5 Lessons I've Learned About Writing From My Special Needs Children

by Joe Bunting | 50 comments

This is a guest post by Thuy Yau. Thuy is a motivational writer in Perth, Australia. She is the author of the eBook, How Five Experiences Turned My Life Around. Check out her personal development blog at Inside a Mother's Mind and connect with her on Twitter (@insidea_mm).
special needs children

Photo by Arwen Abendstern

People often say becoming a parent teaches you a lot about yourself and about life. For me, it's also taught me how to be a better writer.

My three children have many developmental issues, one of which is a speech and language delay. It's been hard on me emotionally, mentally, and physically. But I've never given up on them.

As crazy as it sounds, though, it hasn't always been me steering them in the right direction. My children have often been the ones giving me lessons about life.

These five lessons have stayed with me, and crossed over to my life as a writer:

1. It's hard.

From the day my first daughter was born, it's been a struggle. A struggle for her to eat, a struggle for her to gain weight, a struggle for her to talk; a complete struggle for me as a mother.

But as a writer, you will struggle, too. It will be hard. You will be rejected. You will do jobs that don't pay well or give you enough exposure. You will write the book that nobody cares about. You will be criticized.

But you need to keep going. Nothing worthwhile comes easy.

2. You need to put in the effort.

I've attended hundreds of doctor's appointments. I've had to speak slower and enunciate. I've had to become more patient and understanding. I've done all I can to give them the best start in life.

As a writer, you will have to make sacrifices. You'll have to stay up longer than you want to, eat lunch just a bit late, edit until you can't edit any more. You'll have to delay instant gratification for lifetime satisfaction.

But all that effort you put into your writing will matter.

3. You're going to make mistakes.

I have sometimes turned up late to appointments, forgotten important details about my children's progress, shouted at my kids when I should have been more patient.

I'm not perfect. Neither are you.

One day, you're going to look back at one of your unpublished books and laugh. One day, you're going to write a blog post that makes you cringe months down the track. One day, you might have an eBook that you don't know how to market, which fails miserably in terms of sales.

But hey, you know what? We all make mistakes.

4. You have to ignore the negative people.

I've had so many ignorant comments:

โ€œWhat's wrong with her? Why is she so small?โ€
โ€œMaybe you should have read to your children more, then they would be able to talk.โ€

As judgemental as people have been, I've continued to hold my head high.

Don't let your family and friends call you “lazy” for being a writer. Don't let them tell you to get a “real job.” Don't let them get mad because you have to go home and write.

Surround yourself with encouraging people who want you to succeed. They are the people who deserve to be in your life (and possibly, in your book's dedication).

5. There will be good and bad days.

Some days, I'm up and ready for another day. But sometimes, I struggle with being the mother of three special needs children.

But every day can't possibly be a good day.

There'll be days where you'll want to write like there's no tomorrow, and there'll be days where you'll stare at a blank screen wondering why you wanted to be a writer in the first place.

Being a writer is an ongoing process; full of rejection, self-doubt and criticism. We have to believe in ourselves and our abilities. We need to stick it out to achieve the success that we so badly desire.

Live to Write

Sometimes the best writing lessons come from living life itself.

So open your eyes, let the opportunities in life teach you a lesson or two. You never know where your next story, article, or blog post might come from.

What writing lessons have you learned from your own life?


Think about one of the most difficult times in your life, where you were confronted with a challenge but overcome it.

For fifteen minutes, imagine you are giving a motivational speech to a crowd of people who need help turning their lives around. Let your character speak to the audience about what their experience entailed, and what life lessons it taught them.

When your time is up, post your practice in the comments. And if you post, please give feedback to a few other writers as well.

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Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

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  1. Jay Warner

    Very upbeat and motivational. Thank you for this post to get my Saturday revved up.

    • Thuy Yau

      I’m so glad that I helped get your Saturday revved up! Sometimes we just need that bit of motivation to keep us going. Glad you enjoyed the post, Jay ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. didilea

    Thank you for taking the time to share writing time and energy with us. The payoff might not be monetary at first, but good things come from dedication. Thank you for the reminder.

    • Thuy Yau

      That is so true, being a writer does take a lot of dedication and sometimes the payoff isn’t evident. But every day that we are writing, every day that we are practicing – it all adds to the bigger picture. It will be worth it. Thanks for your kind words!

  3. Rose Gardener

    Inspirational, thank you. All good advice and so easy to forget when things aren’t straightforward.

    • Thuy Yau

      That is so right – some days are harder than others and we might struggle with moving forward as a writer. But we need to move past those hard times – nothing worthwhile comes easy. Thank you for the positive feedback, Rose!

  4. Michelle Mieras

    Thanks for sharing this blog post! Whether about writing or something else, children often show us the simple truths.

    • Thuy Yau

      That is so right – parenthood sure opens our eyes to so many different things. I’m glad my 3 children were able to do that for me. Thanks for reading and sharing your opinion, Michelle!

  5. John Fisher

    On that early summer day, I sat on the curb in front of the mission and knew that I had had enough. I was not built to live on the streets. People I had rubbed shoulders with had died in stabbings and other forms of murderous meanness. ENOUGH. I said no to another hit — I knew if was going to get help, it would mean putting the drugs and the bottle down. I knew where to go to ask for help. I got up the next morning and went there and asked.

    I was assigned a case manager. I now had an air-conditioned place to come in out of the summer heat, on weekdays at least. There would be a daily program, classes in things like “Life Skills: Balancing a Checkbook” to be endured. But compared to the terror of being on the streets with no remedy in sight, these were not really annoyances at all.

    I was helped to get an apartment of my own. I cannot describe adequately the feeling of relief when I was able for the first time in years to lock my door against the world.

    There were people — staff where I was getting help — who saw worth and potential in me. A few months into the process of staying clean and doing the simple things that were asked of me, a staff person accompanied me to retrieve my steel guitar from the group home where I had abandoned it — it was still there !!! I could not believe my luck.

    Another month or so later, I played with a pick-up band consisting of two staff members and one fellow client. It was truly a day of celebration.

    We were on our way back.

    • Thuy Yau

      Incredible, John. That was very touching. I really liked how you tapped into your emotions. A job well done!

    • Linda Marie

      John, just reading this gives me courage and strength to face a battle I am now facing, once again. Thank You! I also now have the courage and motivation to do the “practice” and write about it.

    • John Fisher

      That’s great! That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it, to encourage one another . . . Keep writing!

    • Thuy Yau

      That’s great you’re all supporting each other!

    • Linda Marie

      Yes, and there are so many ways to encourage. We all have lessons to teach and lessons to learn. My life has been shaped by reading and writing from the earliest time I can remember, learning from Thuy Yau, learning from you, learning as I write! Keep writing yourself, words build strength and release power.

    • Thuy Yau

      Wow, I couldn’t have said it any better! Thanks, Linda ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thuy Yau

      And you did a marvellous job, Linda!

  6. kath Unsworth

    Love this, wow you must be so busy Thuy, I have two children, one with special needs, I find they inspire me, lead me and my writing to places I never thought I would visit. Most of all the say N is for never give up.

    • Thuy Yau

      That is exactly it, Kath – our life experiences tend to cross over into the pieces we write and it helps us to grow as writers. I love the attitude that you have – ‘never give up’ – it’s one that we writers need to stick by, even when things get hard. And yes, I am very busy – my kids are 2, 4 and 6. But if I can keep my head up, we all can! Thanks for sharing your thoughts ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Linda Marie

    My only child, Holly, died when she was five years old. I stood over her body, 25
    year old mommy, new baby growing, hope and joy dying. I grew up in a less than
    ideal family situation; Holly was truly the first unconditional give and take
    love I had ever known.

    To share the pain and confusion and joy and hope, the up and down of emotions,
    fear, anger, laughter, is not possible, so I would like to share some
    highlights of overcoming the battle to not end my life too.

    I woke up breathing every morning, if I was alive and breathing I had to get up, pull on my pants, put on my shoes, face the day. These words came from my grandpa when asked the secret of living 100+ years, I took them quite literally. Every day that we wake up with breath is a gift and an assignment.

    The loss of the future with Holly did NOT negate the past. I still had and still have the memories. When one of our roads comes to a sudden end, we can look for another road, sit and cry, or take out a machete and hack out a futureโ€ฆmotivated by the strength and love from the past.

    The idea is to not get over loss, but to live with it. If we live fearing loss we will never truly live. If we love fearing loss we will never truly love, but if we live and
    love knowing that nothing in this life is for sure, that all can be lost, we can
    learn to take nothing for granted and love better.

    God is good. Always and Forever. In all things. Seek His goodness and
    strength in every situation and He will provide. I am not talking about
    religion or denomination, just simple straight talk even if you are sworn atheist!

    • Thuy Yau

      Your piece was so beautiful, Linda. I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. But from reading your practice, I can almost feel the closure that you have reached within yourself. To be able to touch a reader like that, is an incredible skill. Thank you for sharing such a personal story and leaving us with such an important moral.

    • Linda Marie

      Thank you. Thank you for this post, and your response. Reading about your children just brought me back to the “why is she so small?” “why is she so blue?” etc. all the questions! It was many years ago, but your post touched me where it counts.

    • Thuy Yau

      Aww, well I’m glad my post was able to touch you. We all have experiences that make our writing that much different and without them, we wouldn’t be the writers that we are. Stay strong, Linda, you’ve done so well ๐Ÿ™‚

    • eva rose

      “The loss of the future did not negate the past.” That is beautifully expressed for anyone dealing with human loss. Thank you for sharing such a painful, life-changing experience. It quickly defines priorities and
      provides a base of compassion for facing life.

    • John Fisher

      Oh my gosh, I just found this. This is sacred, as writing becomes sacred when someone shares on such a level. I can say nothing except Thank You for something I needed to hear this morning.

    • Linda Marie

      see my response to Thuy Yau..below. Your post gave me the courage to write this.

    • Eyrline Morgan

      I enjoyed your post about overcoming hardship. I lost my son when he was 46. It was just as hard as if he had been a child. Some people tried to help by saying things like I had him so long that it should not be hard, or he is in a better place. What I needed were not words, just a hug and people to say, I understand. The road to recovery has been hard. It’s been five years and I can just now look at his picture without crying. I still can’t listen to his tapes singing. He was a grown man, but he was still my childl.

    • Thuy Yau

      Aww, how incredibly sad for you, Eyrline. I know that the road to recovery must have been so sad for you. But you deserve a big hug for how far you’ve come. My children may be 2, 4 and 6 but no matter how old they get, they will always be my ‘children’. Stay strong, you have done so well ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Maure

    My struggles seem pretty insignificant compared to the people I see here, but I figured it’s finally time to say something (I’ve only been lurking and reading up ’til now).

    I’ve spent most of my life feeling just… lost. My home suffers from a lot of past issues that have continued on into the present; I was raised with strict rules in some areas, casual ‘decide-what-you-want-to-think’ leniency in others, and overall an inconsistency that slowly made me go – now that I look back at it – kind of insane.

    So when I first wrote a book, I poured that theme into it without thinking – it was about a girl, my age, who discovers she has horrible destructive powers – and there’s no special school, no mentor, no prophecy. Just her, and she was lost too.

    The book was terrible.

    It meandered, it had no plot, it wallowed in confusion and anger at best.

    The only thing it did was open my eyes on two things: one, that I had problems. Two, my stories needed a goal.
    You could say that my writing and life influence each other equally. I write a book, I reveal an issue, I take that lesson from life and apply it to my next story. It’s a feedback loop.

    • John Fisher

      Maure, you give a clear and thoughtful description of the issues you’ve faced, and you recognize the limitations of what you had written while still gleaning important lessons from the experience of writing it. I think your description of the feedback loop is very apt. I hope you won’t give up — keep writing!

    • Maure

      Thanks. I won’t, and I will!

    • Linda Marie

      Maure, from my point of view, struggles should not be measured by comparison to others struggles, but by the effect on the person going through the struggles. What I admire about your post is that you had the courage to look at your book, evaluate it, learn from it, make your life better, make your writing better, make your writing better, make your life better! Oh, and you really have the courage and dedication to write books? I am impressed. Most of my writing is something between me and my shredder alone! What I posted in this practice is one of the few words I have publicly shared. Just had this thought from what you wrote…what if we wrote ourselves one amazing story, with one amazing character that we want to be…and became that person and lived it. As we give the character strength and purpose, we write it into our own life?
      Please forgive my ramble.

    • Maure

      Thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚ And funnily enough, one of the ideas sitting in my story-idea folder includes a woman who winds up realizing she is the heroine of a book series…

    • Li

      I admire and respect that you finished a book and learned from it and wrote some more. I have a terrible time finishing what I start. Thanks for posting honestly.

    • Thuy Yau

      Your struggles don’t seem insignificant at all. In fact, the way you intertwine your writing with your life is incredible – it means that you are learning from life and making sense of it. Much better to reach closure than to have these negative feelings bottle up inside.

      Keep at it – I love what you’re doing! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Caroline @UnderGod'sMightyHand

    As a mother of a special needs child and as a writer, I totally agree with you. You hinted at this, but can we also include, “You’ll be really tired?” ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thank you for the inspiration. And I do agree… I’ve learned way more from parenting my children than nearly anything else, especially in the “life lessons” area.

    • Thuy Yau

      Haha we can definitely include that one, Caroline!

      But yes, that is so true – parenting can teach you so much about yourself and about life. It definitely makes us stronger writers too.

      I’m glad my post inspired you. I bet you’re doing a great job balancing your life as a mother and writer ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. David Tiefenthaler

    Having kids definitely tests your limits. It brings the best but also the worst out in me! #2 No doubt!

    • Thuy Yau

      So true, David. I thought I was crazy before, but now look at me! haha. Bet you’re doing a great job, though. Keep at it!

  11. Rhonda

    This was a beautiful piece. And everybody’s comments display such a wonderful strength and resilience. While I am not prepared to share my story publicly, I do agree that finding inspiration from our children and leaning on people who support us is one very important path to success, however you may define that. My private writing shows the strength and freedom my pillars give me. My public writing is still a work in progress – but it is getting there.

    Thank you for this piece and for sharing your stories so openly.

    • Thuy Yau

      Rhonda, that is great that you are continuing to try your best – it is all about giving things our best shot.

      I definitely agree with you – everybody’s comments have been beautiful. There has been such beautiful honesty in each and every comment, and I truly appreciate it.

      Thanks for your kind words ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Giulia Esposito

    So many important lessons about writing (and life!) here. I often tell my students, even the little wee kindergarteners, it’s okay to make mistakes. But sometimes I forget that myself. I don’t always forgive my mistakes, even though I’m well aware of the fact that there will be good days and bad days. We’re always harder on ourselves, holding ourselves to some impossible standard. Lately, I’ve been slacking a bit on my writing. Combination of reasons. Over the past couple of days though, I’ve realized that I have to get back at it and forgive my mistakes in writing–it’s not always going to be perfect. Thanks for this great advice.

    • Thuy Yau

      Wow, Giulia, that is so true. Good on you for getting back into it though. It’s ok to slack off every once in a while (we definitely deserve the break), but we need to get back in the saddle and keep trying. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I’m glad you enjoyed the advice ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Marty Gavin

    How simple and sweet , and true. Just beautiful.

    • Thuy Yau

      Thanks, Marty! I wanted to be honest and write from the heart. Just like life, writing can get hard but we need to try our best to keep moving.. and to keep writing! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thuy Yau

      I’m glad you loved the post! I think everybody needs a little encouragement from time to time ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Audrey Chin

    Thuy, thank you for sharing these lessons about parenthood and writing. I admire your perseverance and fortitude. As a mother of a profoundly deaf child I can imagine the challenges, but maybe just…

    • Thuy Yau

      Hi Audrey,
      Thank you! I think we all have our own challenges, but it’s about getting through them that matters. I bet life is difficult for you and your child, but we are always much stronger than we think. One of my nephews is deaf in one ear and has always struggled with his speech, but his parents have done the best job that they can. In the end, that’s all a child really needs – a parent who will try their best, no matter what ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Rolando.COAKLEY

    I am in possession of several of the oral anabolic steroid known as Anadrol. I have done my research and I am aware of how dangerous steroids are. I am not interested in hearing people tell me to stop taking them, I am going to take them and I want to know when the best time to take them is.. . Before the workout, during the workout, after the workout?. . Advice appreciated..


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