“This Doesn’t Happen to People Like Us”

Published on April 12, 2012 by Jennifer Laviano


You won’t believe this story.

In fact, I didn’t, at first.  As you might expect from a lawyer, I had to be convinced through documentary evidence.  Once I was, I couldn’t wait to share it!

If you read my blog you already know that I’m a pretty jaded and cynical person.  I like to remain positive and upbeat, but it’s hard sometimes, especially during IEP Season.  It’s easy to lose your faith that good will prevail when you’re constantly fighting injustices on behalf of children with disabilities.  This would explain a good deal of my sarcasm as well.

But this week, I am a believer in the kindness of people.

I have a client who, like many of my clients, has gone into a great deal of debt in trying to secure appropriate special education services for their child.  The wheels of justice do not turn swiftly.  Without revealing details that would be inappropriate to share in a public forum, they had incurred nearly $40,000 in fees at a special education program that was doing amazing things for their child, but whose tuition they could no longer afford, and they had to leave the school.  They were demoralized, hopeless and ashamed.


As it turns out, the mother is a Words with Friends fanatic.  She plays not only with friends, but with “strangers” that the game will arrange as opponents.  If you play enough, you may end up playing the same people repeatedly, especially if you continue to challenge your opponents to a “rematch.”  Over the course of many months, she had played dozens of games with one particular person, with whom she would occasionally “chat.”

Over time, they discovered that they were both the parents of children with disabilities.  My client revealed that she was struggling to make ends meet, pay legal bills and private special education school bills, and that their tuition bill at the one program that had worked for their child remained unpaid.  It was the kind of chat many of us have online these days.


Recently, the stranger asked my client the name of the private school her daughter had attended; she provided it, not thinking much of it.  Then, piecing together information he’d obtained, he did the unthinkable.

He paid the student’s entire bill to the private school, under the condition that his identity remain anonymous.  Nearly $40,000 paid for a family he’d never met, and would never meet.

It’s hard to believe.  As I said, I didn’t believe it initially.  In fact, my client told me that she and her husband didn’t believe it at first either.  “This kind of thing doesn’t happen to people like us,” she said.  But it did.  I saw the paperwork.  I saw the letter from the private school confirming the financial contribution of the anonymous donor.  It happened.  To people like them.  All because one parent understood the burdens of another, and was in a position to do something about it.

My clients’ only hope now is to one day be able to “pay it forward” for another child, as this stranger did for her child.

I don’t know about you, but this particular story will get me through for a bit.  Maybe even through IEP season.  Maybe even beyond.  There is goodness in this world.  Sometimes it’s very, very, very hard to find, but it’s there.  That’s going to have to get me through.  That, and a whole lot of Words with Friends.

3 Responses to “This Doesn’t Happen to People Like Us”

  1. Helen Robinson
    April 13th, 2012 | 11:13 am

    I believe this & here’s why: It’s happened (sort of) to a former client (I’m a SpED Advocate) of mine – who’s parents could not afford to pay privately for a program that was helping their child. Without revealing too much, another parent, thrilled that their child was helped, had donated money – to the NPA/NPS – so that others, who were not so well off, could benefit.

  2. Marlene
    May 30th, 2012 | 7:19 pm

    What a heart warming story but I still hate Words with Friends!

  3. Tanya Holland
    August 16th, 2012 | 11:39 am

    What a wonderful story. My husband and I would put this under the category of “God’s provision.” We understand this parent’s situation…we went through a due process on behalf of our son with autism, a case absolutely rife with aggregious violations and moral/legal misconduct on the part of the school system, on to a State Review, and is now in Federal Court. $200,000 in legal bills that we cannot pay (our attorney has kept on with the case because he strongly believes in its credibility) and $70,000 in ABA therapy bills. We understand!!