Erasing Martians

Thursday 21 June 2012

Being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of 15 didn’t prevent Joshua Muggleton from achieving his dream of graduating from the University of St Andrews.

Joshua, who fell in love with St Andrews during a summer visit, ‘worked 24 hours a day’ to get the grades he needed to be accepted. The hard work paid off when he was awarded a first class honours degree in Psychology this week.

Joshua, who was also awarded a commendation for outstanding contribution to the Field of Psychology, celebrated with his parents in St Andrews alongside fellow graduands.

Not content with studying hard for the last four years, the 22 year old published Raising Martians, a self-help book for parents with children suffering from the condition late last year.

Joshua, from Guildford, near Surrey, spent much of his early school years being introspective and observing the behaviour of others, because he didn’t understand non-verbal communication. Secondary school became more difficult as Joshua struggled to develop relationships with fellow students.

But a trip to St Andrews in 2008 inspired Joshua to follow the academic route, and a path that he hopes will lead him to further understand the subject so close to his own heart.

He explained, “I never thought I’d be able to go to University because I was bullied and emotionally fragile, so my grades weren’t great. But I fell in love with St Andrews and knew it was the place for me. I looked at the rankings which were really good for psychology, the subject I wanted to study, so I worked 24 hours a day to get the grades I needed.”

Although Joshua arrived in St Andrews as a deceptively shy 19 year old, he was already something of a media celebrity, arriving with a crew from Year Dot, a Channel 4 programme that followed a group of youngsters starting out in adulthood. As an 18 year old A level student, he had already appeared live on CNN via skype to chat about his condition, and at 16 spoke at the House of Commons.

He quickly became part of the University community when he joined the Ents crew of the Students’ Association. With the help of his St Andrews academic family (where senior students take first years under their wing), Joshua took on increasing responsibilities at the Union, first setting up, then DJing at the weekly Bop, before becoming Head of Ents in 2011.

He commented, “On my first day working at the Union for the Ents team I worked from 10am to 2am the next day, which I loved. It’s just about finding the right niche. The biggest challenge was settling in and getting used to being here, but I had access to the Student Support team, who are really great, and a proof-reader to help with my coursework.”

Attributing his ability to adapt in a strange place 500 miles from home to the close-knit community of St Andrews, Joshua credits his student friends and support staff at the University for getting him through his degree.

He said, “I felt I needed to break free, and St Andrews seemed like a tight knit community that was nice and quiet, away from the stresses of inner-city life. It’s been a life-changing experience for me, I’ve made some great friends and learned about what I can get out of life and what I can do.

Joshua, who is to take a Masters of Research in Clinical Psychology at the University of Birmingham commented, “It feels weird to be leaving St Andrews – for the last four years, this has been my home. It is the first place where I have managed to really “fit in”, and be accepted for who I am.

“I am going to be very sad to leave this town, and this university, which has given me so much. I am really looking forward to starting a new course, although it will take a lot to top my four years at St Andrews.”


Note to Editors

Joshua is available for interview on 07905 678 497 or email [email protected].

Note to Picture Editors

Images of Joshua as a student and with his parents during Graduation week are available from the Press Office – contacts below.

Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews.
Contact Gayle Cook on 01334 467227 / 0771 414 0559 or email [email protected]
Ref: Erasing Martians 210612
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