Jennifer Wood, 40, of Plainville, Ill., is the mother of seven children, including three young boys diagnosed with autism. That alone sounds exhausting enough. But for the past three years, Wood has been attending law school at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and she graduated last month.
The recent graduate decided she wanted to become a special needs attorney during a custody battle with her first husband – the biological father of the three autistic boys. The attorneys and judges involved wanted to institute the usual every-other-weekend visitation policy between the boys and their father. Wood struggled to get them to understand that the boys needed strict routine and could not grasp the concept of “every other.”
Meanwhile, Wood, a former high school teacher, had been volunteering her time helping other special needs families develop their IEPs, or individualized education plans, in meetings with teachers and school administrators. When parents and educators were unable to agree on an IEP, the matter would eventually be resolved at a legal hearing where families needed legal representation. In those cases, Wood was no longer able to help the parents she had put so much effort into guiding.
Wood is now one step closer to being able to see such matters through and help families from start to finish. Hers is an inspirational story of hard work for the sake of helping both oneself and others.