CAROLINE WEST-MEADS: How do we persuade him not to quit university?

CAROLINE WEST-MEADS: How do we persuade him not to quit university?

Q Our autistic son, while very bright, often struggled emotionally at school. He did eventually make a couple of friends in the sixth form, but remains socially anxious. In spite of all this, he made it into a top university and has just finished his first term. Academically, he excels but the past couple of months have been tough for all of us. He has often been on the phone in an agitated state saying that he hates all the partying, the constant noise of student halls and the drunkenness. 

He says that two of his lecturers can’t teach and get cross when he asks lots of questions. We have made frequent trips to see him and worry about his mental health as he seems depressed. Since he returned home, he has been more withdrawn than usual. Yesterday he told us he can’t face going back to university. We are actually quite relieved as it’s been a worrying time.

However, he doesn’t look well. He’s pale and I think he has spent a lot of his free time playing computer games. But what do we do now? He has so much academic potential and he needs structure. He has no idea what to do next and we are worried that he will just carry on gaming full-time, which will worsen his depression.

A lot of people hate their first term at university but this is more than that. So it’s probably the right decision for him to leave – for now. University can be a big shock, even for those without the challenges of neurodiversity. But add those difficulties – such as sensitivity to noise or feeling overwhelmed by large groups – and it is even harder. Then there are the day-to-day responsibilities of cooking, finances and laundry. However, it sounds as if your son is very capable academically and if he dropped out of university completely, he might feel like a failure. 

Talk to the university about taking some time to regroup

So, first, can you help him talk to the university about how difficult he is finding everything and the possibility of taking some time off to regroup? Is there extra support they can give him or new accommodation for next year? 

Or would he consider transferring to a local university to enable him to spend some nights each week at home, or to commute, so that he can make the transition more gradually? In the intervening few months, with a longer-term goal to aim for, a part-time job and/or some volunteering (perhaps tutoring GCSE pupils) might help raise his self-esteem. Encourage him to play sports to get him out of the house. It is important he sees his GP for help with his depression and possible gaming addiction. Get advice from the National Autistic Society ( and Student Minds ( Your son might also benefit from, a digital support system he can contact when he feels overwhelmed.

I miss sex with my husband

Q  I’ve been divorced for eight years after my husband left me for someone else. We met when we were young, were together for 25 years and had two children. I am now in a long-term relationship with a wonderful man I love deeply, but there is one thing missing: exciting sex. I was a virgin when I married, and my ex claimed to be too, so I thought that sex was always the passionate experience that he and I shared. But in the couple of relationships I’ve had since, and now with the new man, it seems a little, well, less. My girlfriends say my ex must have got his ‘skills’ from sleeping around. I get angry thinking about it and feel that my marriage was a sham. I don’t know whether to confront him.

 A Your ex has already hurt you so much and it must be very painful to look back and wonder if you were being deceived throughout your marriage. It is possible that the sex became good over your time together as you grew used to each other’s bodies and desires. However, given that he left you for someone else, it is sadly also possible that he had affairs. If you have an amicable relationship with him (perhaps for your children’s sake), then he owes you the truth. 

You could ask, but be careful how you approach it. Don’t mention his sexual prowess; you would only be flattering his ego. Were there other signs – suspicious times away, phone calls, periods of emotional distance? Perhaps it will help you to see that you really are better off without him and to concentrate instead on your new relationship, which makes you happier than your ex did in other aspects. Good sex can be taught, so brush up your teaching skills.

If you have a problem, write to Caroline West-Meads at YOU, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY, or email [email protected]. You can follow Caroline on Twitter @Ask_Caroline_

Caroline reads all your letters but regrest she cannot answer each one personally. 


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