact Disability Services?...No? Well, let's get in touch with them and see what they can do. Do you need another packet with the contact information? Remember, it's very important that you contact them when Nazir needs help; the sooner they can help him, the less it will disrupt his learning."

LadyL

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2877
Re: S/O Aspergers - autistic student
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2011, 05:15:53 PM »
I used to tutor students via Disability Services at my college. Definitely arrange a contract for him to sign agreeing to a minimum # of tutoring hours/other assistance before the start of the semester. Then lawyerzilla will have no one to blame at the school if his brother continues to no show.

Balletmom

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 6850
Re: S/O Aspergers - autistic student
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2011, 06:29:04 PM »
I used to tutor students via Disability Services at my college. Definitely arrange a contract for him to sign agreeing to a minimum # of tutoring hours/other assistance before the start of the semester. Then lawyerzilla will have no one to blame at the school if his brother continues to no show.

This, exactly. Spell out in writing what Nazir is expected to do, and the level of responsibility that is required of him. Have the person(s) in charge of overseeing this, email the family with weekly updates. Get the family to sign on to what Nazir is expected to do as well, and what will not be done by the University.

The key word here is "ownership." Nazir needs to take "ownership" of his scholastic responsibilities. I've found that a magic phrase in dealing with people like this.

Good luck. Document everything!

blarg314

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 8504
Re: S/O Aspergers - autistic student
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2011, 08:55:15 PM »

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.


Ooh, this is a *graduate* program?  And he can't figure out when his classes are without someone to personally escort him?

I think it's a good idea to cover your bases and be as helpful as possible. That way when he does crash and burn (which I can pretty much guarantee will happen) at least you won't be blamed.  In classes, have a printed sheet with the assignments/expected reading listed on them, and the date and time of the next class, and give to him personally.   Document *everything*, and all communications. Don't be afraid to go to higher ups if you find yourself being threatened or bullied by the family.

I have a suspicion that he did his undergrad with serious help from home - a family member to take him to his classes every day, and tell him to do his homework, and when to study. I also suspect that if you talk to his undergraduate professors and admin, you'd find the same pattern - bullying and threatening of lawsuits until they gave in and spoon fed him his degree.


SPuck

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 985
Re: S/O Aspergers - autistic student
« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2011, 09:41:09 PM »
Autism or Asperger's syndrome ultimately comes down to the individual and if they can handle there own problems. As an individual with high functioning Asperger's syndrome I can handle an educational setting. I attend a support group where there are people who could not handle an education, but at the same time they also admit to it. The school is doing him disservice by putting him in a "normal" school setting when he clearly can't handle it.

Erich L-ster

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 667
Re: S/O Aspergers - autistic student
« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2011, 10:18:13 PM »
Is there a counseling department that could do these services for him? It really seems that would fall more under their heading than yours.

azteach3821

  • Jr. Member
  • *
  • Posts: 4
Re: S/O Aspergers - autistic student
« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2011, 10:34:33 PM »
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.

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.

As a PhD candidate myself, and auntie to three aspie/autistic sweeties, I wonder how much of his undergrad degree he actually completed on his own. Just playing devil's advocate,  but it's conceivable that his overinvolved family gave him a great deal of "assistance" in writing papers, homework, etc.  Tests could have posed a problem, but I know at my university there are extensive disability services which include testing modification. 

JoyinVirginia

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 6071
Re: S/O Aspergers - autistic student
« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2011, 10:57:41 PM »
So how many months was this student not attending classes or doing work before his family notices? That would be my question to the family. I agree with other posters who recommend careful documentation of every communication with the student and family. Document recommendations and referrals to counseling or assistance services. It is up to the student to take advantage of the services or not.