Dear Annie: I am a college sophomore, and I have a problem with my roommate, "Janie." Janie and I are friends, but not really close. Whenever I am invited out, however, she assumes she is invited, too.
I would feel awful telling her she can't come with us, because I suspect she doesn't have any other friends. My friends like her well enough, but things always seem a little awkward when she's around.
Just because we're roommates, does that mean we are joined at the hip? I don't want to be selfish, nor do I want to be mean to Janie, but this situation is really making me dislike her. Being with her 24/7 is too much time spent with one person.
How can I distance myself from Janie, socially, without hurting her feelings? Annoyed Roommate
Dear Annoyed: You and Janie are in college, now, and it's time for you to grit your teeth and take on the hard tasks. Talk to Janie. Explain that it isn't healthy (not to mention it can damage the friendship) to be together 24/7. She needs to develop her own social life and extracurricular activities. College provides a wonderful opportunity to meet a culturally diverse collection of people your own age, and she shouldn't squander it. Encourage Janie to join some campus organizations, find a part-time job, do volunteer work or tutor. If things don't improve, you might consider finding another roommate next year.
Dear Annie: This is in response to "Frustrated Parents in Illinois," who have a 4-year-old autistic son. They had trouble dealing with rude comments about their son's behavior in public. I have two autistic children and can relate.
The Autism Society of America offers a business card you can hand to people. One side explains the characteristics of autism, and the other tells how to communicate with those who have autism.
I have presented this card to friends who were curious, to my son's T-ball coach and to complete strangers. It also includes a note to policemen, firemen, etc., that the autistic person may not understand or communicate, which makes it a good tool to place in your child's pocket or backpack.
The card not only educates others, but it stops rude people in their tracks. You can order 100 of these cards for $18 through the Autism Society of America (autism-society.org) at (800) 3AUTISM (800-328-8476). B.L.L.
Dear B.L.L.: What a wonderful resource. Thank you. Read on for more:
From Danbury, Conn.: My 4-year-old son has autism. It is difficult to go to many places, not knowing when he is going to have a fit. I have been hit, bit and totally embarrassed in public. I don't know how many times I have sworn never to leave the house again. People who see a child acting up should turn a deaf ear or just give a smile. It would make life easier for us and our children.
Jasper, Fla.: Having been foster parents for developmentally disabled children, we can understand what the parents are faced with. That said, they still have a responsibility to those around them. Would they stay at the opera with the child throwing a tantrum? Why do they think it's OK for them to take no action in other public places? All parents have a responsibility to control their child or remove him from the situation. It is common courtesy and will help teach the child respect for others as well as discipline.
Virginia: I have a 4-year-old autistic son. I would love for critics to spend one week in my life and then say, "Make him be quiet." Would you tell a child in a wheelchair to be quiet if his wheels were making too much noise? With education and awareness, maybe these people will learn not to judge our children so fast.
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