Dear Abby:@text1_boldintro\:: My sister “Mary” was in a car accident when she was in her 20s that left her with some brain damage. She appears normal, but has trouble with interpersonal relations, boundaries and impulse control. Overall, her behavior varies from acceptable to belligerent. When she was evaluated by professionals years ago, our family was advised to set standards for her behavior as near to normal as possible.
When we go to restaurants, Mary has a hard time deciding what to order, often engaging the server in an uncomfortable, long conversation about the alternatives. When her meal arrives, she is rarely satisfied with her choice and makes a scene over her dissatisfaction to the server. If we try to intervene, she becomes even more belligerent.
She looks forward to going out, and we love her dearly. We would hate to exclude her from these family outings, but we don’t know what to do. Can you help?
@text1_boldintro\::Impossible to Digest in Washington State
:Dear Impossible to Digest:@text1_boldintro\:: Because you were told to “set standards” for your sister as near to normal as possible, that’s what you should be doing. Before you take her out for a meal, explain to her what the ground rules are. If she acts out, do as you would with an unruly child and leave the restaurant until she regains control of herself.
Because of her impairment, she may need extra help with her menu choices. Luckily, many restaurants now post their menus online. If you print one out and go over it with Mary, you might be able to make the process of ordering easier for her. I can’t promise it will work, but it’s certainly worth a try.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.