Q. I’m in my late 20s and have a brother with severe autism. Having grown up with him, I recognize the signs and symptoms in other people or their kids. That being said, I have a friend who has an almost 2-year-old son. He acts exactly like my brother did as a child. He barely speaks, has minimal vocabulary, won’t maintain eye contact, etc. The boy’s parents have expressed concern about his lack of language usage, but have not suggested autism.
Is there any way I could open up a conversation with them about the possibility of their son having autism? I’m not a doctor, but having seen it firsthand daily for more than 20 years, I can tell there is likely something wrong with this little boy. I’d like to bring it up with them so that they can begin to get him the therapy and help he will desperately need, rather than waiting until he is in school and a few years will have been wasted.
A. Because your friend has expressed concern about the little boy’s development — or lack thereof — the door has been opened for discussion. The easiest way to broach the subject is to advise this mother to take up the matter with the child’s pediatrician. I think it would be proper, in addition, to level with her about what you think the trouble may be.
Autism, like AIDS before it, is no longer the unmentionable and, to some people, shameful disease it once was. In fact, it is seemingly everywhere. The DSM-5 recently acknowledged that there is a wide spectrum of deficiencies that fall under the rubric of autism. The hopeful news is that there have been great strides in helping children who are afflicted.
Dear Readers: I have been catching heck for my answer to a woman who was annoyed that a “gift” had been given in her name to an organization she was totally opposed to. No one quibbled with that part, but when I said I thought contributions without special meaning for the recipient were the lazy person’s way of gift-giving, that drew fire:
Q. I take exception to your answer about the laziness of people who donate to charitable organizations instead of gifting someone. What is better? Send a gift to someone who really doesn’t need one, or send a donation in someone’s name to an organization that could make better use of the money/gift? We donate to The Salvation Army in our relatives’ names, and we’ve been told it was a great idea. Our friends also agree that it means more.
Q. Your comment, “I think the donation route is a lazy person’s way of gift-giving,” is way off the mark. None of the friends and family with whom I used to exchange material gifts needs another tchotchke. We are all much happier making a donation to a mutually acceptable organization, knowing that our money is benefiting those in need and honoring those named. This year, I have been included and have included loved ones in gifts to Oxfam and UNICEF, as well as to a local charity that provides food, clothing, and monetary support to those in need in my community. My choices are not the result of laziness. I believe in giving, but not in being a consumer unnecessarily.