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ASK AMY: Special needs child really needs good uncles


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Dear Amy: I have a 9-year-old special needs child. “Kyle” is high-functioning on the autism spectrum, but doesn’t do well with athletics and other “typical” settings that might help a child fit in, make friends, and otherwise have a functional childhood dynamic.

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We worry that he is becoming more socially isolated. We are very engaged and committed to his therapy and well-being. Our small families follow suit (especially both sets of grandparents).

My issue arises from my younger (adult) brothers.

They are both loving uncles, but seemingly detached.

I really resent their lack of effort or involvement that I know my son would benefit from: Whether the occasional day trip to the zoo, park, ballgame, or the treat of an overnight stay.

They haven’t offered in years. They don’t have kids and live nearby.

Growing up, I was the oldest brother who acted as caretaker. I’ve always thought each of them was spoiled and self-centred.

Am I wrong to get so worked up over this? I just cannot get past my disdain.

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I know it’s not their job to “parent” their nephew, but a few hours of quality time per month would immeasurably help his psyche.

Your recommendations?

– Upset Dad

Dear Dad: Contact between these uncles and “Kyle” would likely be good for Kyle. It would also be good for your brothers.

Those of us who have special needs family members understand that sometimes the relationship can unlock qualities that will put a person in touch with their own deeper humanity.

If they got to know their nephew, your brothers would see that he has a sense of humour, that he has a unique way of seeing the world and processing information, and, if he connected with them and they formed a close relationship, they would simply be better men.

Do they want to be better men? Maybe not.

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They will not spontaneously step up, because they don’t know how. Do they need an engraved invitation from their older brother? Unfortunately, yes, they do.

Rather than sharing your disappointment and disdain, you should ask your brothers for help.

Invite them (one at a time) to go on an outing with you and Kyle.

You are going to have to show them how to be with him, and when you do, one or both of your brothers might develop their own quirky kind of relationship with Kyle, which would grow as these uncles become more confident. You can then ask if they could each take him perhaps one Saturday morning a month for some “uncle time.”

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Dear Amy: My fiance and I have been together for four and a half years. We are getting married next month.

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It will be a small wedding, with less than 50 guests.

After sending our invitations, stating a start time of 2:30 p.m., one of my aunts texted and asked, “What time is the wedding? We have a conflict that we are working around. For us, if it was later in the day, it would be better… just saying!”

I know she received the invitation. I simply texted back that the wedding started at 2:30.

I later found out that her conflict is a garage sale she’s been planning to have.

This week, another uncle texted: “We’re just thinking about your wedding day. How late in the evening do you plan for the reception to go?”

Amy, I believe if this were not a gay wedding, these inappropriate questions would never be asked. I don’t think they consider this wedding “real.”

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Am I overreacting in being offended?

– Two Grooms

Dear Grooms: I am so happy to report that you are not being discriminated against. How do I know this? Because on my own wedding day, people called and texted me asking what time the ceremony was, asked for directions to the church, and told me they were bringing extra guests.

I will be happy to run wedding-day stories from others, many of which will put your aunt’s and uncle’s advance requests in perspective.

The further happy news is that none of this will matter. You’ll have a grand time.

Dear Amy: I loved your response to “Happy to Help,” who wondered how to help her partner overcome writer’s block.

I was so happy to see my favourite author, Anne Lamott, quoted in the answer!

– Big Fan

Dear Big Fan: Quoting from Charlotte’s Web: “It’s not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”

Anne Lamott is that, to many writers and readers.

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