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Dear Ann Landers: Our only grandchild, "Brady," is 4 years old. He is an amazingly happy child, always willing to share his toys, able to recite all of his favorite poems, and seldom cries about the everyday bumps and frustrations encountered by an active child.

During the past year, we noticed Brady rarely looked directly at anyone. His vocabulary, initially advanced for his age, was not developing. At his preschool, he was content to play alone and showed no interest in the other children. Shortly after his fourth birthday, Brady was diagnosed as autistic.

Our grandson had exhibited none of the symptoms most people associate with autism, such as screaming tantrums, refusing to speak, hypersensitivity to touch, light and sound, head banging and other forms of self-abuse. We were told by the experts that without behavior modification, Brady will drift further and further away from human contact.

Autism affects approximately one in 500 children. It is a biological disorder that prevents the brain from making vital connections. Children who exhibit the following symptoms should be tested immediately: failure to make eye contact, lack of interest in conversing, failure to use the word "I," resistance to being cuddled or hugged, indifference to pain, no interest in others, or repetitive or obsessive behavior.

There is no cure for autism, but if treatment is started early, there is real hope for profound improvement. When we observed our grandson's changing behavior, we assumed it was a phase. If we had known what this behavior indicated, we would have voiced our concerns immediately.

Please print this letter and spare thousands of families years of heartache. Those who would like more information should send a large, self-addressed, stamped envelope to the Autism Research Institute, 4182 Adams Ave., San Diego, Calif. 92116 (

-- Optimistic Oregon Grandparents
Dear Oregon: I hope all parents will pay attention to what you have written. Children who are not developing normally should be seen by their pediatricians and evaluated. If parents are not sure what is "normal" and what is not, they should ask the pediatrician to recommend reading material. Special children need special attention, and can do extremely well if they receive it.

Stop in the name of love

Dear Ann Landers: My fiance and I have been together for almost four years, and are planning to be married next summer. "Desmond" and I are having a serious disagreement because I do not want to change my name when we marry. When I let him know a year ago that I want to keep my name, Desmond said, "I hope you aren't serious." Not another word was said about the subject until last week. Since Desmond thinks it is so important for us to have the same last name, I suggested that he take my family name. His response was, "That's the craziest thing I ever heard of."

I do not want this issue to create a rift between us, and would agree to change my name just to make him happy, although I really don't want to. Am I being overly obstinate, as he says?

-- A Split Opinion in the Midwest
Dear Split Opinion: The "liberated women" are going to hate me, but I suggest a compromise, even though there is something to be said for tradition -- and I believe you lose nothing by respecting it. Use your own surname for professional purposes, and your husband's name for everything else.

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