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Autism Struggles in Sixth form - Should I drop out?

I’m currently in sixth form and honestly am thinking of dropping out. Last year i quit half way through year 12, to change my A-levels and start fresh this year. Honestly I’m starting to think that academics just aren’t working well for me. For context I take Maths, Music Tech and Media. I tend to do fine in lessons, or at least get by. I struggle with reading a lot, and my GCSE English grades were poor. When it comes to coursework and revision in my own time, I’m perfectly fine and doing well, but as soon as it comes to formal testing I just can’t do it. Most of my teacher are assuming it’s lack of motivation or that I just don’t care, but i don’t know how to explain that I’m trying my best but getting pen to paper, processing all the information in a timed environment and the general atmosphere of testing is extremely difficult, especially as my college refuses to give accommodations for anything apart from final A-level exams. So when it comes to my first year mocks in a couple months, I won’t be given my necessary accommodations.

I don’t know, I’m just trying to figure out whether I should leave or not. I already have a job and would be able to switch from part-time to full-time very easily, whilst i look out for an apprenticeship in my desired field. I just feel that the things i’m being told to improve on to get through college, are actually just big parts of my autism that aren’t going to just “get better” and people are forgetting autism is a disability not a list if quirky traits i can ignore.

Some extra context
I am 18 so can legally leave college
I’m worried about the reaction from my family, seeing as i quit last year and went back to try again, i feel like i’ve already wasted a lot of time, so should i just stick through it and accept that the final grades aren’t going to be what anyone hoped
the difficulty with schedule and it no longer being 9-4 every day so not being able to follow routine (which is super important to me and my ability to function day to day)
I don’t have friends in college due to the restart, my friends are all from work or sports
I’m much more of a creative than an academic, i’m good at maths, but anything written work and essays, understanding and analysis just isn’t for me
my attendance is already pretty low (around 65%) but my ability to go in every day is just getting worse

if anyone here has any advice on getting through college it would be appreciated. I’d definitely like to have 3 a-levels at least to fall back on, but it’s just not looking likely i can stick this through with the current circumstances
(edited 3 months ago)
Reply 1
Hi think carefully about dropping out unless you can find something better to go to. I would share your concerns in an email to the Head of Sixth Form, Head of Pastoral, or your tutor (preferablly all 3!) identifying some of the struggles you are having and asking for additional help from the teachers or SEN department. Keep it factual and emphasize that you want to attend more regularly and improve your grades. Also if you get your needs identified by the SEN team you can get ‘access arrangements’ which may be extra time in exams, a quiet room or a computer. Another suggestion might be to ask for a mentor, this could perhaps be a Year 13 student or a separate staff member. Don’t let them fob you off. In your email make sure you tell them that your low attendance is due to difficulties due to your autism. Schools are expected to support students and help those with disabilities as well as reduced attendance. Good luck and keep advocating for yourself - you are entitled to extra help and the school are failing YOU not the other way around.
(edited 3 months ago)
Reply 2
Original post by iamveryconfused
I’m currently in sixth form and honestly am thinking of dropping out. Last year i quit half way through year 12, to change my A-levels and start fresh this year. Honestly I’m starting to think that academics just aren’t working well for me. For context I take Maths, Music Tech and Media. I tend to do fine in lessons, or at least get by. I struggle with reading a lot, and my GCSE English grades were poor. When it comes to coursework and revision in my own time, I’m perfectly fine and doing well, but as soon as it comes to formal testing I just can’t do it. Most of my teacher are assuming it’s lack of motivation or that I just don’t care, but i don’t know how to explain that I’m trying my best but getting pen to paper, processing all the information in a timed environment and the general atmosphere of testing is extremely difficult, especially as my college refuses to give accommodations for anything apart from final A-level exams. So when it comes to my first year mocks in a couple months, I won’t be given my necessary accommodations.

I don’t know, I’m just trying to figure out whether I should leave or not. I already have a job and would be able to switch from part-time to full-time very easily, whilst i look out for an apprenticeship in my desired field. I just feel that the things i’m being told to improve on to get through college, are actually just big parts of my autism that aren’t going to just “get better” and people are forgetting autism is a disability not a list if quirky traits i can ignore.

Some extra context
I am 18 so can legally leave college
I’m worried about the reaction from my family, seeing as i quit last year and went back to try again, i feel like i’ve already wasted a lot of time, so should i just stick through it and accept that the final grades aren’t going to be what anyone hoped
the difficulty with schedule and it no longer being 9-4 every day so not being able to follow routine (which is super important to me and my ability to function day to day)
I don’t have friends in college due to the restart, my friends are all from work or sports
I’m much more of a creative than an academic, i’m good at maths, but anything written work and essays, understanding and analysis just isn’t for me
my attendance is already pretty low (around 65%) but my ability to go in every day is just getting worse

if anyone here has any advice on getting through college it would be appreciated. I’d definitely like to have 3 a-levels at least to fall back on, but it’s just not looking likely i can stick this through with the current circumstances
Im going through something similar, im in second year at a huge collage (about 3000 students) its immensely stressful and i cannot stand it any more, im so sick of it. last year was very long and i struggled with the big change for a really long time, the busses, the people, the work, it was so hard to adjust. i didn't feel comfortable around the people and was quite lonley, i ended up switching from drama to politics six weeks in, so i do film studies, politics and dance. i immediately feel behind particularly in politics and felt extremely anxious about going into the classrooms and being in them. i liked dance as it was in a dance studio. i am also neurodivergent and am waiting for a proper diagnosis. i managed to make it to the end of first year but it just left me so burntout and in a state of overwhelm, i worked a lot over summer and have horses so i was really busy so i didnt really rest much. since coming back for second year my mental health has really declined, im severely anxious all day every day and have panic attacks at least twice a day. im so behind and my attendance is very low now. im seriously considering leaving and i know my mum will support me if i do so im very lucky. i want to work with horses anyway and i am not keen on uni. But as horrific as collage is that dosent make it easy to leave. what if i regret it? what if im equally as stressed and unhappy in anything else i do? will i be held back by not having qualifications further that GCSEs? will i loose touch with my few friends i do have? i know theres a chance that ill find something i really love to do and be able to earn money and be happy. and i know that if i stay at collage i could get more and more unhappy and anxious and im so, so far behind. i cant juggle competing my horse, meeting friends and going to collage, its so overwhelming. so im so stuck and only have three days to make this decision! the collage gave me till monday.
Fellow autistic here! 🙂
As someone else has already said, the college is failing you, not the other way around. You're obviously struggling a lot, and struggling that much isn't good for anyone, so its brilliant that you've realised this, so you can make some changes to start to feel better!
So firstly, I'd recommend speaking to one (or more!) of your teacher, a member of the senior leadership team, or the SEN/welfare department at your college. Try and open up to them about how you've been feeling. Hopefully they can give you some help, whether that's the accommodations you need in exams, or just some advice, this should hopefully help you 🙂
If they don't give you any help at all (or enough help) you might want to start thinking about what other options you have. You need to ask yourself if you can deal with another year at sixth form. I know this is a very difficult question to answer, so maybe talk about it with some trusted friends or family. If your answer to that question is no, you need to start considering how your going to move forwards. Here are some suggestions for things you could do instead:

Transfer to another college/sixth form that will accommodate you, and understands how your autism impacts you. This way you might be able to complete your A-Levels in a more bearable setting.

Look for other education. This could be a different course than A-Levels, especially as you are more interested in creative subjects than more academic ones. T-Levels are becoming more and more common, as are other vocational courses. You could maybe look into one in an area of learning that you like, that is less exam based.

Looking at doing an apprenticeship. This would allow you to possibly begin a career, whilst also gaining qualifications (and earning money!).

Starting to work full time would be another option if you just don't want to do anymore education.


At the end of the day, you know yourself best 🙂 If I were you, I wouldn't make any rushed decisions, make sure you take at least a few days to think about a decision. Best wishes, and I hope things improve for you soon! 😀
Reply 4
@jazzsnaz im also a fellow autistic (and a parent). I also work in school. Sorry you are feeling so overwhelmed. It’s unfair of the college to give you a deadline. College, caring for a horse and having a social life is a lot to deal with - you are trying to find that work-life balance. Is there any way to write down exactly what your commitments are in order of property and then try and draw up a timetable. Of the 3, probably the social life is the easiest to cut back - will your friends understand? I’m sure they will if you are honest with them. Even if you can’t meet up a lot you can still keep friendships going via social media, WhatsApp etc. I don’t don’t know about your horse - is there anyone you can share the duties with? As for the anxiety around lessons / college work - that is where student support services can step in. You don’t need to have a diagnosis to get support. They might be able to offer you a study mentor or keyworker who can talk things through with help you. Be honest and tell them how you are worried at falling behind and they can work with you and your teachers to help you catch up. Good luck
@jazzsnaz yeah see all I want to do is make music, I have my fair share of options and A-levels just aren’t necessary for me! I totally get what you mean as i switched from performing arts to media studies about 6 weeks in and i’ve been behind ever since. I’m worried i’ll regret it if i leave though. But yeah my sixth form has around 3000 students in too, so there’s just so much anxiety surrounding it, and it’s taken a long time to adjust. I hope you’ve made the best decision for you, best of luck with your future <3
Reply 6
I would definitely reiterate what others had said, some excellent advice

Just had two thoughts really but if A-Levels are not that important to you would you be willing to try dropping one instead of dropping out altogether? I don't know if it would be much help but would revising at home doing past papers under timed conditions increasing the times slowly help at all with you nerves of time pressure.

A-Levels are not the be all and end all really sounds like a vocational qualification would be more suited to you.

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