Autistic Son or Lunatic Mother?

By Marcy Sugar

By Kathy Mitchell

October 28, 2010 5 min read

Dear Annie: Our son recently informed us that our 7-year-old grandson has high-functioning Asperger's syndrome. I have extensive experience with children on the autism spectrum. "Jeremy's" behaviors, while rowdy, are not typical of Asperger's.

What we have noticed, however, is a crippling degree of anxiety and numerous phobias in our daughter-in-law, "Lois." Jeremy is not allowed to play outside, have friends over or do any activities normal for a boy his age. Lois keeps him on a rigid schedule designed for a much younger child. He is not allowed to bathe alone, brush his own teeth or wipe himself after using the bathroom, even though he is capable of doing all these things. As a result, he acts out and has serious behavior problems at school.

When Jeremy is with me, he is a totally different child. Even his father has a better experience with the boy than his wife does. With his mother, however, Jeremy's behaviors are alarming and clearly meant to get attention. I actually saw waitresses cringe when we entered a pizza parlor. He is cruel to small animals and says he wants to kill the family cat.

Lois confessed that she had pressured a specialist into giving her son the Asperger's diagnosis. When I gently suggested getting a second opinion, she told me to leave her home and then had a screaming tantrum. My terrified grandson hid in the garage. My son admits his wife has a mental health problem, but he runs away to the office. He said Lois called him at work demanding that he come home if he ever wanted to see his son alive again. She once falsely accused him of molesting the boy. He told me that she locks herself in her room for days at a time, often keeping Jeremy in there with her. She even insists she can read the thoughts of others.

What can I do? — Deeply Concerned

Dear Concerned: Your daughter-in-law is mentally ill and is abusing her son emotionally. The fact that Dad permits this is reprehensible. Call Child Protective Services, and ask that someone check out the home situation. Talk to the principal and counselor at Jeremy's school. Then tell your son to stop hiding at work and contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (nami.org) at 1-800-950-NAMI (1-800-950-6264) and ask for help.

Dear Annie: My husband insists on blowing his nose at the dinner table. This includes when we eat out at restaurants with linen napkins. I've told him repeatedly that blowing one's nose into a napkin, especially a cloth one that our server will have to handle, is downright rude. He doesn't care and believes I am overreacting.

I would so appreciate it if you would please give us a lesson on nose-blowing etiquette. — Too Mortified To Dine Out

Dear Mortified: One should excuse oneself from the table when blowing one's nose and never, ever use a napkin. We suggest you bring along a handkerchief or travel pack of tissues for those moments when your husband feels the need to honk in public and see if it helps.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from "Needing Advice," whose boss is having an affair with a co-worker. Yes, she should tell the wife.

Two years ago, I was that wife, and no one told me. I was hurt to discover that everyone knew except me. Women I thought were my friends did not say a thing to me. I felt so betrayed.

Please advise "Needing" to tell the wife. I seriously doubt her job will be jeopardized. His wife will make sure it isn't. — Betrayed in New Mexico

Dear N.M.: We understand your sense of betrayal, but a personal friend is not in the same position as the husband's employee. His love life is the employee's business only insofar as it affects the job — in which case, she should approach her employer, not his spouse.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045. To find out more about Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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