Autistic boy top of the class

A student born with a rare form of autism which rules out everyday tasks such as making a cup of tea, has beaten thousands of other teenagers to score among the country's top A-level results.

Nineteen-year-old Andrew Robinson celebrated Christmas with three medals from the country's largest A-level exam board - one for gaining the highest mark nationally in general studies and the others for coming within the top five candidates in two other subjects.

The achievements mark a milestone in an educational career which saw him removed from junior school at seven. The boy who could not mix with his classmates left specialists divided - some thought he was gifted while others saw bad behaviour.

Six years later, Andrew was diagnosed as suffering from Asperger's syndrome, a little-understood form of autism causing obsessional behaviour and difficulties with relationships. Yet the condition also revealed itself in a startling academic ability. With the help of 15 hours a week home tuition, he gained five GCSEs and a sixth-form place at the tertiary college near his Derby home, setting him on the path to the awards from the Associated Examining Board.

Now in the first year of a degree in politics at Nottingham University, Andrew said: "Asperger's has given me abilities as well as disabilities."

Among his strengths are tremendous powers of critical analysis. But any subject involving sheer description or learning by rote is out of reach, ruling out maths, technology or languages.

Andrew's parents face the reality of a disorder which saw their son score highest among more than 18,000 candidates, yet which means they must continue to care for him.

His father, Graham, speaks of Andrew's "amazing ability to focus ... But that tunnel vision is part of the problem - he can tell you all about Karl Marx but he can't make a cup of tea."

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