DEAR ABBY: I have a beautiful 3-year-old niece I'll call "Serena." She is my brother "Simon's" daughter. Serena is mildly autistic but has made amazing progress. We're optimistic that she'll be indistinguishable in a few years.
The problem is, Simon is adamant that he does not want our parents to know about Serena's condition. Mom and Dad are good people, but lousy grandparents. Simon thinks they would be judgmental toward him and would gossip about matters he would prefer be kept private. He might be right. But because he is keeping them in the dark, his relationship with them has deteriorated. Our parents haven't seen Serena since she was a baby.
Simon has threatened that if I tell our parents about Serena's autism, he will never speak to me again. That would cost me a relationship not only with him, but also with my niece. I have encouraged him to come clean, but he refuses.
What should I do? Should I stay out of it, or intervene? And is this kind of situation typical with families who have children with special needs? -- UNCLE WITH A SECRET
DEAR UNCLE: When a family member is diagnosed with a mental health disorder, some families consider it to be something shameful, and "circle the wagons" to hide it. While it is regrettable, this is the path your brother has chosen. Not knowing your parents' level of sophistication, I'm guessing he may be right about them and that he prefers to allow them into his daughter's life only after her problem has become "indistinguishable in a few years" -- if ever.
If you value your relationship with Simon, do not reveal his secret. Obviously he trusts you, or he wouldn't have taken you into his confidence. If you betray him, your relationship will never be the same.