This was definitely not in the manual

By Mir
June 19, 2005

I called my father today to wish him a happy Father’s Day, on account of I would get a great big F in “Sandwich Generation;” I can either focus on my children or my parents, but not both. As I’ve been rather busy with the kids of late (read: trying to keep them alive and relatively well cared for while keeping from them the fact that I am a blubbering mess), I neglected to even send my father a card. (See also: I suck.)

But, hey! The advantage of being a mess–or maybe it’s just the advantage of having a cool Dad, I dunno–is that a phone call seems to do the trick, and everyone is relatively happy. Plus I get to vent about how much fun it is to be a parent these days!

(Sure, he can do the “I had to walk to school four miles in the snow uphill both ways barefoot” story, but he never had to endure the drama that is dealing with a modern public school. I win!)

Okay, so let’s review: Chickadee had a complete neuropsychological evaluation, after which we were presented with a dozen-page summary report that can be condensed as follows:

Chickadee Lastname is a 7-year-old girl who is perfectly normal and charming except when she’s not. She is cognitively gifted and may be easily bored at school, contributing to her habit of rotating her head a full 360 degrees and spewing pea soup whenever she feels the universe is not conforming to her expectations. She suffers from generalized anxiety. Now let’s run through a long list of scary-sounding disorders that she may or may not have; we’re not sure, please insert another $2,000 to find out for sure. Ding!

I got this report and was a little puzzled as to what to do next. But after thinking it over, I decided I should probably share the report with Chickadee’s school. If nothing else, I reasoned, it might give us a leg up on her placement for next year (we were not entirely thrilled with her teacher this year). After checking with a couple of teacher friends of mine, they agreed that that was the way to go, and I should call the principal.

So I called up the principal. We had a lovely chat. He asked me to submit a copy of the report along with a letter outlining what I was looking for. No problem. I wrote a letter that started out “per our conversation last week…” and went on to talk mostly about what sort of classroom/teacher I suspected Chickadee would do best with. I also said that I didn’t know if we needed to do anything more than discuss her placement for next year, at this point, but that I was open to suggestions.

The natural thing to happen at that point was:
A) The principal receives my letter and calls me back
B) The principal receives my letter and writes me a letter back
C) Some minion of the principal receives my letter and I don’t hear back at all
D) Someone receives my letter and proceeds to set up an official IEP meeting between myself and 27 different school officials in TWO DAYS and then send me a packet of official-looking information about my child’s RIGHTS and leave me a chirpy phone message saying that of course they’ll see me at that meeting they’ve just given me two days notice about.

Guess which one happened!

Okay, so if you don’t know what an IEP is, it stands for Individualized Education Plan. It’s a great (albeit highly beaurocratic) process to put in place for a kid in public school who has some sort of special needs. Chickadee may need an IEP at some point. I don’t honestly know. But I DO know that all I asked for was some guidance, some suggestions, and for someone to maybe review her file before they decided who her teacher will be next year.

I did not ask for a gigantic meeting to be scheduled. I didn’t ask for ANY meeting. I certainly didn’t ask for every specialist at the school to get in on the action. There’s a list of attendees, and it includes the learning disability specialist. Great! Cuz, you know, Chickadee doesn’t HAVE any learning disabilities, but PREVENTION IS KEY! I’m sure there is no better use of that woman’s time than to come to this particular meeting, rather than tending to the kids who actually need her.

Oh, but it doesn’t matter. Because the meeting isn’t happening. At least, it’s not happening when they scheduled it. It turns out that with only two days notice, neither myself nor my ex can show up for this little carnival, so we’re going to have to reschedule. Or, you know, just cancel, since it seems folks got a tad overzealous here.

Part of me really wants to go just to see what sorts of things they let parents request at these meetings.

“Yeah… ummmm… as you can see from the report, Chickadee is easily frustrated. So, uh, you’re going to have to set aside a carton of chocolate milk for her every day, because she gets really pissed when they run out at lunch. K?”

Okay, maybe not.


  1. Amy

    Oh. Good. Lord.
    I think I would have gone to the meeting. I think I would have “forgotten” to take my Ativan first. I think I am probably going to Hell for suggesting this sort of thing.
    God save you from the beaurocrats!

  2. Karry

    I so totally feel for you. I’ve been to these IEP meetings and it’s a bunch of blown out of proportion big dealness that doesn’t have to be done and you sign fifty million forms and even if you sign them with “what the **** is this form” instead of your name, (not that I did that right in front of them or anything) it will take them two or three weeks to figure out that you NEVER authorized the plan in the first place because “what the **** is this form” is not your signature and call for a reschedule that you will simply ignore. So fun to mess with the bureaucrats at the schools.

    Public school – ya gotta love it.

  3. Jenny

    Even though they are a real pain, the IEP is a good idea. I have four kids, all of whom are gifted, therefore , special needs, and they were all bored in school. If they didn’t have the IEP, they would be distracted by everything and do poorly. My middle son was, is , and will always be a pip, and especially needed the teachers to be aware of his, uh, needs.In fact, the “rotating head 360 degrees” struck a bell with me!
    You can always try it, and then drop out. My daughter did not want anything to do with it, but my sons were in it.

    I sent my dad a card, and also tried to call him yesterday, but he would not answer the phone. I agree with what you said about focusing on your parents, or your kids, but not both. Mine are all difficult! And when dealing with one, it’s easy to forget about the other!!!!!!!

  4. rose

    The only bonus of doing the IEP stuff now is that if it is going to happen, it won’t take 3 months after school starts in the fall.
    The other good thing is that there is a plan in place at school, and there is some accountability for the school following the plan.
    But fist you need to know what the issues are, and what you want.
    I’m guessing you’ve done the counseling route w/chickadee?

  5. dad

    I’ll take phone call over a card any day.

  6. Mike

    As a guy who’s job used to include setting up and running those IEPs, I guess I’d say a little overreaction has to beat being ignored. And there’s no reason why you can’t come out of an IEP with the determination that no special steps need to be taken right now at all! But (at least in CA) 2 days notice isn’t particularly legal, either. Glad you didn’t let yourself get steamrolled.

  7. ben

    Would you please write a letter for me?

    I have been BEGGING for an IEP meeting for over a year and it falls on deaf ears.

    “Oh, let’s try this first” with “this” being the equivalent of Showgirls or perhaps Coyote Ugly, if movies were scholastic plans.

  8. Randi

    Okay, an IEP isn’t needed, but I’d ask them for a 504. A 504 is basically IEP-Lite. What it does is allow her to have help IF AND WHEN SHE WANTS IT. If she’s having issues in her classroom, she has the right to leave the classroom and go to a designated teacher/counselor/ect. If she needs a little more time on tests, or wants to have them in a room alone, she can do that. My nephew was diagnosed Bi-Polar and is on medication. When he started the local high school, we screened him for an IEP and realized he wasn’t dumb, and didn’t need an IEP. Then his case-worker (we were also his foster-parents) suggested a 504 plan…look it up online and talk to your teacher friends. It might just be the happy medium you’re looking for, where the school is happy, you’re happy, and Chickadee is happy because she can have some things “her way”.

  9. holley

    As other comments have suggested, IEPs and 504s are not just for learning disabilities, but for all special needs, including behavioral issues and being gifted and talented. As a teacher, I laud your desire to not jump into such a system without evidence of real need (lotsa people just love to hold their schools by the IEP balls), but as a parent, I say ask for the chocolate milk. In my school district, you’d get it.

  10. Carrie

    As a teacher, I’ve sat through countless IEP meetings and can tell you they are just a great big Cover Our Asses meeting for the school. Sure, there is a lot of stuff that does help and as a regular teacher I learned a lot of techniques for dealing with special needs students from the meetings, but in general they’re just really overblown.

    And, as someone else said, in my district if you asked for chocolate milk to be set aside you’d most likely get it. A lot of parents would sue if they didn’t get it. Gotta love the power of a law suit (I’ve seen some doozies!)

  11. pixiepoint

    There are many resources where you can learn more info and also your and your child’s rights. I work for a nonprofit that administers a mediation program for parents and schools regarding the plans (this is in New York State). However, there must be similar resources, etc in the state youi live in. For more info, check out:

  12. pixiepoint

    I forgot to mention in my other comment, I’m also a parent with a son with ADHD and a rare gastrointestinal disorder. He has a 504 plan in place that is quite wonderful and enables him to to flourish in school. Good luck!

  13. Cori

    IEPs suck ass but, as others have said, they can serve a purpose. Most school administrators can’t give much guidance or special treatment without an IEP or a 504 anymore, including requesting particular teachers or any alternative discipline manuevers, like being able to step out of the classroom for some downtime. I don’t blame you for wanting to avoid it like the plague but, if you really want any kind of non-typical treatment, you’ll probably have to do this at some point, just not with two frickin’ days notice, please!

  14. Katie

    Even though IEP’s can be a pain in the ass to start, they really are a lifesaver in the long run. Good luck with the meeting!

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