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Kathy Marshack News

Do You Have Trouble Reading Facial Expressions? Take This Test and See

Monday, December 12, 2016


Do You Have Trouble Reading Facial Expressions? Take This Test and SeeEvery day we’re confronted with interactions where we have to figure out what other people are thinking and planning on doing. Will that child dart across the road in front of your car? Will your spouse be receptive to your request? Does the new girl you just met really like you? Is there a way to tell?

While the spoken word gives you some indication of what someone is thinking, it’s not reliable in and of itself. Someone may be pulling your leg by sarcastically complimenting you while keeping a deadpan face. To know what they really mean, you have to learn how to read what their eyes are telling you.

The eyes and the surrounding areas are the most expressive part of a person's face. Once you know how to read a person's emotions through his or her eyes, you're much closer to being able to predict their behavior.

Judging a person’s mental state, also called having a “theory of mind,” is an important skill that most of us develop early in life. However, the brains of people who have Asperger’s, a high functioning form of autism, develop this skill only partially or not at all. This helps us to understand why our Aspies lack empathy and have trouble socializing.

When you can empathize, you feel what the other person feels, and you connect with that person on a deep level of understanding and trust. Empathy comes from being able to reading emotional cues, such as the message being sent through the eyes, the tone of voice and body language, in addition to the actual words spoken and the context in which they’re said.

Would you like to take the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET) that Simon Baron-Cohen developed? It presents a series of 36 pairs of eyes, and you have to pick one emotion out of four possible emotions being communicated. It’s so effective it’s been used as a tool to help point toward a diagnosis of Asperger’s. I’d love for you to come over to my Facebook page and report your results. The good news is that taking the test over and over again can help train your brain to improve in its ability to read the emotions revealed by the eyes. It’s a fantastic way to improve your ability to understand other people.

If your results indicate you may have Asperger’s, don’t despair or feel embarrassed. Take it as the first step toward creating a more rewarding life. If live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment for a proper diagnosis. This may be exactly what you need to put you on the path toward healthier and long lasting relationships.

How to Avoid ASD Meltdowns During the Holidays

Friday, December 09, 2016


If you avoid family Christmas parties because of your Aspies unpredictable behavior, try these ten tips to help your Autistic child cope with holiday stressPlanning is the key to enjoying any special occasion. This is especially true when you have family members on the spectrum. With their normal routine disrupted, it’s important to prepare them well in advance so as to minimize their anxiety and potential meltdowns.

Don’t be afraid to start some new holiday traditions that make the holiday times less stressful for you. Here are 10 simple tips that can help you and your Aspie child enjoy the holiday season more:

1. Invite your Aspie child to help decorate your home, so he or she is actively involved in changing their environment. Sounds, smells, and bustling activity can cause sensory overload, so you may need to limit the type and quantity of holiday cheer. For example, you may want to limit the volume and time you play holiday music. You may want to choose subdued lighting instead of the flashing and twinkling lights.

2. Rehearse the scheduled events with your child (either in written or picture form). If you create a wall chart that counts down the days, post photos of all the people who will attend and help your child get to know them in advance. Talk about what activities will take place, where they will happen, how loud it will be, how many people will attend, and what behavior is expected. Knowing what’s next helps ASD children feel less anxiety.

3. Make treats that your child can eat so he or she doesn’t feel left out. Be sure to make enough to share. When it’s on the table amidst the other goodies, it makes your child feel like they fit in. Don’t give in to the peer pressure of, “But this is the holiday; let him have some of this cake…” You know how eating certain foods contributes to meltdowns. Instead, offer one of your special treats.

4. Make your child’s sleep schedule a priority. If traveling away from home, it may be helpful to bring your child’s normal sheets and pillows so he or she can sleep more peacefully.

5. If you need dress clothes for family pictures, change your child into soft clothes as soon as possible. Avoid the temptation to make your child wear new clothes from grandma, until you’ve washed them several times and removed the tags.

6. If you’re going to travel by plane, bring earplugs so your child can listen to a favorite program or music. It will drown out the noise of the plane and surrounding people, and it’s calming.

7. Take a few of your child’s favorite toys, games or books. When your child needs some downtime or distraction, there will be something familiar to comfort them.

8. Give your child a code word to use if he or she feels overwhelmed. This provides a feeling of control and helps them remain calm. Be sure your child knows that you will respond right away when this code word is used.

9. Briefly explain Asperger’s to supportive family and friends so they know what to expect and how to respond. If you have a few people who will act as a buffer against those who refuse to understand, it gives you some breathing room and you won’t feel so alone.

10. Make sure someone is always committed to watching your child. If you do this in shifts, everyone will have time to have fun. Have a pre-assigned way to tactfully “tag” the next person when their shift begins.

I hope these tips help you experience a happy and enjoyable holiday season!

What if the person with Asperger’s is your spouse? Don’t forget that the holidays can be stressful for them as well. You may want to pick up a copy of my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD). It also explores the science behind Asperger’s. It will help you understand your Aspie better. Get a free chapter by clicking on the image below.

Finding Your Way to Normal Despite Your NT/AS Relationship

Monday, December 05, 2016


Doesn’t the holiday season make you wish for true love, a warm and hearty Christmas dinner with family, and better times ahead? It almost makes us believe, like little children who believe Santa grants wishes, that our heartfelt wishes might come true.

But then you realize with a sinking feeling that it can’t possibly happen, because your life isn’t like everyone else’s. You don’t get to live a normal life, because you’re living with someone who has Aspergers. And that realization makes you withdraw even deeper into your protective invisibility.

If no one notices that you’re not normal, you can pretend that what happens to you is okay. That you really didn’t want to attend the dinner with friends. That it doesn’t matter that no one kisses you under the mistletoe. That you won’t get a gift that makes you feel like a desired lover and partner. That it’s impossible for you and your Aspie to have a good time together. That you don’t feel special anymore. That you’re invisible.

I never really thought about invisibility before I learned about my mother’s Asperger Syndrome. But in looking back through the years, I realize now that I have been invisible all my life, and I believe it’s a condition that plagues a lot of NT people in Asperger/NT families

Whenever I explain my experience of family holidays to friends and colleagues their eyes glaze over. I do get some satisfaction from this, because it confirms my suspicion that my life is not normal. But it’s still a painful reminder. . . that I am alone.

Since the holiday season is particularly poignant for most of us, it’s time we gather together to discuss how you feel about this conundrum and what to do about it. If you’re a member of the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD, please join our free international teleconference on Thursday, December 15, 2016, at 1:30 PM. We’ll discuss “Finding Your Way to Normal”.  I'm not saying that you can really find your way back to normal. That ship has sailed. But perhaps you can create a new normal for you; a normal that helps you stay healthy, and loving and mentally centered. . . amid the chaos of living with those on the Autism Spectrum.

If your depression is worsened by the holiday season and it’s getting to be too much for you, please contact your medical or health care professional immediately. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment so we can find ways for you to achieve happiness again.

And if you’ve been putting off getting a copy of Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) because you thought it was just about parenting, don’t wait another moment. You’ll hear my story and that of others who feel invisible. It also explores the science behind Asperger’s. Get a free chapter by clicking on the image below.

Entrepreneurs – Reduce Stress by Caring for Your Mind, Body and Spirit

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Man standing on cliff with arms outstretchedWhile entrepreneurs are good at accomplishing goals, they're usually not very good at establishing healthy habits. You probably work tirelessly building your business, working long hours while simultaneously caring for your family. It’s no wonder that self-care quickly takes a backseat to more immediate priorities. With what result? A lot of built-up stress with no relief in sight.

What can you do to minimize the amount of stress in your busy entrepreneurial life? Stress comes when the different aspects of your life fall out of alignment. In order to keep all parts of your life in healthy productive alignment, you must attend to the whole person. That means caring for your mind, body and spirit.

Care for your mind. Take time to refocus and recharge. One way to do this is through the practice of mindfulness, a simple form of meditation that helps you get control of your thoughts and behaviors. It is the act of focusing all of your attention on the present. Focus on what you are doing or feeling without thinking about why you’re doing it or feeling that way, what you should do next, or what you think you should be doing. Mindfulness requires that you objectively consider your thoughts and feelings, a process that helps you be truly present and live in the moment.

The benefits of practicing mindfulness extend beyond the initial session of meditation. People who practice mindfulness experience greater focus and decreased stress, even beyond the meditation session. It keeps you from jumping from one thought to the next or dwelling on negative thoughts. Even just a few minutes can quiet your mind and reduce stress.

Care for your body. Physical needs are some of the first things left behind when entrepreneurs really get busy. But caring for your body is necessary for staying healthy and keeping your stress levels in check. Get some sleep. This is easier said than done, but it is important. Take time to prepare and eat nourishing foods. The vitamins and minerals in healthy foods keep your body working properly, enabling you to power through the daily demands of entrepreneurial life.

Also, move your body more. Exercise reduces stress, increases your energy levels, and helps you sleep better. Even small amounts of exercise can make a big difference. The mind and body are in state of constant communication. What the mind thinks and experiences is sent from the brain to the rest of the body. This is why you can often physically feel the effects of stress. The good news is that our bodies are also sending messages to the brain so exercise can help calm the mind.

Care for your spirit. The spirit is that part of each human that makes us a distinctive personality. It is the part of a person that defines us and yet connects us to others. Keeping our spirit healthy is essential to the process of achieving healthy balance in life. Some feed their spirit through belief in God and the practice of religion. Others maintain a spiritual connection in some other way. Find your sense of self that extends beyond the boundaries of this life and commit to it.

Stress is a part of life, especially for entrepreneurs. However, it can be managed by taking care of your entire being. When you balance your mind, body, and spirit, you will be able to have a more meaningful, and less stressful, life to share with the ones you love. If you’d like to achieve balance again and live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

What To Do When Your AS/NT Relationship Makes You Feel Less Than Normal

Monday, November 28, 2016


What To Do When Your AS/NT Relationship Makes You Feel Less Than NormalIt may be slowly dawning on you that you aren't normal. You may have started out that way many years ago, but after life with an Aspie it's clearly not possible to be normal anymore. You’ve been "aspergated!"

What do I mean by “aspergated”? After years of adapting to your Aspie loved ones, many Neuro-Typicals feel as if they have one foot in the NT world and one foot in the ASD world. . . not quite fitting into either. Is that how you feel? Please take heart.

Recognizing that it’s happened to you is the first step to fixing it. It’s not too late to switch gears and create a new identity for yourself. You can even do this while making your NT/AS relationship thrive. Just don’t give up on yourself.

I do believe there is “New Life Ahead” for you. During this season of giving, how about giving yourself the gift of appreciation for all that you do and how wonderful you are? Ironically the wear and tear you have suffered in your life with an Aspie has made you much more aware. Use this consciousness to actively and purposefully build a new life.

Think about all of the gifts you need to give yourself right now! How about that quilting convention you've always wanted to go to? Or perhaps you've wanted to start meditating? What about finishing your degree? Kayaking anyone? Start planning now for a New Year filled with appreciation for “A New Life Ahead”.

Join the next low-cost video conference, A New Life Ahead. It will be held on Thursday, December 8th at 9AM PT. You’ll be inspired by our discussion! If you can’t make it, please check back for future Meetups or book a one-on-one educational session with me. While this is not therapy, you will get a lot of your questions answered.

I want to give you the courage and motivation you need in any way that I can. That’s why I’ve written about my experience and that of others, so you can see that if they did it, so can you. If you haven’t purchased your copy of my books on how to make your NT/AS relationships thrive, here are links with more information:

Out of Mind - Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome

Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going over the Edge?


Read more on my website: Asperger Relationships.

7 Ways to Teach Your Child to be a Leader

Monday, November 21, 2016


Mother and daughter spending time togetherIt probably goes without saying that parents want their children to be leaders rather than followers. Some children are natural leaders. They seem to inherently understand how to negotiate successfully, effectively give directions, and kindly offer help. These children bring peace and harmony to a group, and inspire others to do their best.
 
But for most children, these skills do not come naturally. They are skills that must be learned from you as a parent – the family leader! When you are running a family business, there’s an additional element to teaching leadership since your child might be called upon to lead the family business someday.
 
So how can you teach your child to be an effective leader? Fortunately, you don’t have to revamp your entire routine to teach leadership skills to your children. Small things you do every day can have a big effect.
 
Take a look at these seven ways you can help your children grow into great leaders:
 
Emphasize the value of perseverance. Leaders need to learn to handle failure gracefully. They may fail many times, but true leaders always get back up and move on quickly. It is important to allow your children to experience disappointment rather than protect them from it. When you shield your children from failure, they don’t learn to tolerate the inevitable failure they will experience later in life. Children need to learn how to deal with a setback and move forward with a positive attitude. When they do fail, be kind and show support. Let them know that you understand their feelings. This will help them understand that things will ultimately work out for them.
 
Don’t be so quick to offer praise. Children need praise to build their self-esteem, but not so much that they depend on praise from others to feel good about themselves. Their confidence must come from within. They need to learn to believe in themselves, especially in the face of opposition or naysayers. When you do praise your children, praise the effort they put in to something.
 
Let your children be self-sufficient. Don’t be quick to jump in and solve their problems for them. This applies to everything from school projects to a disagreement they have with a friend or sibling. Step back and let your children work through their issues. This empowers them to stand on their own two feet and take control. They learn to be responsible and accountable.
 
Focus on independence verses obedience. By no means am I advocating a parenting technique where the child can be disobedient, rude, or disrespectful. However, if you want your child to lead your company someday, they need to learn how to be independent and make good decisions now. Independence is a state of mind that children must conquer for themselves. In order to do this, children must eventually prove themselves in the adult world. This proof often comes by leaving home, perhaps even the family business for a time, and facing their fears of being on their own.
 
Don’t focus too much on achievement. Of course, you are proud of your child when they get good grades or excel in some other way. But are those individual achievements really what’s most important? Isn’t it the journey? True success, especially in the business world, comes from teamwork. The most successful people surround themselves with talented people who make up for what they lack. If you focus too much on the individual achievements of your children, they will not learn how to work with others, ask for help, and may give up out of discouragement.
 
Say no. It sounds simple, but it is very powerful. Successful leaders work hard for the things that are important to them. They don’t get everything they want, right this second. It is vital for children to develop this same patience. Help them set goals. They will experience the joy and gratification that comes from working hard to accomplish their goals and get what they want. Your children will learn to deal with the initial disappointment, and refocus on the goal ahead.
 
Model the behaviors you want to see in your children. Your children see everything you do, and soak it up like a sponge! Make sure your actions are saying what you want them to say. Be honest and authentic. Show your children that it is ok to be who you are. Show them that you aren’t infallible, that everyone makes mistakes. Then you can teach them how to work through, and learn from, their mistakes.
 
Parenting is no easy task, and we can all use some help from time-to-time. If you need help with your family, and you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office to set up an appointment.

Tap into the Science and Power of Gratitude to Become Happier and More Resilient

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Tap into the Science and Power of Gratitude to Become Happier and More ResilientAs we enter this season of thankfulness, it’s good to reflect on how often we ask ourselves, “What am I grateful for today?” Not only does a daily gratitude practice like gratitude journaling make us more pleasant to be around, gratitude also improves our health.

Asking yourself this simple question every day is powerful enough to change your brain’s chemistry! As a result, people who look for reasons to be grateful experience better mental health, emotional wellbeing and resiliency in the face of difficulties. Why does gratitude have such power?

When you experience gratitude, neural circuits are activated in your brain. Dopamine and serotonin production increases, and these neurotransmitters produce calming results. The more you stimulate these neural pathways, the stronger and more automatic they become, which is an example of Hebb’s Law that states, “neurons that fire together wire together.” The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

This means that if you’re looking for the negative, the neural pathways for negative thinking become stronger. But if you begin a daily gratitude practice, you will start noticing what’s going right in your life instead. This is great news! You can remake yourself into a positive person, even if you’ve tended toward being negative your whole life.

One interesting study on gratitude was conducted by the Department of Psychology, at the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC. They partnered with Steven Spielberg’s USC Shoah Foundation to see how “gratitude ratings would correlate with activity in brain regions associated with moral cognition, value judgment and theory of mind.” Dr. Glenn Fox describes their research and finding:

“The stimuli used to elicit gratitude were drawn from stories of survivors of the Holocaust, as many survivors report being sheltered by strangers or receiving lifesaving food and clothing, and having strong feelings of gratitude for such gifts. The participants were asked to place themselves in the context of the Holocaust and imagine what their own experience would feel like if they received such gifts. For each gift, they rated how grateful they felt.
When the brain feels gratitude, it activates areas responsible for feelings of reward, moral cognition, subjective value judgments, fairness, economic decision-making and self-reference. These areas include the ventral- and dorsal- medial pre-frontal cortex, as well as the anterior cingulate cortex."
A lot of people conflate gratitude with the simple emotion of receiving a nice thing. What we found was something a little more interesting. The pattern of [brain] activity we see shows that gratitude is a complex social emotion that is really built around how others seek to benefit us.”

In other words, gratitude doesn’t just show up in the brain’s reward center. It involves being a morally and socially aware individual who is able to display empathy. (This may help explain why you feel unappreciated and unloved by your partner who has Aspergers. Their brain functions differently so they are socially awkward and lack the ability to deeply empathize with you.)

Why not begin a gratitude journal today? Write down five things you’re grateful for. As your list grows, you’ll look at life differently, plus you’ll have something encouraging to read when you’re feeling down. High on my gratitude list is that you’re part of my community.

Is a Millennial a Good Fit to Run Your Family Business?

Monday, November 14, 2016


Young woman helping older man with computerFor family businesses, planning for succession is one of the toughest and most critical challenges. If you’ve been doing business for decades, let’s face it, your twenty-something granddaughter might see the world very differently than you do! Instead of dreading succession planning, try to view it as an opportunity to create a business that embodies your family’s values and mission for generations to come. It can also be an opportunity to bond with your younger family member in a deeper way.

Successfully planning for the future of your business involves truly knowing, understanding, and collaborating with the next generation, which may mean a Millennial family member. As much bad press as Millennials get, they are actually a great choice to take over the family business! In fact, 62% of millennial-owned businesses reported increased sales over the past six months vs. 41% of small business owners overall. They are also the most likely to grow their workforce this year.

With their positive outlook, fresh ideas, and new skills, many Millennials are well-equipped to carry on the family business. So how can you successfully plan to transfer your business to your Millennial family member? Here are some recommendations:
Understand their perspective. Millennials are unlike any previous generation. They aren’t tied to traditions. They don’t want to live in the office when with a cell phone in their hand and wi-fi nearby, they can accomplish just about anything. They work hard, but differently. When it comes to work, they want to have a purpose, to feel they are tied to something important that impacts the community.
Be open to new, innovative ideas. We just discussed how different Millennials are. Take advantage of those differences! They understand the developing market, and the importance of technology. Discussing new ideas builds trust and creates new opportunities. Taking time to go over some new ideas before transitioning to new ownership gives everyone involved the chance to effectively merge the incoming ideas with present business practices.Communicate clearly. Don’t avoid talking about the succession process. Let your Millennial family member know what you are thinking and how they can be involved. This gives them time to consider if they truly want to be a part of the family business. If they do, the process of exchanging ideas and mentoring can begin early. You also have the chance to determine if they are truly a good fit for the job. (Read another article, Should your children leave the nest - and business - behind? for more insight on this decision.) Take time to train your successors. Once the succession plan is in place, take time to train the person/people who will be taking over for you. As I mentioned before, you want to be specific about your expectations, but not to the point that they become dependent on you for everything. Use your time to empower them as a leader. Also, it has been noted that employees in a family business are more likely to accept their new Millennial boss if they’ve been visibly and reliably learning the business rather than suddenly appearing in power overnight.The goal when creating a succession plan for your family business is to simultaneously ensure the success of your business, and the health and happiness of your family. Just as with legal and financial decisions, the emotional or psychological aspects of succession planning often requires the assistance of a professional. If you are starting to plan for the future of your business, and you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office to set up an appointment.

Diagnosing Asperger’s – Is It also Pathological Avoidance Disorder, Narcissism or OCD?

Thursday, November 10, 2016


Those with Aspergers may also be diagnosed with Narcissism, Pathological Avoidance Disorder and OCD, yet it’s wise to focus on treating the Empathy DisorderAs we seek to understand our friends and family who have Asperger’s Syndrome (a high-functioning form of Autism Spectrum Disorder), we discover a myriad of potential diagnoses that could fit, such as Narcissism, Pathological Avoidance Disorder and OCD. But before you wander down the Rabbit Hole with these variations on the theme of Autism Spectrum Disorders, it’s important to pay attention to the underlying problem for all of these disorders. . . namely an Empathy Disorder.

People who lack empathy are unable to step outside of themselves. They can’t tune in to what other people are feeling, thinking or believing. This self-centeredness often results in personal conflict, communication breakdown, and an adversarial attitude.

Research shows that empathy is "hard-wired" through a variety of neural pathways, some of which have mirror neurons. Regions of the brain actually light up in when you become aware of another person's emotions. Literally, you do feel what she’s feeling.

In the normal course of events, a person can lose his (or her) ability to be empathetic by becoming too self-absorbed, or he can increase his ability to be empathetic by retraining his brain.

However, the brains of people with ASD don’t function in the same manner. They can, however, develop other ways to navigate the world of personal growth and social interaction. Interestingly, research shows that when we find ways to manage our anxieties, we actually reduce our narcissistic and OCD behaviors. So too with Aspies.

If you’re a member of the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD, please join our free international teleconference on Thursday, November 17th, 2016 at 1:30 PM. We’ll discuss “Is it Pathological Avoidance Disorder, Narcissism or OCD?” In this teleconference, we will discuss the challenges to empathy-disordered individuals. Regardless of their diagnosis, or the way they choose to adapt to their anxiety and empathy disorder, we want to speak to the underlying empathy issue, not just the symptom.

And if you’ve been putting off getting a copy of Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) because you thought it was just about parenting, don’t wait another moment. It also explores the science behind Asperger’s. It will help you understand your Aspie better. Get a free chapter by clicking on the image below.

November is National Adoption Month – What Do Adopted Children Need to Thrive?

Monday, November 07, 2016


November is National Adoption Awareness Month – Can you adopt a child, and what can you do support adoptive families and adopted children that you know?The subject of adoption is close to my heart. Many of you may know that I have two adopted children. And as we enter November, it’s good to remember that this is the nationally proclaimed Adoption Awareness Month. (In 1984 President Reagan proclaimed the first National Adoption Week. Then in 1995, President Clinton expanded it to the entire month of November.) There are more than 100,000 children in the U.S. who are yet unplaced in permanent homes.

It’s understandable that many have misgivings about becoming adoptive parents. All parents feel unprepared and inadequate for parenthood, at some point, because it’s a road they’ve never been down before. However, if both parents are willing to work as a team and take the leap of faith, you can bond with and love the adopted child as much as if you’d given birth to him or her.

True, there are unique challenges for the adoptive families and adopted children. Especially is this so when the children have special needs. But what these children need is a family who loves them and won’t give up on them. If they’re older when adopted they especially need a family who will take into consideration that they have been hurt and are afraid and lonely.

For younger children parents need to decide whether to have a closed adoption. For many years, adoptions were closed and it was even common to hide the adoption from the child. I’ve seen this lead to so many problems. I think it’s foolish for adoptive parents to raise their children without education about the effects of adoption on the lives of their children and themselves.

Children need to make sense of their personal history, and it is the adoptive parents who provide this narrative. They are the gatekeepers to the child’s relationship with the birth parents. So the role of being an adoptive parent is very demanding and can be difficult to navigate without the help of a qualified mental health professional who is experienced with the adoption process.

Please don’t think you have to go it alone. Reach out to your pediatrician to get a referral. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. I would love to help you make a success of building a happy family. Nothing is more rewarding.

Read more on my website: Adoptive Families.



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