Dear Margo: Delicate Discussions

Margo Howard’s advice

Delicate Discussions

Dear Margo: 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. — Want To Help

Dear Want: 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. — Margo, supportively

I Have Been Catching Hell

Dear Readers: I have been catching hell 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.

Dear Margo: 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. I do not agree that it is the lazy way out of giving gifts. — Phil

Dear Margo: 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. — Betsy

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dear-margo.html. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.

COPYRIGHT 2013 MARGO HOWARD DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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52 comments so far.

  1. avatar brent finley says:

    RE LW #1:

    Your advice is quite right that the door was opened to a conversation, but the writer has no right, nor any business engaging in diagnosis. The writer needs to limit herself to your advice and recommend a lengthy discussion with her pediatrician. Her personal experience does not make her a doctor.

    • avatar Ariana says:

      It’s always tricky when you are telling other parents what their child has. If the diagnosis is wrong, guess who they are going to blame? Same problems occur as yesterday when someone tries to play matchmaker.

      You have a lead to say: Yes, my little brother had similar problems at that age and his turned out to be autism. Have you taken him to the pediatrican to see what (s)he thinks it is?

      • avatar staili says:

        Yes, exactly. The friend brought it up, so the door is open. Mention it once, and then drop it unless the friend brings it up again.

        I can’t understand how the friend would be angry with that response.

    • avatar mmht says:

      Ariana, I see your point, but I kind of agree with Brent here. If she says “My brother showed similar tendencies and it turned out to be autism.” That might panic the parents and then they become upset with her if it isn’t autism. My sister was the first to have children in the family and b/c of that, everyone in the family was “diagnosing” and telling her what to do with both of her kids (they are 14 mos. apart) and she eventually began ignoring everyone’s suggestion b/c she was angry. I suspected that her youngest had allergies and/or asthma b/c she was ALWAYS breathing heavy. Instead of saying “Go get her checked out” like others in the family would have I handled it by waiting until I was babysitting her one day and using that as a cover for asking questions I said “Why is she breathing so heavy?” My sister replied “B/c she’s had a cold and it stopped her up.” I asked for how long and just continually asked question after question until it finally dawned on her that she’s had this cold for months, its most likely more than a cold, and she needed to see a specialist (she also had a terrible pediatrician which thankfully, this incident woke her up to also!). I can’t say for certain this was the best way to handle it but it worked and she wasn’t angry at me like she was with everyone else who just diagnosed and told her to fix it.

      • avatar KL says:

        No one likes a know-it-all and it can get overbearing when people are pushing their views on you all the time (my family has severe issues with not understanding healthy boundaries, so I really do get that), but if your sister is too worried about being angry and upset with such things to that she ignores simple suggestions or her own daughter’s behavior, I’d say that the family dynamic has some severe issues on all levels.

        You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. If someone is more interested in being angry or defensive, the approach really isn’t going to make a difference. Tiptoeing around such ridiculous people just feeds the beast.

        I’d totally just make the suggestion — plant the seed — and let it go at that. Whether the other person is able to take that in, you can’t control.

      • avatar mmht says:

        KL – The problem has already been fixed. I don’t want to make it seem as if she was ignoring my niece’s breathing problems, b/c she was getting her treated with her pediatrician. The main issues were that she had a terrible pediatrician who kept on saying things like “Its normal, she’s fine, just give her this” without looking into the problem further and that my sister was a new mom and she simply trusted what her pediatrician said without questioning. The problem with the family was that instead of approaching her in a way of “We are concerned b/c of this, maybe you should look into a different pediatrician” it was often more of “What’s wrong with you? So you just blindly believe the pediatrician? What type of mother just believes the pediatrician?” (this coming from aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. and yes, you are correct that there were huge family dynamic issues). Of course, all of this made her feel horrible and she didn’t know if she should take the family’s advice and trust her own instincts or if she should question someone that at that point was a trusted medical professional. Once she did question and realize that the problem was the pediatrician, things got much better (she also told the family off so now when they feel they need to talk to her they do it in a much kinder way!).

      • avatar KL says:

        Fair enough, mmht. I was just speaking as to the LW’s case — that always maneuvering around people’s feels because they’re prone to anger/defensiveness usually doesn’t help in the long run. You end up walking on eggshells all the time and that’s not that fun.

        In certain situations, it totally makes sense to be extra sensitive. But if people worry about such things all the time, I’d think that there is likely something else amiss because it’s exhausting to be effectively controlled by others’ anger, defensiveness, etc.

      • avatar Ariana says:

        I disagree that family shouldn’t relate anything about their own experiences because the mother might be upset. It’s much different to relate a personal story, and then ask whether or not their pediatrician thinks than to run to the mother and say: I bet your kid has autism! He’s acting just like my little brother did! Get him checked immediately!

        Mothers and other caretakers exchange their experiences all the time. The approach of relating a personal story gives them a chance to say: Oh I know, but that’s not what my kid has. Nobody feels pressured to do anything, and if their suggestion of autism makes the child get an additional check by a pediatrician, then nothing is harmed.

  2. avatar D C says:

    I wish someone had recognized autism in MY child and said the word.  We went through years of trying to find the right drug/behavioral combination thinking he was hyperactive or ADD.  He was finally diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 5th grade.  His elementary school years were absolutely horrible and could have been so much better if we’d gotten an early diagnosis.  If I were the letter writer, I would bring up the conversation again, along the lines of “how are things with Johnny?” and if the parent shares they are still looking for answers, say the words — “have you looked into autism?  You know there is such a wide spectrum of things that fall under autism — maybe it’s one of those.  And there are so many new options these days.”  A child with autism needs early intervention.  My son is now 16 — will be 17 in 2 months, and there are days when we wonder if he really still fits into that autism category.  He has had some incredible teachers and behavioral assistance, and having our whole family understand him and know more about how to deal with his personality issues has been wonderful.  10 years ago I wasn’t sure he would have any kind of future.  Today, I see the option of college for him, and maybe even a career and family. 

    Say something.  Say it today.

    • avatar ElaineIL says:

      I agree.
      My son started receiving early intervention services before reaching his 2nd birthday. Although he continues to face challenges as a second grader, he is much much further along than he would have been had no one spoken up several years ago. Do it now.

    • avatar outoutout says:

      I don’t know. I have two children on the Autism spectrum and sometimes I think, “Gee, maybe if I’d gotten them diagnosed earlier…” but then I have to ask myself if I really would’ve been open to the suggestion at the time, back when I knew nothing about Autism other than the “horrible disease” propaganda. Hindsight is always 20/20, I guess.

      • avatar Lym BO says:

        My internationally adopted twins started EI around 28 months. They had some pretty clear cut behaviors that pointed to autism. (We had wondered about it (RN me/MD spouse) Their speech therapist inferred this for months. She thought the boy lacked eye contact, but really he was just irked she would spend two of her therapy days working exclusively with sis (ignoring him completely) then the third day of every week she expected him to understand it was now his turn & now they could play. After about a year she moved. The next therapist negated all of her claims. Turns out the second one was correct. I did find a diagnosis called pseudo autism back then that effects internationally adopted children. They basically shut down for a while while they process all the new language, etc. then they are fine). The kids are still quirky (at 10) but neither falls into the spectrum. The boy has sensory integrations dysfunction to some degree (diagnosed by me), but it won’t effect him in life so there is no point to giving him a diagnosis.
        Those potential diagnoses made for a tough year or two and I still am hyper cognizant of any education problems that present. I just say tread carefully. Mention some things to keep an eye out for. Mention EI free evals if she expresses concern again. The symptoms you have described could all be completely normal. Kids behave completely differently when in public eye vs home with mom. My seven month old talked at home, but I’m pretty sure people thought I was full of it because she would never talk in public until about 10 months. By then she was talking in three- four word sentences so they believed me in hindsight. LOL> .

  3. avatar Messy ONE says:

    Margo was right. Giving money to random charities instead of gifts (or even a card!) is lazy and thoughtless. There is always a risk that the charity you choose will be offensive to the recipient. For example, I would never donate to the Salvation Army. They are a religious organization and I don ‘t happen to think that the price of a meal to a starving person should be to listen to preaching from some middle-class, smug, do-gooder.

    Then there’s the fact that a gift to a charity can be done online in a matter of seconds, netting the giver a tax break and even taking care of sending an unsigned card to the giftee. What is that about? How much respect are you giving your friends when you do that? I can see it now, “Gee how thoughtful! You put my name on your tax deduction… how ever will I thank you. Oh. Right. Thanks for nothing, chump!”

    There is ALWAYS a thoughtful gift. Most people don’t need “more stuff” and would truly, sincerely prefer a card with a short note in it. I never have trouble finding simple gifts for people.

    When my husband’s grandmother was alive, we prepaid a local florist to send her flowers once a month. She adored it. Her assisted living apartment was tiny, she wasn’t able to walk easily, and the flowers were substitutes for the ones she used to cut in her garden.

    I make jam (it’s twit-proof and tastes MUCH better than what even specialty stores have on offer) and have frequently made gift basket including it. Lately we’ve been giving my mother and the in-laws online gift certificates to their e-readers so they can buy whatever books they want. They think it’s a fantastic idea.

    So sure. You have a choice. If you want to send the message to your friends and family that you don’t care to spend more than 15 seconds thinking of them, go ahead. Donate to a random charity and pretend that you aren’t getting any benefit from it. Anyone who does that to me is off my list.

    • avatar LuckySeven says:

      I’m fine with giving to charities as long as there is a clear mutual agreement that it’s acceptable. I don’t want somebody giving in my name to a charity with which I may or may not agree, but if, say, my friend and I agree that this year we’ll give in each others’ names to the SPCA, that’s different. But, no, I don’t want somebody using Christmas as an excuse to pat themselves on the back in my name. I already don’t exchange gifts with most of my friends and relatives, so if any of the handful with whom I do usually exchange felt this way, I’d like them to talk to me first.

      If I don’t get the tax break and may not even agree with the mission, it’s not a gift to me.

      • avatar Messy ONE says:

        I see your point, but look at it this way. In the time it takes for someone to check and see what charities you’d be willing to support, they can come up with a gesture that is truly tailored to you. Plus, see below on ending up on multiple mailing lists. A lot of charities send things out by snail mail. If a friend dumped that garbage on me, I’d be sorely tempted to forward all of that paper directly to them. Let them deal with the recycling.

        Hmmm. Nope. I would totally do that. My friends would get the joke. Some people might get ticked off at it, but I’d do it anyway.

      • avatar KL says:

        Messy One — I partially agree with you, but the part I think you’re missing is that everyone doesn’t view gifts the same way as you do. For some, like you, it’s a measure of how much they care and giving/receiving gifts is significant. So, for people like that, your views totally make sense. For others, gifts are not a big deal AT ALL and they show and receive love and affection differently — sometimes through touch, spending quality time together, etc. So for those people, there would be little difference for them between your homemade gifts and donating to a charity.

        You have a preference; they have a preference. I would just be careful about jumping to huge character judgments about things such as laziness because others don’t value gifts (giving or receiving) in the same way you do.

    • avatar John Lee says:

      I think there is a small disconnect between what you and Margo are saying, verses what charity gift givers are complaining about.

      Margo said “contributions without special meaning for the recipient” and you said “Giving money to random charities” – I think those who have wrote in opposition are not reading the words “without special meaning” and “random”.

      Any gift that is without special meaning, or that is random, are lazy gift giving, whether it is a trinket, a gift card, or a charity.

      However, if you have a problem with all charity giving as a lazy gift, then you are dead wrong.  It would be like me saying that all gift card giving is not only a lazy gift, it is nearly a guaranteed wasteful gift as the statistics say that 15% of all gift cards are never used, that why businesses love to sell them.

      A specific, well thought out, gift card like you mentioned is a great gift, just as a specific well though out charity donation.

      From what I read too, I believe when you give to a charity in someone’s name, that person claims the tax deduction, not the gift giver.

      • avatar Messy ONE says:

        Except that the letter was NOT about a thoughtful gift to charity, it was about someone giving a “gift” to an organization that the letter writer found offensive. The truth is that most people who do this give to their own pet charities and pretend it’s some kind of special gift when all they’re really doing is naming their new baby tax deduction for you.

        It is incorrect that the tax deduction goes to the recipient. The deduction follows the donor.

        It’s incredibly tacky, and as I mentioned above – if you have time to muck about asking your friends what their favorite charities are, then you have enough time to come up with something truly creative and interesting that shows you ARE thinking about your friends.

        As to gift cards – I hate them. I refuse to give them as gifts because they’re just as tacky as the charity thing. I don’t want them because again, the people who give them usually buy them as point of purchase items at the stores THEY shop at with no thought to where the recipient shops.

        What in blazes is wrong with using your head for 15 minutes to find a gift for a friend?

      • avatar mmht says:

        Messy One, I see your point on this particular LW. The gift was lazy and tacky for her given the charity it was going to. However, I do disagree that charity donations are not always meaningful gifts. My brother served in Iraq and Afghanistan and my husband’s brother is currently on his way to Afghanistan. We had someone give to the Wounded Warriors Charity in our name. For, us that was incredibly personal, it was a cause we supported, and it was kind. I appreciated that more than I would have an actual item. I also had an aunt who died of breast cancer. My cousin often receives donations to the Komen foundation in her and her mother’s name. Again, this is something that she appreciates more than an actual physical item.

      • avatar mayma says:

        I am very sorry for the loss of your aunt.

        The Komen Foundation contributes no funds whatsoever to breast cancer research. None. Their CEO flies first-class and stays at the Four Seasons, and yes that is subsidized by donations. And she justifies it. This all came out in the news last year.

        This is only part of the reason why donations are a pretty dicey “gift.”

      • avatar John Lee says:

        Just one inconsistency, you first wrote:

        “Lately we’ve been giving my mother and the in-laws online gift certificates to their e-readers so they can buy whatever books they want. ”

        Then you wrote:

        “As to gift cards – I hate them. I refuse to give them as gifts because they’re just as tacky as the charity thing. ”

        So gift certificates are different than gift cards in your opinion?

      • avatar Messy ONE says:

        This is in Canada, and the parents all have Kobo devices from Chapters/Indigo. The “gift certificate” is basically cash that is already on their accounts. They can use it to buy books/magazines/whatever they want until the money runs out, and then their account is charged to their credit cards again. There is no “card” involved at all, and they’re all readers, so we know this will be used.

        There’s no point in shipping masses of paper all over the continent. E-readers are the smart way to go as far as this family goes, and it saves us all money to do it that way.

  4. avatar htimsr40 says:

    Those complaining about your gift giving comment overlook the Key Point … donations WITHOUT MEANING TO THE RECIPIENT are not “lazy”, they can actually be offensive. The letter writer complained about a gift to an organization that she OPPOSED. I don’t imagine many, if any, people would be appreciative to have a “gift” in their name to promote a cause that they oppose.

    A gift to an organization that you know someone supports IS thoughtful … because it shows you “thought” about the recipient. A gift to an organization that the “recipient” opposes is either “thoughtless” or downright “offensive”. Either you didn’t think about the recipient’s interests OR you knew the recipient’s interests and intentionally chose to act in opposition to them. NOT a thoughtful gift.

  5. avatar B.eadle says:

    The original letter re. the gift of donations, as I recall, stated that the folks giving the “gifts” were financially better off than the “recipient.” It struck me at the time that they were just looking for a deduction on their taxes instead of giving something to a relative that she might not be able to splurge on herself.

    • avatar mmht says:

      Just b/c they are financially better off does not mean that the LW is poor and needs those gifts.

      • avatar B.eadle says:

        I didn’t say she was poor. I only said that she indicated they were better off financially than she was. My interpretation was that she would rather have the gifts and that the vibe I got was that the others were more interested than helping themselves come tax time than in pleasing her.

        Are you saying if she isn’t down right poor she doesn’t need those gifts? She can be a gazillionaire and still want the gifts. That is irrelevant. My only point was that from the original letter it struck me that the “givers” probably only wanted the charitable donation write off.

  6. avatar Cindy M says:

    L #1: I’d mention it politely to the parents, in line with how Margo suggests. You’re afraid of a negative response no doubt. But it’s the right thing to do, for the boy.

    L #2: Can’t please everyone. ;-)

  7. avatar martina says:

    I don’t think that its wrong to suggest to your friend that you suspect her child has autism. She may be mentioning her concerns because she is asking for advice. I have often done this even in conversations with complete strangers when I am baffled about something. I’ve learned quite a bit by doing that.

  8. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1: Leave your brother out of it but, as Margo urges, do use the next opening to suggest a developmental work-up arranged by the child’s physician. (If the kid’s doctor is blowing off the parent’s concerns, it’s time for a new doc.) 

    LW2: I have on occasion sent donations to charities in the name of deceased loved ones of friends, at the request of the friends  (via the “in lieu of flowers” trend). As a result,  I’m on mailing and e-mailing lists that are a waste of time for the charity and for me, as these were one-time donations. A Presbyterian healthcare outfit out of Texas has been particularly aggressive. It has squandered more on postage for glossy brochures, etc., over the years than I donated in the first place. Now  I send flowers, or a card to the bereaved, and that’s that. 

    As for observing my birthday, hey, I like presents. I don’t want to be on a mailing list for your fave charity.       

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      LW1: “The boy’s parents have expressed concern about his lack of language usage.”

      There is not a person on this board who wouldn’t tell someone with chest pain that perhaps they should see a doctor because they might be having a heart attack. “Perhaps” is the key word here—and I see nothing wrong with saying something along the lines of: “I’ve heard that delayed language skills may be a sign of autism. Perhaps you should talk to a doctor.”

      LW2: I completely agree that being on a mailing list for a “fave charity” is a cop-out when it comes to gift-giving, unless both parties agree. And even if that’s the case, why not simply give in your own name and just forgo a present at all?

      • avatar sueb1997 says:

        As a side issue, let me put in a plug for Catalog Choice (www.catalogchoice.org) — they are a website set up to help people get off of mailing lists they don’t want to be on.

        My father passed away about 18 months ago and he was a hoarder who was on just about every junk mail list imaginable. When junk mail would arrive, if there was a postage-paid return envelope inside, I would use that to send back a note requesting removal from the mailing list. If there wasn’t, I would either use Catalog Choice or I would find the website of the organization and use their “contact us” link or find an email address for them and make the “no more” request online.

        With the combination of those three methods, in 18 months I am down to only an occasional item arriving in the mail addressed to him.

        No one wants junk mail, whether you dislike the companies or support them — even if they are a good organization, it is a waste of their money, as you pointed out (not to mention your time and the cost of disposal) for them to continue mailings to people who don’t want them.

      • avatar sueb1997 says:

        oops, sorry David, this was intended to be a reply to JCF4612 above.

      • avatar JCF4612 says:

        Got it sueb, thanks for tip.

  9. avatar mmht says:

    LW#1: I’m going to play the devil’s advocate on this one and say that while I agree with Margo that she should urge her friends to get their son to a doctor and even suggests looking into a specialist, I’d refrain from diagnosing their son. I only say this b/c I once worked with someone who had spent a decade as a counselor for those with sever autism. Because of that, she saw autism everywhere. I can’t tell you the amount of times she informed me she was convinced so and so had autism and that so and so displays autistic tendencies. I’m not saying that the LW isn’t more intuned to these behaviors, but b/c of that you can sometimes see the disorder where it may just be a case of shyness/slower development.

    • avatar outoutout says:

      I noticed that, too. In Autism circles, we call it having overactive A-DAR – seeing Autism traits in every kid, and sometimes even adults. Happens quite often.

      And I agree, this woman shouldn’t give the impression that she is diagnosing the kid. There are plenty of other syndromes that have similar signs to Autism, too. She can suggest looking into it, but leave the diagnosis to the professionals.

  10. avatar Kathy says:

    LW1 – This isn’t complicated.  When she expresses concern, say,  “What does your pediatrician think?”  If she says she’s not satisfied with her doctor’s advice, then you tell her you’d be happy to help her find a behavioral specialist.  If she says her pediatrician is treating the boy, or is minimizing her concerns - then butt out.  When the two-year-old is four years-old, his condition, whatever it may be, will be much easier to diagnose.  I have a feeling your brother wasn’t diagnosed before the age of two.

  11. avatar Janet66 says:

    Doctors are not gods. They make mistakes all the time and when it comes to psychological or development issues, chances are a family physician isn’t a whole lot more knowledgeable than a  well-informed layperson and will simply refer to a specialist.  There is no need to criticize LW#1 for offering a “diagnosis.” I’d bet a month’s salary she is right about the autism. Her life experience does “qualifiy” her to recognize symptoms in other people that others wouldn’t recognize.

    I think Margo’s advice was great. She can share her own experience with her brother, and leave it to the friend to check things out with a child psychologist or other specialist.  

    • avatar outoutout says:

      I have two Autistic children and numerous family members who are probably on the spectrum (including – gasp – myself), and even I don’t feel qualified to diagnose other people. That would be irresponsible.

      Otherwise, I agree. Suggest, then leave it alone.

  12. avatar Janet66 says:

    RE: Giving charity as Gift Giving:

    Margo, I agree with your take on this one. If someone were to donate to a charity in my name, I would not consider it a gift to me. It might be well-meaning but it’s also a little self-serving to donate to charities you like, which makes YOU feel good for giving to them, but in another person’s name. And that person is supposed to consider that donation a gift to THEM? I don’t think so. Just call a spade a spade.  You’re giving to a charity to make yourself feel good.

    If the person has specifically told you that they appreciate donations in their name, that’s another story. But for the most part, a gift is something you give to a person that you think that person would like. If you gave them cash as a gift, do you think they’d turn around and donate it to your favorite charity? Probably not. So either give gifts that are truly gifts, or don’t give gifts and donate away! Just be honest with yourself about what it is that you’re really doing.

  13. avatar mac13 says:

    LW#1: You say this child is ALMOST 2. I find it amazing that you could pick up autism in a child that age despite seeing it in your brother. What kind of vocabulary are you expecting prior to being 2? The signs you mention are signs of autism, but also of many other things. Yes, some babies are just shy. If the parents are noticing these things, and havent’ metnioned it to their pediatrician, then they aren’t too concerned, so don’t butt in. If they are and their pediatrician isn’t doing much or putting them off, volunteer to help find a new one. Then you can mention you know of a good one that helped your brother when he had similar symptoms. No need to say that he had autism, just that he had shared symptoms and Dr. so and so helped.

  14. avatar ToddC says:

    About donating in someone’s name as a gift – I have to say it bothers me. There are so many ways this can go wrong. I have known one or two people who don’t actually make the donations. Another friend donated to a charity with links to a suspected terrorist group.

    I’d rather just have a nice card or if they must a gift card for a coffee drink somewhere.

  15. avatar NicoleDSK says:

    1) Two-year-olds who don’t speak much are not unusual. Mine’s chatty, but not everyone is. Extended eye contact WOULD be unusual, as would sitting still long enough to make it.

    2) If your friend loves dolphins, by all means adopt a dolphin for her/him. But if you just want to make a donation and you don’t know if the friend would appreciate it, then skip the gift and make the donation but don’t pretend it is for them.

  16. avatar Carrie A says:

    I don’t think giving charitable donations is necessarily lazy gift giving if it’s done with the recipient in mind. I love animals so if someone made a donation to an animal rescue group it would mean a lot to me. But to give to the same organization for everyone without considering if it’s actually something they want to be associated with or care about IS lazy gift giving.

  17. avatar lebucher says:

    The key words Margo used about charitible donations are that the charity needs to have special meaning for the RECIPIENT.  Giving money to a charity that has neutral meaning, or worse yet, NEGATIVE meaning for the recipient is just plain thoughtless on the part of the giver.  The giver should at the very least strain a few brain cells to figure out what their recipient would like.  To do otherwise is indeed lazy… IMHO. 

  18. avatar OrlGal says:

    One of my friends had a rule in their home as their children were growing up… All gifts had to be handmade, or a gift of service. Their boys would write birthday poems, mothers day songs, wash and detail dads car, paint a picture, make something in shop class, etc.

    It forced the boys to think creatively … In light of their efforts, buying, paying for, ANY gift is the “lazy” way out.

    Now these young men are going to college on combination sports and music scholarships and are the most immaterialistic young people I know.

    BTW, another family rule was no TV. Movies and recorded shows were fine, but Mom and Dad limited their exposure to commercials, believing that one of the biggest threats to their development. Working in the debt industry and seeing the record amount of person debt in this country, I have to agree. Our kids are growing up being conditioned to be passive, materialistic consumers.

  19. avatar Michelles11 says:

    After spending 18 months cleaning out my mother’s house, I really don’t want a whole lot of “stuff” anymore! So I DO appreciate a gift card for a restaurant or spa or whatever…and now that my mother and in-laws are down-sizing that is what I buy them. On the other hand, I KNOW we don’t all agree on certain organizations so I would not make a donation to a charity or organization that they were not interested in or opposed to. Unless they make a request I wouldn’t do it. On the other hand, if someone wanted to donate to the dog rescue I got my dog from, I would LOVE THAT!!!!! Ahhh…gift-giving, when did it get so hard?

  20. avatar A R says:

    Please don’t mention your diagnosis. Seeing it for 20 years in a brother is nowhere near the same as being an expert in the field. Not only might you offend the hell out of them if they think you are wrong, but what if you are? What if it turns out to be a minor thing, and yet you’d “diagnosed” something far more extreme? They won’t forget, and they won’t feel kindly towards you.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      Unless of course it doesn’t turn out to be a minor thing, and the parents miss out on an opportunity to help their child as early as possible. We may live in a nation of alarmists (“If you see something, say something”), but if I were the parents of this child, I would interpret LW1′s actions as being that of a caring adult rather than a busybody. The phrase is: “It takes a village…,” not “It takes a village until someone gets offended, and then you’re on your own.”

      • avatar A R says:

        Except, David, one can say, “Wow. I see what you mean. You really should talk with your child’s pediatrician and be sure to mention ___, ____, and ____.”

        A pediatrician can then recommend tests and next steps. That’s what they do.

        All I’m saying is that diagnosis from a non-qualified person (Staying in a Holiday Inn Express does not make me a innkeeper any more than knowing a good wine makes me a winemaker.) is not the route to go.

        Listen, not to sound like I know it all either, but as a seasoned schoolteacher who has worked with hundreds and hundreds of kids over the last decade, I can tell you that there are a LOT of other realities lying on the spectrum between quiet and autism. Let the experts sound the alarm while the friend just encourages contacting the experts.

        Sadly, as for the “Village raising the child” philosophy, parents don’t really want that in reality. They say they do, but the second, cynical part was closer to true: Parents subscribe to the takes-a-village-concept until it touches *their* child.

  21. avatar karrezza says:

    Seriously? A gift in MY NAME that I did not initiate or give myself means what to me? Getting all the CREDIT? So I can walk around saying I gave to such and such charity? That is all it amounts to, a gift of bragging rights. TRUE donations do not need NAMES on them at all. And I understand not wanting to give to anti-gay group which the Salvation Army is!