Maureen Walsh Lake had a normal life as a parent, and a special education teacher- until she found herself drowned in a sea of intense emotions while raising her special needs daughter. Maureen’s life went far beyond the struggles of being a special needs parent.
Her daughter’s “triple whammy” condition – ADHD, depression and dyslexia tested ev
ery single trick she had learnt as a special education professional. Every day of her daughter’s life seemed to be dotted with challenges – intense anger bouts, a crippled social life that intensified into self-medication with food and alcohol in the later stages of life.
In a desperate quest to support her daughter, Maureen landed on an undeniable finding- the connection between nutrition and well-being. Her stress to find the right answers landed her sick, and that’s when she started working on applying this newfound knowledge.
She thanks her daughter for making her a healthier and more complete person, and today we have her sharing her knowledge with other parents struggling with a special needs child.
Her book, “Being Happy, Raising Happy” has already hit the bestseller list- and has been picked up for publishing by Morgan James Publishing.
Read on for more about Maureen’s journey into a best-selling author and a happy mother.
Hello Maureen. It’s lovely to be able to talk to you.
Thank you. I’m thrilled to be able to speak to you today too.
You are a best-selling author and an early childhood educator. Tell us a little bit about your background.
I received my advanced degree in Early Childhood Special Education at the University of Denver and had worked in special education ever since, but mostly at the elementary level. I’ve taught children with autism, cognitive delays, ADHD and dyslexia in both self-contained classrooms and inclusionary settings and was well aware of the challenges of raising a child with special needs even before I had my own children.
When I had my own three children, little did I know that two of them would have specific learning needs too – so I felt fortunate that I had my educational background to fall back on for parenting my children. Two years ago I stepped away from teaching and started working with parents who are raising their “spirited” child because, throughout my work with children, I always felt the moms were placing themselves second or third in need. I received my holistic health coach license and started digging into the area of health and wellness with mom’s health in mind. This helps me develop better strategies for coping with a special needs child.
Your book, “Being Happy, Raising Happy, ” is about raising children who can be termed “difficult” and specifically addresses the struggles of raising a special needs child. What strategies from your training as an early childhood educator made a difference to your parenting?
Fortunately, I am somewhat knowledgeable about child development and the various stages and phases all children go through. It was because of my background that I knew early on that my son’s language development was delayed at a young age.
Having a special needs child brings other challenges as well. At times I would hear from friends and family that I was “overreacting” to things related to their development, but I firmly believe in following mom’s gut, and it never steered me in the wrong direction. My son was diagnosed with dyslexia which an early indicator is language delay, so I feel fortunate we got him the help he needed very early on.
I also knew a lot about positive behavioral strategies and natural consequences from my teaching so believe me I used those skills a lot while raising my three children. Again, a red flag was raised when my daughter had very different behaviors that I knew were not typical of a child her age. I know my background helped me identify this as well and sure enough, she had her own set of unique challenges!
When did you decide to write a book? What was the turning point where you thought, “OMG! SO many others need to know this!” Did you have other parents asking you questions on how to cope with a special needs child?
My oldest son shared with me numerous times that I needed to write a book. I think it was his way of knowing that I needed to share my experiences in the hope of helping myself and others.
I decided to write my book while we were on a family vacation and our beautiful, glorious trip was disrupted by my daughter and her stress, anxiety, and anger. Anger wasn’t unusual, unfortunately, but it was the tipping point that brought me to the place to start my book.
As I was hurting I understood that I was not alone…and that maybe, just maybe my story might help another mom find strength and fortitude.
Your book talks about 5 major strategies to deal with a spirited child. Can you tell us briefly about them? And how you developed these strategies?
The five strategies are relatively familiar, but the combination saved my life and my daughters. As I was learning these, tools, she did too. It was a joint journey that brought us to health and wellness, and in the process brought us closer than ever.
The areas or pillars are created to help reduce stress and anxiety and regain your health and wellness. My daughter was taken off ADHD medication once she changed her lifestyle and listened to her needs.
The five areas are:
Nourishment (diet and environment are necessary for physical and mental health), Peace (meditation, gratitude, volunteering) Love (not all relationships are healthy, identify the toxic ones and reevaluate your priorities) Slumber (sleep is incredibly important for our health and stress reduction) Healing (Exercise, Yoga, holistic techniques)
Have you experienced a change in your family after your book came out, especially your child? In what way?
I wanted my daughter to read my book before I published it because if she had any ill feelings at all, I never would have published it. The book brought her to tears mainly because she said she never realized how her behavior affected others around her. She was living in her universe and failed to see beyond it. Reading the book ended up being a turning point for her.
Now, my daughter is well on the road to wellness and happiness. Under a doctor’s supervision, she is currently taking supplements successfully instead of relying on the prescription medications, she had been taking for years, and some of this is because of dietary changes she made as well. My daughter meditates daily and keeps an ongoing journal. The positives are numerous!!!
My husband has a new found awareness of my history and a sense of regret that he was not mentally available for most of the raising of our children. And, my oldest son is proud that I wrote the book and had successfully made his lifestyle changes including diet and sleep habits- to name a few. My middle child has yet to read the book 🙂
How did you manage to write a whole book amidst your other commitments? What was your writing routine?
Writing the book was easier than I thought it would be. Once I wrote my outline, I wrote the chapters on the five pillars first because it wasn’t emotional writing those topics. After those chapters had been completed, I worked on the topics that often hurt to recall. Oddly, they were the quickest chapters to write once I allowed myself to feel and grieve.
I set aside time each day to write. I knew pretty quickly if it was going to be a good writing day or not and not all days are good days. I allowed myself to understand that and if the words were not flowing, I would stop and return to writing later or the following day. I never forced it. I completed the book in less than 90 days.
How do you balance your work and responsibilities at home? And your book? What are your productivity hacks?
Finding the balance is what we all are looking to achieve. I wish I had a beautiful answer to this, but I don’t. One thing that helps me to focus is having my days grouped into a theme, for example, Monday is marketing, Tuesday is social media, etc. I start each day with this focus in mind and those tasks I want to accomplish before I move onto other items. I have set goals I’m working toward, and these primary goals are broken down into small steps so that I can accomplish them promptly.
I end each day at 4 pm no matter what, so I can meditate and prepare a proper meal for my family. It’s vitally important to me to do this not only for our health but it’s a beautiful, relaxing retreat for me as well.
How does your typical day look?
My typical day is pretty uneventful. Being that it’s summer it is fairly low key. My two dogs, Keira and Rosa try their best to keep me active so we start the morning with our walk and then breakfast. Once they are fed I go into my office and meditate for 20 minutes.
Depending on my day I may be writing, coaching or having a meeting or two. I am writing another book about diet and stress and I’m finding it stressful to write it!
Summer is a harder season to push and pull and with my children busy with non-school related activities it’s a much slower, happier pace.
What are your plans for the future? How do you see yourself in future roles?
I have stepped away from teaching children and I’m now coaching moms. My programs cover the 5 areas of wellness outlined in my book, but also to provide training, coaching and support to parents raising children with a broad range of complex neurological and/or metabolic challenges. My goal is to offer both online, group and 1:1 opportunities for parents.