Dear Annie: One of my classmates has Asperger syndrome. He often says and does things that are obnoxious and sometimes downright threatening. I understand that his behavior is a result of his Asperger's, but it doesn't make it any easier to deal with. When I ask my friends what to do, they say it's not his fault and I should just leave it alone.
But, Annie, he frequently talks loudly over instructions so no one else can hear, and last week he fell on the floor screaming in front of visiting professionals. I want to be able to help him change his behavior without making it seem as though I'm blaming him for it. How do I respectfully tell him what is and isn't appropriate? — Worn Out
Dear Worn Out: Asperger syndrome is considered part of the autism spectrum. Those diagnosed generally have poor communication and socialization skills, although they are often of above-average intelligence. Appropriate behavior can be taught, but it helps to have early intervention and to work with trained professionals. We know your classmate's behavior is distressing to you and that you are trying to handle this with kindness. If you truly want to learn more about what you can and cannot do to help, please contact MAAP Services for Autism, Asperger Syndrome and PDD (aspergersyndrome.org), the Autism Society (autism-society.org) or Autism Speaks (autismspeaks.org).
Dear Annie: I am divorced and have been dating a younger guy for three years. At the moment, "Cliff" doesn't have a stable job and constantly complains that he has no money. But he has a nice place and car (with his parents' help) and enough cash to buy food, etc.
I will be moving into a new condo with money from the sale of my house and some help from my parents. I work part time and don't make a lot, but I manage OK. Many people I know are having a hard time right now, but Cliff thinks he is the only one. How can I ask him to stop complaining about his financial state? — A.
Dear A.: People who are having financial difficulties rarely are consoled by hearing about how much tougher it is for someone else. Cliff is focused on his own problems, and the constant complaining ensures that you will focus on him, as well. If this is the only thing about Cliff that bothers you, simply ignore his complaints and sympathize when you feel up to it.
Dear Annie: I am an RN who worked in long-term care for many years. We had mandatory sensitivity training of staff toward seniors. It is not only patronizing, but also belittling to any adult to address them as "honey" or "sweetheart" or anything other than their given name. Our staff was taught to address them with respect and ask what they wish to be called.
I recently retired and my hair is turning gray, and I suddenly find servers and customer service people calling me "honey." We seem to treat anyone past a certain age as a child instead of with the respect they deserve. When someone uses such patronizing terms with me, I smile and say, "My name is not 'Honey.' It is Joan." If they are receptive, I explain why it is disrespectful to address an adult in this manner. I do this in a kind way and consider it a mini-sensitivity training session.
If people find it too difficult to confront waitstaff and others who are patronizing them, they can carry a copy of this column with them and leave it with the tip on the table. — Don't Call Me Honey Unless You Are My Husband
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2015. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.