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Pupil With Asperger’s Who Was Rejected By Mainstream School Wins Place At Cambridge University

April 20, 2009

Alex Goodenough, 17, was refused a place at his local mainstream school, Hertfordshire and Essex High School and Science College, because he has Asperger’s Syndrome. So the talented teenager taught himself at home from textbooks. Now, he’s been offered a place at Cambridge University to study Engineering.

A special educational needs and disability tribunal ordered the school to apologise to Alex for treating him less favourably “for a reason related to his disability.”

The schoolboy said he used the school’s refusal as motivation and achieved As in three maths subjects and some physics modules. Now he is at another school, studying for the practical physics exam, which he could not take while learning from home and is a condition of his offer from Trinity college, Cambridge.

He said: “Maybe my story at least shows people that even if institutions put this bar up and won’t help you and give you an environment where you can be comfortable, at least with enough work and luck you can still do well.”

Alex completed his first year of A-levels a year early at another school where his mother, now an educational consultant, was teaching at the time. But after she left the school she contacted H&E in June 2007 to enrol Alex there because the specialist science college was walking distance from their home in Bishop’s Stortford.

Over several months she had contact with five different school officials.

The school initially rejected the application because his “regular attendance” could not be gauranteed as a result of his DisAbility.

The tribunal panel accepted that there had been some initial misunderstandings in Alex’s case, but it found that the school refused to send Alex an application form and wrongly told his mother that the sixth form was full three times. It said that this “may have been intended to discourage Ms Goodenough.” and that Alex’s education was “probably adversely affected.”

Alex said he was denied social interaction through studying at home.

“If I am at school I have got people around me, if I am not allowed to attend I don’t have that connection,” he said.

The school, closed for Easter, was unavailable for comment, but has written a letter of apology to Alex.

Well, that’ll show them, then! Alex Goodenough has proved that he really is Good Enough- good enough for the second-best university in England, no less. If that’s not proof of what I’ve always known- that DisAbled people can be extremely intelligent, and that, given a chance, their inclusion into mainstream education can have amazing results- then I really don’t know what is.

Alex Goodenough is truly DisAbled, and I wish him all the best for the rest of his education and for his life. He’s an inspiration to anyone with any DisAbility.

This post is part of the Inclusion Rules! Debate at Same Difference.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Sarah permalink
    April 21, 2009 11:58 am

    Cambridge University is not the second best university in England – it is the best in the UK. Proven by our alumna.

  2. samedifference1 permalink
    April 21, 2009 5:06 pm

    Thanks for your comments 🙂

  3. April 22, 2009 12:55 am

    Its amazing that there are still such anti-Autistic bigots in positions of power in the 21st century.If other minorities like blacks or gays were treated like this it would be thought an outrage…

  4. samedifference1 permalink
    April 22, 2009 3:29 am

    Thanks for your comments John. I agree completely.

  5. April 29, 2009 10:40 am

    You can read more about Asperger’s here:

  6. samedifference1 permalink
    April 29, 2009 10:53 am

    Thanks for sharing this with us Roy. I hope people will find it useful.

  7. Katie permalink
    July 6, 2009 11:30 am

    What a shocking state of affairs that an intelligent young person is not allowed to attend a school because of a word. There is so little education of teachers, headteachers and general school associates on these subjects, there needs to be an understanding that not all learners are the same and different techniques are needed rather than one prescribed method. When I was at school I saw a psychiatirst, because of this I was seen as unable to do things that I loved doing, without being asked I was removed from speaking in front of the class. It was like I was not in control of my own mouth and thoughts but was being told what I was capable of ( I am perfectly capable and love public speaking). At primary school I was placed in the lowest class even though I was a clever student, merely because I had panic attacks which were disruptive behaviour. I got put with people who didn’t care about learning and worked at half my pace, which left me agitated, bored and more prone to stress. All I really needed was someone to allow me to sit outside for 5 minutes to calm down. I am just glad that this man has not been disuaded by the treatment and has continued to strive on and achieve rather than being demoralised which can so easily occur when the education system is placing you lower than your actual capabilities.

  8. Cynic permalink
    August 24, 2009 9:33 am

    He was rejected from mainstream schools because he becomes manic under stress. I have to say that instead of just rejecting him, they should have given him a work training program. Gardening or something similar should be a much more realistic work option for him.

  9. samedifference1 permalink*
    August 24, 2009 10:26 am

    Why on Earth should he be taught gardening if he wants to learn Science? He’s at Cambridge! One of the best universities in the world! I think he’s proved that he’s more than capable of doing anything he wants to do.

  10. Cynic permalink
    August 24, 2009 11:18 am

    As I said, he has a history of becoming manical when stressed. He has also learned at his own slow pace for many years. I give him 4 months maxium before he drops out. He is too immature to understand this and his mother is too selfish and too “posh”.

  11. samedifference1 permalink*
    August 24, 2009 2:22 pm

    How on Earth do you know any of this? Do you know him personally? If not, then you have no right to say such things. One thing I can say from my experience of special mothers is that I am sure that she is not trying to be either stylish or posh. She knows her son better than anyone else on Earth and she only wants him to be given the chance to use his brilliant brain to do what he does best.

  12. Cynic permalink
    August 24, 2009 2:47 pm

    He’s going to burn out as soon as he starts at Cambridge. The mistake they did, was that they didn’t give him some kind of practical work training.

  13. samedifference1 permalink*
    August 24, 2009 3:04 pm

    How do you know? Do you know him personally?

  14. Cynic permalink
    August 24, 2009 7:06 pm

    I have Asperger’s myself. That’s all I need to know. He’ll be mowing lawns by November.

  15. samedifference1 permalink*
    August 24, 2009 9:26 pm

    I’m sorry to hear that. But as I’m sure you know, everyone is different. Just because you have a particular disability and you do not choose to study does not mean that no one with your disability can, does, should or will choose to study.

    I have CP and I am a journalist. I know several people with CP who are very talented writers, several others who have their own very different talents, and several others who chose not to study after GCSE. If I told them all that they should be journalists just because I am a journalist, I’m sure many of them would be miserable.


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