Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I am a volunteer for a youth sports league. I coach a team (that my child is on), and help to organize team necessities, including team payments. The team is entirely self-funded by the fees charged to parents. Last year, a child on our team lost a parent and grandparent in quick succession. The family was understandably heartbroken and in a bind financially. The coaches all decided to forgo the child’s team expenses for the year (everyone else was charged more). We figured that it was the right thing to do. This is a competitive travel team, and the child made the team again this year. The parent said nothing about not being able to afford the team fees. After a few months of non-payment, I contacted the parent. The parent reminded me of their loss, and said that they should not pay, because they hadn’t paid last year. I said that last year was different, because the child was already on the team. I said the parent had had time to either budget for the travel team or choose to have the child play in a less expensive league. The parent was very angry. The other coaches and I agreed to cut this child’s fee drastically (one-third what everyone else is paying, about $200). The parent still has not paid. Amy, I hate to take this out on a child, but I am faced with either asking the child to leave the team, or playing the child last all year. I’d hate to do either. It seems like a petty amount, but now I feel like the team is being taken advantage of. What would you do?

Wondering Coach

DEAR COACH: I don’t understand why you would “play a child last” because the parent hasn’t paid the team’s fee. You should not tie a child’s sporting opportunities to the parent’s balance.

You don’t say what this parent has agreed to (contractually) by signing the application and permission forms at the start of the season, but if a fee is mentioned on this form, then the parent would be responsible for the fee. All of this seems to have come up casually, when it should be more formally established.

Do not let any of this affect the child’s experience this year. Do not kick the child off the team. Assume that the parent will not pay even the discounted fee, and decide now if you want to pursue it through small claims court after the season is over.

This is an opportunity for your team to host a fundraiser to establish a modest “scholarship” fund for this (and other) families. In the future, all financial requirements and expectations should be spelled out to this parent in advance, and you should have the check in hand before the child takes the field next year.

DEAR AMY: Our oldest son is in his mid-40s. For most of his childhood he was very quiet. As an adult, he has had bouts of rage and confusion and has found forming a meaningful relationship difficult. Looking back, my wife and I wonder if he might be autistic. We also wonder if there are any tests or treatments for autism at this late stage.

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Concerned in Colorado

DEAR CONCERNED: With the increased awareness of autism and other syndromes along the autism spectrum (such as Asperger’s syndrome), more adults are wrestling with these questions, and wondering where they might fit in.

Even if there is no specific treatment, having a “diagnosis” — or even heightened understanding — could help your son a great deal, because then he might be able to put some of his own impulses and experiences into context. It might help him to know he is not alone.

Check autismspeaks.org for resources and book recommendations; there are also online assessment tests, which your son might want to try. Do your own research on this and share information with your son.

DEAR AMY: I was shocked by your unkind reaction to the young, depressed woman who signed her letter “Dead in the Water.” You should have suggested better health care, instead of scolding her for her attitude.

Disappointed

DEAR DISAPPOINTED: The second sentence of my answer was to urge her to take responsibility for her health and try to get her depression under control.

She said she would only apply for “friendly” jobs. To me, this revealed a sense of entitlement quite outside of her depression, and I urged her to try to change her perspective.