Getting and Staying Organized?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Kenz501, Dec 1, 2017.

  1. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Cohort

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    Dec 1, 2017

    Hi,

    I have, or am strongly suspected of having, Autism Spectrum Disorder. I'm now teaching middle school, and my students are great, but I'm not the best teacher. I'm painfully disorganized. A teacher on my hall, maybe my assigned mentor teacher, did finally help me organize my room and come up with a few systems, but a few of them are slowly breaking down.

    I managed to misplace my seating chart, for one thing, and even though I know the students, I sometimes get so busy that I forget to take roll. It's all me. When I have to do several different things quickly, I often forget a few important steps. That's why I've had so much trouble keeping work in the past. When I explain it, though, it's a toss up as to whether or not I'll be taken seriously. I'm afraid that if I mention this issue, it will just be dismissed as laziness.

    Throw in students who are expected to be disorganized and have trouble keeping up with stuff just due to their developmental level, and that's a recipe for disaster. I'm expected to provide structure that I simply fail at providing.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2017
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  3. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Cohort

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    This lack of structure and good organization skills and maybe a lack of "common sense" has also affected me in other areas. My classroom management is hit-or-miss, and I can't seem to plan a coherent lesson, because I can't easily invent a new lesson to teach a concept. Often, I rely on the textbook too much, and the class could easily run without me, perhaps more efficiently.

    I've been given all kinds of help, and systems to more efficiently run my class have been explained to me, but I don't always understand things that people explain to me, and I didn't want to bother them by asking them to type it out. It's my fault. I should have been taking better notes.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2017
  4. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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  5. geoteacher

    geoteacher Devotee

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    Dec 9, 2017

    Based on looking at other things you posted, what would probably benefit you most right now would be to plan for the weeks leading up to Christmas - only a couple, right? Use whatever lesson plan format you used during your student teaching. Write your plans out in as much detail as you need because you are the one who will need to follow them. You said you are finishing a unit on poetry? Do you have access to a textbook? Use it as a resource if you do. Start by finding some poems that will catch their interest. What aspects of poetry are you trying to cover? Look at your state standards and decide what will apply.

    Also, you decide how the class will run on Monday. Based on the control issues you mention, at this point you should not be giving students much freedom. Come in with a seating chart in one hand and a warm up activity in the other hand (since you also teach grammar, how about giving them sentences to proofread and edit?). Is your classroom arranged in rows? If not, rearrange it that way because you aren’t ready to take control of students who are working in groups.

    Do not ask other teachers to plan for you, but on Monday, you might ask for a list of the major units that are to be covered for your grade level. The units will be tied to stare stabdards. Oh, and locate your state standards and read them tonight!!!

    As to the behavior issues, it sounds as though you need to do a major reset. What are a few major rules that you expect students to follow? Decide on them, clearly communicate them to students on Monday, and then enforce them.

    Make up your mind that the “new” year begins on Monday and then go in and do it! Good luck!
     
  6. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Cohort

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    That's all good advice, but could you elaborate on what you mean by "enforce the classroom rules?" One of the teachers on my hall who has been quite helpful--she might be my mentor, although she wasn't identified as that, told me that I explain things to the kids too much, and I inadvertently get on their level too often. I called a kid's parents and explained that he was talking when he wasn't supposed to, but the next day he approached me with such sincerity and claimed that he was not doing what I clearly saw him doing. What should I do about situations like that, where the kids think my decisions are unfair? I don't want them to think that.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2017
  7. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Phenom

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    Dec 9, 2017

    Concerning the seating chart, do what I do: Get a podium to stand behind at the front of the classroom and put laminated copies of each of your seating charts on the top of it. That way, you always have them in front of you and you can use when needed. Don’t ask students if anyone is absent — it wastes time. Take roll when the students are transitioning between activities or doing a warm-up exercise or something similar. Don’t ever remove the seating charts from the podium and you will never lose them.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2017
  8. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Cohort

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    I can work on that immediately, thanks. I do have seating charts, because originally I wasn't marking students tardy. I also usually put their names on their morning work as a way of keeping track of tardy students. There's no bell, though, so I don't always mark students tardy quickly enough.
     
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  9. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Phenom

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    Dec 9, 2017

    I slightly edited my original post to accommodate larger class sizes.
     
  10. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Cohort

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    I thought I would have them fill out a sensory details chart, find three to five words each describing taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight as their warm-up activity.

    For the main lesson, I thought we would just start with the first poem in the book. The standards for poetry seem like they could fit any poem, really.

    Reading and attempting to interpret a poem would meet a lot of these standards, right?

    There is also a requirement for them to write their own poems.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2017
  11. geoteacher

    geoteacher Devotee

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    Come up with 3-5 rules that you require all students to follow and consistently hold students to those rules. One of my rules is that one person talks at a time. I will give students a reminder, but yesterday, there was a boy who continued to interrupt. I sent him into the hall and told him to wait for me there. When I had started the rest of the class on the activity for the day. i stepped out and told him that he had two options. I could call the office or he could stop interrupting, go back in quietly, and take a seat at a spare table I have at the rear of the room. Because the infraction was obvious, I did not give him the opportunity to explain. He elected to rejoin the class. That is what I would define as enforcing a rule.
     
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  12. geoteacher

    geoteacher Devotee

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    Think through all the details. Where will you have them look for these words? Will you give them a couple of examples to build from? Make sure that they can be successful with this activity with little intervention from you. Are you going to have them write down their ideas on paper? My warm-up activities (granted, I teach a different subject) are often photocopied and put next to the door so that students pick them up as they enter the room.

    Is the first poem in the book engaging? If not, find something more interesting. Also, are you sampling all poetry or focusing on one or two types? If so, why not start with examples that fit what you are going to teach?

    As to having them write something, make sure that you allow them to experiment with topics that interest them.
     
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  13. JimG

    JimG Comrade

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    Dec 10, 2017

    Create and use checklists. Have a daily checklist with every housekeeping task on it you need to do. If you have six classes, you may need to repeat the same steps six times, but that is fine. Be as detailed as possible when breaking up your tasks. If you prefer paper and pencil, make a master sheet and copy it for each day. If you prefer electronic, look into Google Keep for electronic checklists.

    For creating handouts, seating charts, presentations, etc on the computer, look into Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides if you lose things easily or forget to save. They auto save everything you do in real time. If you lose a physical printout (such as a seating chart) it will still be online in your account.
     
  14. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Dec 10, 2017

    Last advice from me...it's not about organization, as such, but is the start of a plan for Monday.

    Have a word on the board when they enter--winter, holiday, home, happy, etc.
    Then have them brainstorm words for each sense that describe the focus word.
    They should then choose their favourite descriptive word from their list to use in a poem (an example is below).
    Expand the word, using specific descriptive language--"Winter tastes like hot chocolate with marshmallows and fresh whipped cream." "Winter smells like wet mittens and smelly socks."
    Once they have done this with a "light" key word, provide some key words that reflect deeper concepts: peace, friendship, tolerance, love, acceptance, hate, fear, etc.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2017
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  15. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Dec 10, 2017

    My first two years of teaching I was painfully disorganized. I will never win an award for organization, but I have found things that have helped me and should make it easier for you.

    1. You say you misplace your seating chart--I use to lose things all the time. Now I keep nearly everything on the computer/IPAD. Best to keep things in the cloud (such as Google Drive) so you can find it on any device. If someone gives you an important piece of paper. Quickly take a picture of it with phone or IPAD. Then when you lose something, you will have a copy on your phone or tablet. If you don't embrace technology, it is time to start. It is a great friend to the disorganized.

    2. You say you forget to take roll. Set up alarms on your phone or other device. Have it go off every morning with a message to say "Take roll".

    3. Have a notebook or tablet that you take everywhere to write down anything that someone tells you must do. Keep it always on your teacher desk or with you when you leave. This is your to do notebook and for other notes.

    *** Get started right away, but expect this to take some time. It takes often 30 days to create a new habit.

    Disorganization almost destroyed me as a first year teacher. My desk was a mountain of papers and I often was losing things that took so long to find. As things have gotten better, teaching has become much easier and more fun. I still misplace some things, but don't we all? Make your goal to implement those 3 things and you'll be glad you did.
     
  16. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    A tip for the future: I have a standard teacher plan book from Office Depot, which is set up to accommodate 5 classes for a week on a two page spread. Instead, I use it as a full month (or more,) writing dates in the corner of each space. I then divide the rows in half so I have half a space for each of my two preps. I plan in pencil, and every day I make notes and corrections. The extra space at the side and bottom of the page is useful for notes for the future. This way, I’ve been able to keep three years recorded in a single planner. I can look back and check on my pacing, see what did and didn’t go well, etc...at least I COULD, but my old one got misplaced when we moved in August! :flushed:
     
  17. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    Dec 10, 2017

    Using something like Google Drive is a HUGE help for keeping track of important documents. I always had piles of papers and lost stuff all the time last year - unless it was on my computer. Then I always knew where it was.

    Rules: seconding the advice to choose 3-5 non-negotiable rules. Make them easy to understand and easy to remember. For example, my school has three school-wide rules that I used as my classroom rules: Be safe, be respectful, and be responsible. As is, those three rules are very vague. But they also encompass a LOT of behaviors, which my class discussed together. I asked for each one, "What does it mean to be ____?" and we came up with specific behaviors (keep hands to self, use kind words, listen when others are talking, use supplies correctly, etc.) that fit each one. Since you're halfway through the year, that could be a good thing to start next semester with in each of your classes.
    Have a standard but logical consequence for breaking the rules. It needs to be something you can implement quickly, without emotion, and consistently. The key word is CONSISTENTLY. Don't make it so complicated that you'll never do it, or your kids will walk all over you and ignore the rules. They probably will think you're unfair at times, because that's what kids do when they get in trouble. YOU ARE THE ADULT, YOU ARE IN CHARGE, whether they like it or not. Deliver consequences as needed without showing any emotion, and don't argue or engage in back-and-forth with students when they try to get out of it.
    Make your consequences simple. It sounds like behavior is off enough this semester that you could implement a one-strike policy for a bit; or one warning, then out. Something easy for you to keep track of since multi-tasking is difficult.

    As far as lesson planning: I've found that planning a week or a unit at a time is the best way to get a flow to your lessons. If you'd like, I can send you the link to the spreadsheet I use for my lesson planning. It has each subject down the side (though you could modify it for each hour if you have different preps), and the days across the top. Start with the standard you're teaching, materials, however much detail you need to know what you're covering each day, and how you'll know if students have learned it (some kind of assessment, either informally through observations or exit tickets throughout the week, or a formal quiz or final project of some kind).

    Starting with the standard makes the rest make sense: Use the verbs in the standard to know what students need to be able to do, and the nouns in the standard to know what vocab and information they need to know.

    And I know that the advice you're getting can be overwhelming. The best advice I got last year from a veteran teacher was to just focus on one thing at a time. Don't try to change everything at once. You can't, and you'll drive yourself crazy and beat yourself up when you get overwhelmed and fail. Start with behavior, and use pre-made lessons from TPT. When behavior improves to a point where you can manage it, move on to a specific aspect of your lessons. Maybe it's just having the whole week planned before Sunday. When that's a habit, move on to the next thing.

    But don't try to do it all at once. You will mess up. You will make mistakes. Focus on the small victories, even if that victory is, "I didn't lose my seating chart today." Write them down if that helps you remember them.

    Let me know if you want the plan spreadsheet! It doesn't work for everyone, but as someone who is also disorganized, it helped me a lot to have the whole week and every subject all in one place.
     
  18. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Cohort

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    On bathroom passes, I think it's gotten to the point where I'm ready to just give my students a bathroom / water punch card that they can cash in for a certain amount of bonus points on the weekly test or participation grade if they don't use them.

    Right now, they are using a sign out system, but I don't think it's working for me. I think the kids have figured out that I'm too disorganized to check it frequently enough to notice red flags, so they have been taking advantage of it.

    What should I do, though, if they do something unexpected, like lose the card?

    I guess I could require the sign-out sheet as backup.
     
  19. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    No bathroom pass, no bathroom. That would be the easiest solution. Middle schoolers can hold it for a class period, and if they absolutely can't they'll let you know.
    Just be sure to explain from the beginning that no pass = no bathroom break, and give the incentive to keep track of it with bonus points or whatever if they don't use it AND keep track of it.
     
  20. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Cohort

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    I just don't want to have a student who has an accident. I was one of those kids who couldn't always wait, and I soiled myself in high school during certain times of the month because I was too afraid to even ask--talk about embarrassing, so I know problems like that exist, and I don't want to be insensitive.

    What's the easiest way to keep track of it? I thought maybe having a copy of the student's card in an envelope with the student's name on it? That way, if they lose their card, they'll have a backup with the number of punches they have left?
     
  21. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I'm not a fan of no bathroom, or rewards for not using the bathroom. If you are running an engaging class where students 'buy into' the importance of what they are doing, they won't abuse bathroom usage.
     
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  22. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Cohort

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    We've probably already established that I'm not keeping it engaging enough to keep disruption at zero percent. I have kids who are testing the boundaries and frustrating me. Is it my fault for being inexperienced and not having the best lessons in the world? Maybe, but didn't we already discuss this in that other thread I started?
     
  23. TrademarkTer

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    :yeahthat:

    I don't like conflating academic performance and the ability to "hold it". When I have the same kid ask me to go to the bathroom everyday, I just let out a deep sigh, make my displeasure known, and let him go (likely go to just socialize, but I'm not there to be bathroom police--if he misses important content I'm teaching while he's in there, his grade will take the hit).

    If you insist on this system, I would prefer a reward like candy or a homework pass at the end of the month rather than bonus points.
     
  24. Kenz501

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    I agree that it seems unfair, but we have a no cell phone use during school hours policy, and we have a program against bullying. It's a huge problem in middle school, and I think being a tad unfair is better than finding out that a kid doesn't feel safe coming to school because of the way he is being treated by his peers. I cannot tell a child he or she has no right to use the bathroom, but it would be a good idea to create incentives to make sure bathroom privileges are not abused.
     
  25. geoteacher

    geoteacher Devotee

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    Does your school utilize a 'pass' system for students who leave the room? If so, the soluation is easy - no pass, no leaving. Regardless, unless a student is going to be sick (my rule there is 'not in my room'), students are not allowed to interrupt lessons to ask to leave for the restroom. If they forgot, I indicate that we are in the middle of the lesson, and they will need to ask when we have a break. While I respect that students may need to leave the room, allowing them to interrupt disrupts the learning environment for everyone.

    Oh, and it's Sunday night. Have you completed detailed lesson plans for the week? You need to have a plan to work from!
     
  26. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Cohort

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    I liked the Google Drive idea to keep up with important documents. Do you have any suggestions for cutting down on student papers that I take home? I started giving them a short gradable "morning work" assignment, but it's really easy for them to fail if they are given only 5-10 problems and don't pay attention. I don't know if it's providing the proper incentive or not, even though it's easier to grade quickly.
     
  27. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Cohort

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    Yes, they are required to have a pass, and I've had students who ask me wait, but sometimes they just insist that it's an emergency, and...I let them go. It's really only a handful of students, I think, and it's unfortunate that they can't exercise enough maturity to use the program correctly.
     
  28. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    If it's only a handful of students... what are they doing that constitutes "abusing" passes? Is it just having "emergencies" every day, or are they leaving and not coming back in a timely manner, or something else?
     
  29. geoteacher

    geoteacher Devotee

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    If this is happening consistently, be aware that they may be playing you to avoid being in the room. When they enter the room tomorrow, start by reminding them that they won't be able to leave while you are teaching, so they may want to take advantage of the restroom before class.
     
  30. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    The bathroom issue is something we as educators can never completely win. Let them go, insist they have a pass, limit how many can go at a time, don't let them go first 10 minutes of class, and if someone abuses it then have a talk with that individual. If it continues to be a problem with that individual then start saying "no" to that individual.
     
  31. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    For the bathroom, I would just have the rule that they cannot go during direction, They can sign out and go one at a time if it is not direct instruction. Can you check the sign out sheet to see which students sign out too often and/or take too long?
     
  32. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Phenom

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    Have the students do peer grading during homework discussion. This entails having the students switch their homework assignment with the person next to them to grade. Once you finish going over the problems have the students put a score at the top of the page and then pass it back. Then, ask each student their grade and enter in each score into the grade book as you go from person to person. I never have to grade homework assignments because of this!

    By the way, the US Supreme Court has already ruled this is okay so ignore the naysayers. ;)
     
  33. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Cohort

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    Students leaving too frequently is becoming a real issue. They come to class and claim they forgot their pens, pencils, homework, etc. I usually let them go to the hall to get it, but I'm not always monitoring them while they are in the halls. Another teacher recommended I just start writing them up when they forget their stuff. I really think providing some sort of incentive, like lost bonus points, if they have to go out into the hall during class time would do me a lot of good.

    How do you even implement a punch card system, though? How many points would they be trying to save? How many should they lose for needing to go into the hall during class time?
     
  34. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Phenom

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    That’s too much work to keep track of everything. Just tell all of your classes that, effective immediately, if they don’t come to class prepared then they will be marked tardy. Make sure that you mark them tardy every time they don’t come prepared. Also, for the students who frequently go to the bathroom, email their parent(s) or guardian(s) and ask them/him/her if their student has any health problems you should be aware since they’re going to the bathroom so much. This will mitigate the number of bathroom visits during class! :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2017
  35. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Dec 11, 2017

    Accept your responsibility in this Yes. You have multiple threads. Similar themes. You want spoon feeding and find excuses why suggestions arent going to work.
    Good luck to you.
     
  36. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    I would not let students go back to their locker for a pen or a pencil. Ask them to borrow for someone else or have a system set up in your room for what they need to do if they forget their writing utensil. You can lend them a pencil and try to remember to ask for it back after class. Remind the class that being prepared is one of your classroom rules and that includes bringing binders, homework, pencils, etc. I wouldn't let kids go to their lockers to get binders if it is happening everyday. You can try to greet students at the door and remind them that this is their last chance to go to their lockers if that works for you.

    My mentor teacher used to have a system where she gave kids four bathroom tickets a quarter. It was more trouble than it was worth and she ended up scrapping the system...so I would think carefully about what system you want to implement and whether it is feasible for you to keep track of. Do you have a sign out sheet now?
     
  37. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Cohort

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    I think I'll try that as well as a system for students to borrow what they need in house so that they won't need to constantly go to their lockers.
     
  38. Lisabobisa

    Lisabobisa Comrade

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    May 30, 2018

    Get yourself a set of the small cheap golf pencils. They come in a box of 200 for about $5. Those can be handed out when someone forgets a pencil. No reason to leave the classroom then!
     
  39. Curriculum Chef

    Curriculum Chef Rookie

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    How has it been going? Did any of the solutions mentioned help you? Give us an update. :)
     
  40. Aussiegirl

    Aussiegirl Habitué

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    In our classes, we grade HW based on effort. HW can only count for 10% MAX of their total grade. while they do bellwork, I go around just to see if it is done and note it on the class grade sheet I have on my clipboard. They have it and it is complete - they get credit. I do take time after school, to quickly go thru the work to note if there is a pattern of certain kids putting garbage in for answers just so it looks done, and their grade for that assignment is adjusted as necessary and I speak to them as well so they know that I'm on to them. Not done is an automatic zero. You have to alert parents at the beginning of the year that this is your policy.
     
  41. Aussiegirl

    Aussiegirl Habitué

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    Jul 3, 2018

    Don't post a reply to this, because this is a rhetorical post. If you are strongly suspected of having some degree of autism, who suspects this? You? Your family? If this is truly an issue, then take care of yourself first. Go get evaluated and then you can get whatever help you need to be able to function in life. You cant help others until you have helped yourself. I strongly urge you to go to the links another poster gave to you.
     

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