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Or maybe this should be called “when to give advice to me.”

Shortly after we adopted our dog Annise, a man came up to me outside of my son’s school. I was watching my son walk in the doors of the school before Annise and I walked back home.

The man wanted to pet Annise and she, in her untrained puppy way, tried to jump up on him.

“You need to use a choke chain with her,” he said authoritatively. (We were using a nose lead recommended by our puppy trainer.) “You need to show her who’s boss by yanking on the choke chain.”

I thanked him and left as quickly as I politely could.

We never considered a choke chain.

I now frequently walk Annise with a friend named Wendy. Wendy has two of the most well-behaved dogs I have ever met.

Through our friendship we have talked about our dogs, our experiences with our puppies, and our training challenges. A few days ago Annise jumped up on me unexpectedly. Wendy said kindly “You need to use a choke chain on her.”

We are now thinking about a choke chain for Annise.

What was the difference between those two incidences of advice-giving? The crux of the advice was the same in both.

What made me ignore one while considering the other?

When my son was in kindergarten, the school owner out of the blue suggested that I take my son to be tested for a learning disability. I looked at her like she had sprouted another head.

Why did they think he might have a learning disability? He was academically ahead of most kids in his class. How did his having a hard time following classroom and social rules have to do with a learning disability?

I dismissed her suggestion out of hand.

A year later, after working closely with the my son’s first grade teacher to manage his classroom behaviors, the teacher called and said “I am not a doctor, but I think your son might have Asperger’s.”

After I got off the phone, I immediately took steps to have my son privately evaluated.

There is a common thread in both of these examples.

With the man and the school owner, there was no or very little relationship between us. Neither one personally knew me or much about us, what was going on in our lives, what we had done with regard to our dog and our son.

Both of them approached me in what I found to be a brusque manner, as if imposing their expertise on me was more important than understanding my need.

With Wendy and the first grade teacher, we had an established relationship and there was personal knowledge about the issue for which the advice had been given. They both knew the path we had traveled up to the place where the advice was offered.

More importantly, the advice was given kindly and humbly, from someone who I knew cared about me and how things turned out.

The advice came from a place of wanting to help us problem-solve, not from a place of needing to be right.

When you know me and what’s going on and can give advice in a caring way, I will welcome it.

Originally posted on Autism Mom

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