Key Points:

"It's hard enough without this." But top teen scholar Ryan Leitch, confined to a wheelchair and needing around-the-clock care because of muscular atrophy, isn't bitter.

Like thousands of 18-year-olds, he can't wait to start tertiary study tomorrow. But his academic future is under threat from a funding anomaly that means he can't get cash for caregiving at uni unless he stays at secondary school until he is 21.

The former Westlake Boys High School student, who has topped the world in Cambridge geography exams two years in a row, is enrolled in a geography course at Auckland University.

Despite grants being available, the university has told him it can't provide the $17,000 a year he needs. And after spending six months chasing government funding, Ryan will start the year with no caregiver and no funding.

"We have got absolutely nowhere," his mother Judi Davison told the Herald on Sunday. On Friday Work and Income told her a meeting with a new case manager could not be scheduled until March 13.

"There is just nothing out there for caregiving," she said. "It's very frustrating."

Ryan needs help throughout the day. Davison has another school-aged son, Blake, with the same condition, 14-year-old triplets and a business. She doesn't know how she can cope.

On Fridays Davison and Ryan will need to leave their North Shore home by 6.30am to make his 8am lecture, leaving the other children responsible for getting Blake and themselves ready. She and Ryan's father are separated and he also runs a business.

Ryan, is worried he may have to wait a year to start his university lectures.

David Hayward, associate director of the university's geography, geology and environmental science department, was not aware of the funding problem. "It would be quite distressing for us if he is unable to continue in the programme. "

Disability Minister Ruth Dyson has previously said a proposal to correct the funding anomaly was awaiting Cabinet approval.

Ryan's story will feature in TV One's Attitude programme, at 9.30am today.