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Home > Columnists > C.E. Marraffino
July 17, 2012

Patience with Autism at any Age

Dear Annie: My younger brother, "George," is on the autism spectrum. He has a friend, "Cindy," with similar needs. For the past few years, my parents have welcomed Cindy into our home, and now she feels comfortable inviting herself over and doing whatever she wants. This means bossing George around and yelling at him while he avoids her by watching TV in a different room. She also carries our cats as if they are dolls. She won't let go even when they protest by scratching and biting.

Cindy is in her late teens and should know better, but she is loud, pushy and obnoxious. She doesn't listen when someone tells her "no." Despite my best efforts to be polite and civil, I cannot tolerate her. When she's here, I leave the house or lock myself in my room. The problem is, my parents are often too preoccupied with business, phone calls and visits from our neighbors to deal with Cindy, so I have to be the emergency adult.

I have tried talking to my parents about Cindy, pointing out her behavior and the way she treats George, but my pleas fall on deaf ears. Cindy's parents aren't any better. In fact, I think they are taking advantage of us by letting Cindy spend so much time here. But I seem to be the only one bothered.

Is there anything I can do to put an end to these visits without causing offense? I can't take much more of her. — Ignored and Outraged

Dear Ignored: Cindy's behavior may not be as tempered at this age as you seem to believe it should be, so we urge you to be less judgmental. In fact, you are in an excellent position to explain to Cindy how to treat the cats more gently and behave in a more acceptable manner. But if you don't wish to work with her, she should not be your problem. George can tell your parents if he no longer wants Cindy to visit, and they should handle it. And when Cindy is around, your parents should supervise more closely. We suspect they are avoiding her, too.

Dear Annie: My daughter and I recently hosted a bridal shower in my home. We planned a fun event and took special pains with the food and drink offered.

I was terribly offended when several guests came with their own large sodas. We had lemonade, iced tea and water all served in crystal pitchers with lemon slices. Meanwhile, their big plastic cups with straws were not a pretty sight, especially when they plopped them down on my end tables.

Please tell people that when they are invited to someone's home where refreshments will be served, it is rude to bring their own. — Not a Fan of the Big Gulp

Dear Fan: Consider them told. But don't expect them to listen. Too many folks do not understand what appropriate behavior means — and resent any attempt to be educated about it.

Dear Annie: "Retiree in Florida" took issue with a reader who said his widowed father sold the family house and used the proceeds to buy a new one with his new wife. She said whatever assets she built up with her husband are for her children, not his next wife.

When my wife died, the first thing I did was replace the old carpeting and repaint the inside of the house to get rid of the smoke smell from her cigarette habit. When I remarried, I moved. If any of my children say I should have given them money from the sale of the house, I will tell them that if they want money, they should go to work.

If I had died first, my wife could have done the same thing. If "Retiree" wants the kids to get the house, she should put it in the will. — Happier Now Than Ever

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.


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