Dear Annie: Our son recently informed us that our 7-year-old grandson has high-functioning Asperger’s syndrome.
I have extensive experience with children on the autism spectrum. “Jeremy’s” behaviors, while rowdy, are not typical of Asperger’s.
What we have noticed, however, is a crippling degree of anxiety and numerous phobias in our daughter-in-law, “Lois.”
Jeremy is not allowed to play outside, have friends over or do any activities normal for a boy his age.
Lois keeps him on a rigid schedule designed for a much younger child. He is not allowed to bathe alone, brush his own teeth or wipe himself after using the bathroom, even though he is capable of doing all these things.
As a result, he acts out and has serious behavior problems at school.
When Jeremy is with me, he is a totally different child. Even his father has a better experience with the boy than his wife does.
With his mother, however, Jeremy’s behaviors are alarming and clearly meant to get attention. I actually saw waitresses cringe when we entered a pizza parlor.
He is cruel to small animals and says he wants to kill the family cat.
Lois confessed that she had pressured a specialist into giving her son the Asperger’s diagnosis.
When I gently suggested getting a second opinion, she told me to leave her home and then had a screaming tantrum.
My terrified grandson hid in the garage.
My son admits his wife has a mental health problem, but he runs away to the office. He said Lois called him at work demanding that he come home if he ever wanted to see his son alive again.
She once falsely accused him of molesting the boy. He told me that she locks herself in her room for days at a time, often keeping Jeremy in there with her.
She even insists she can read the thoughts of others.
What can I do?
— Deeply Concerned
Dear Concerned: Your daughter-in-law is mentally ill and is abusing her son emotionally. The fact that Dad permits this is reprehensible.
Call Child Protective Services, and ask that someone check out the home situation. Talk to the principal and counselor at Jeremy’s school.
Then, tell your son to stop hiding at work and contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (nami.org) at 1-800-950-NAMI (1-800-950-6264) and ask for help.