Hey, I kinda didn't stick my nose in, but this keeps popping up and I thought I'd try.
My dd did 9 credits this semester DE plus a couple productions, and she's about the same age as your ds. When I look at your ds' list first semester, it was more concrete and I'm guessing stuff he's into. When I look at 2nd semester, it went way off the deep end with social thinking, memorization, stuff that wasn't likely to be a good fit for him. I also think you'd got some immaturity/readiness issues, some problem-solving issues, and some mom-pushing vs. dc-pushing.
And you know I'm only saying things straight, saying that to be provocative and make you go hmm. Like you could totally disagree and go no, I'm here, I know. Fine. But I'm just saying there could be more takes. As an outsider looking in, I'm wondering if that list of classes was in areas where he's especially interested (hence motivated, hence having prior knowledge, hence being extra ready to do advanced work) or if it was more like oh you need this for a requirement kind of gig. I think you can think through that thought process.
Did he *want* to quit his admin job or you thought it wasn't healthy or he was fired? It seems like that might have been an area of special interest, and now he's left with entry level jobs. That's fine too! I'm just wondering if there's a way to get that back or to get him working in his area of special interest.
So I'll ask flat up, why are you pushing college? Why are you telling him to get his butt together and do the SAT now? Why *now*? Why not when he's 20? He's gonna mature a LOT between now and 20, and you could +2 this kid on everything and have a different human being to work with. It would really be something to consider.
As an aside, I wouldn't have him take the SAT until you'd done samples of both the ACT and SAT to know which he does better on. He's self-assessing he's very bright, but you might have a fiasco if he takes it before he has the structure (accommodations, experience with the type of test, experience with the time management, experience dealing with testing anxiety, etc.) to do it WELL and at the level his brain functions. He could have a strong reaction if there's a big discrepancy there. I wouldn't be rushing that. I'd be more concerned about getting that foundation, that READINESS to do the test. When, in the next year or two, he has that, THEN take the test. No rush. Just +2 everything and get off this crazy train.
You might be able to find a test prep service with experience with autism. It sounds like that kind of structure and working with an outside mentor could ease some of this tension. You've got new mom hormones and a stressful kid. Maybe it's time to bring in mentors.
Speaking of mentors, now would be a good time to do some serious career testing and career counseling. I had dd do it through the university for free. If you found a psych who specializes in autism, that might be worth the money. Or take the results from the college office and say hey let's run these by someone who gets autism and get more personalized counsel, and then take them to somebody who specializes in Social Thinking or that psych.
At the Social Thinking workshop I went to last month, they told story after story of people who assumed getting their autistic child through college would solve everything and assure their future, and the difficulties getting through college later ended up being the issues that made them unemployable. MGW (Michele Garcia Winner) was BEGGING, literally begging, people to get off the college crazy train and just go where does this child fit, where can he function, where can he have a sense that he wakes up and contributes to society.
She had a LOT of stories like that. High IQ kids, out in the Silicone Valley, way gifted. And she'd get them out of college and working at Target and the kid was happy, at peace, loved it, doing well, had well-being. And the parents are like ok now he's doing really well and can go back to college! And she's like no, let him have his well-being.
I'm just tossing that out to be provocative, to let you have other stories just to give you options. I don't know him. I know for my ds, I think +2 is essential. The writing is on the wall. I wanted to give my dd +1, and she's such a crazy mix of EF issues and advancement. She's just choosing to make it work. But she doesn't have autism and the social thinking and the RIGIDITY issues and the extremism issues and the self-advocacy and problem solving issues, kwim? My ds is more like your ds, sounds like. The things your ds is doing, struggling with problem solving, saying things to cover that he doesn't have the skills...
I would definitely connect him to some mentors. I would definitely do some career testing and get that in the hands of someone who really gets him who can give you some counsel. And I would consider more bake time.
Btw, don't know what you have access to, but there are Social Thinking people (SLPs, OTs, it varies) who are teaching the 360 Thinking time management strategies. They have stuff specifically for college. Someone trained in it would literally sit and work with your ds and help him learn to apply it. And if he hasn't had any Social Thinking work in general, maybe finding someone who's exceptional with it would be helpful right now. MGW actually really loves high schoolers and adults. There are therapists who really get into it as their gig and like that challenge. There are a LOT of materials for this age now. It would be a reason to do that +2 and slow down, to give him time to access things.
Once you graduate him and cut that string, everything is a little harder. Like it could be easier, but sometimes *not* graduating him gives you more room to help him. Around here people will keep them ungraduated a couple more years to continue access, to continue services. So baking till they're 20 when they have ASD is not uncommon here. And it's NOT about IQ. We're already talking about it for ds.