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Kathy Marshack News

A Healthy Brain Equals Healthy Relationships

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


A strong marriage or relationship requires constant and loving attention, which can be hard work under the best circumstances. Lately I’ve focused on the impact of Asperger Syndrome on relationships. But the truth is there are many things such as ADD, anxiety, depression, obsessive tendencies, brain trauma, toxic exposure, and early Alzheimer’s disease  that can seriously sabotage your relationships. I greatly respect the work of Dr. Daniel Amen, who I have spoken of in past blogs. In his recent "Brain in the News" newsletter, he spoke of how brain function has an incredible affect on our relationships. When the brain is functioning properly, things are good, but when it is not, you exhibit traits that could have a negative impact on your relationships.  For example, Dr. Amen mentioned that if you have low activity in the front part of your brain, you will often speak before you think. This type of speech can be hurtful and harmful to your relationship. If this type of behavior sounds familiar, you may need marital counseling and more. You may also need to examine your mental health as individuals. If you are interested in other tips for maintaining a relationship, visit Marriage Counseling - Maintaining a Strong Marriage.

Help in Career Planning for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Finding a job in today's economy is hard enough, but it is even harder if you have Autism Spectrum Disorders, including Asperger Syndrome. For example, you may feel uncomfortable filling out a job application. Or you may feel confused because it's important for you to answer everything as honestly as possible, but you end up frustrated that you can’t fully explain your situation. Or you don't work well with people, but the only entry level jobs are in customer service. With the majority of Aspie's unemployed or underemployed, help is finally available! I recently heard of a new conference put together by Spectrum Training Systems. The conference is entitled, Career Planning for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This two day conference held October 21-22, 2009 in Seattle, WA is designed to help students, parents, caregivers, and young adults with ASD to become successful career-oriented individuals. It is also available for career coaches, therapists, special education administrators, and teachers so that they can better assist those with ASD in this important area. Some of the specific topics that will be discussed are Career Planning, Workplace Support, and Social Communication in the Workplace. This type of training is sorely needed. More information is available at www.SpectrumTrainingSystemsInc.com/Conferences.html.

Hollywood's Interest in Asperger Syndrome

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


In an earlier blog, I wrote about a new movie, ADAM, a love story with a twist. Adam, the main character has Asperger Syndrome. ADAM premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and took home the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan award. Searchlight Films has picked up the film and will have a limited release on July 29, 2009. Since more and more adults are being diagnosed with Asperger's, I'm happy to see that Hollywood has taken an interest in AS. I remember a few years back when I went to see the film, The Aviator, I immediately recognized that Howard Hughes displayed characteristics of Asperger Syndrome. He exhibited all the classic symptoms of Asperger's. He was clearly obsessive, extremely attentive to the smallest details, unable to connect with the women he loved, and suffered from intense paranoia. I look forward to seeing the portrayal of Asperger Syndrome in the movie ADAM and will share my "review" - from the perspective of a therapist that works with Asperger Syndrome relationships - in an upcoming blog.

Tips for the “Survivor” Entrepreneur

Friday, June 19, 2009


Are you an entrepreneur? Are you impatient with details? Do others work too slowly?  Are you hypercritical? Do you make things happen? Do others admire you? Can you usually handle twice the work of others?  Are you tenacious? Are your successes due to your own hard work?  Do you thrive on adversity? If you recognize yourself in this short quiz, then you are probably a survivor entrepreneur, someone who overcame great obstacles to accomplish their dreams in life. Because your survival depended upon quick action and attending to what was immediately necessary to accomplish your dream, this type of entrepreneur has honed efficiency to a fine science. Your gaze is constantly on the horizon, looking for the next opportunity or the next problem to solve. However, when you err, you are exceptionally hard on yourself. Here are a few tips every survivor entrepreneur should learn to cultivate: 1. Learn to accept failure graciously; you'll have more friends and supporters that way. Others may have experienced more failure than you have and they need to know that you understand and are human too. Don't stop being right, but be more patient with your errors and those of others. 2. Remember you are the one with the vision. It is your gift and one that should be used generously and wisely. Others have different gifts to contribute that are just as valuable, but without visionary ability, they really can't so easily understand what you grasp in an instant. So take the time to walk them through what you know. 3. Don’t make a life of surviving. Some survivor entrepreneurs keep creating crises in their lives, often unconsciously, so that they can get the thrill of mastering the crisis. The entrepreneur may be able to handle this excitement but your family and friends may tire quickly of the emotional roller coaster. Save the surviving for real adversity and take the time to stop and smell the roses with the ones you love. There are deep and profound rewards in the tiny things that occupy ordinary life too, if you will explore that territory. Read my article to learn more about “survivor” entrepreneurs.

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements Reduce ADD Symptoms

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


For decades, medications have been used to treat the symptoms of attention deficit disorders. For many people, these medicines dramatically reduce their hyperactivity and improve their ability to focus, work, and learn. But many people are hesitant about taking medication. Is there anything else available to reduce symptoms of ADD? Dr. Daniel Amen, a child psychiatrist, has been using Omega-3 fatty acid supplements for years to treat patients with ADD. In one of his recent newsletters, Dr. Amen highlighted a study from Canadian researchers studying the effects of Omega-3’s on ADD. Their results showed that children taking Omega-3 supplements have better behavior and a greater attention span. This study has been published in the February 2009 journal, Paediatric Child Health. Omega-3 fatty acids are not only beneficial for ADD, but also for depression, joint pain, and great for the brain. In addition to medication or supplements, I highly recommend behavioral therapy, emotional counseling, and practical support. In individual counseling, a therapist can help the child or adult with ADD learn to feel better about themselves. They do this by helping them recognize that having a disability does not reflect who they are as a person. Over time the therapist can help people with ADD identify and build on their strengths, cope with daily problems, and learn to control their attention and aggression. For more information on coping with ADD/ADHD, please visit my website.

Scheduled Television Appearance on June 16, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009


Exciting news! I will be appearing on Portland’s KATU morning show, AM Northwest. I will be discussing my new book, Life with a Partner for Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: GOING OVER THE EDGE? Here are the details: When: Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 Show:  KATU AM Northwest Local Channel: Channel 2 Scheduled Time: 9-10 am Link for viewing online: http://www.katu.com/amnw I hope you can tune in!

More Recommended Books on Asperger Syndrome

Friday, June 12, 2009


Here are a few more books on Asperger Syndrome that I highly recommend reading. Enjoy!

The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspectives of Autism - Temple Grandin
Temple Grandin is credited with bringing the tough subject of autism out in the open. She is a strong advocate for autistic adults and children in securing the type of education and emotional support they need. Her first book, Emergence: Labeled Autistic, is a seminal work that makes you rethink your notions of what it means to be autistic. In this book on social skills, Temple and her coauthor Barron break down the mystery of social relationships so that they make more sense to the autistic mind.

 The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome - Tony Attwood Attwood has led the field when it comes to opening our minds to another way to look at this developmental disorder. Filled with scientific research this book is not without heart. Books on Asperger's Syndrome need to help the reader learn more but it is important to recognize that we are all part of the human condition. Attwood does a marvelous job in weaving together a useful guidebook to this complex disorder.

The Other Half of Asperger Syndrome: A guide to an Intimate Relationship with a Partner who has Asperger Syndrome - Maxine Aston
Aston was the first person to nail it on the head. In this slim little book she exposes the mystery of living with a spouse with Asperger's Syndrome. Her research unlocked the puzzle box for many people. No you are not crazy, but it is true that you and your Asperger mate live on different planets. Read this book summarizing Aston's research and learn more about your Asperger's mate.

Asperger's Syndrome and Adults... Is Anyone Listening? Essays and Poems by Partners, Parents and Family Members... - Karen Rodman
I was reading Karen Rodman’s book a few years ago when the pieces fell into place for me and I realized that my mother suffered from Asperger Syndrome.  The poignant stories in her book are written by Neuro-typical family members who have struggled with similar relationships with AS adults.  It is this personal awakening that spurred me to write my own book, Life with a partner or spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge? Practical Steps to Saving You and Your Relationship.  If you aren’t sure that your loved one suffers from Asperger Syndrome, or if you need emotional support for your often confusing, chaotic and heart breaking life, read Rodman’s book for a breath of fresh air.

Exciting News Regarding Treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Hundreds of thousands suffer from the debilitating effects of Myalgic encephalopathy (ME) also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome every year. Common symptoms include extreme fatigue and muscle soreness leaving many bedridden.  For years the underlying cause of this disease has remained a mystery but researchers have recently developed a new test that might hold the answers.

According to Telegraph news article, the disease may be set off by a large amount of  bacteria called enterococci and streptococchi in the stomach. Prof De Meirleir, from Vrije University, who created the new test, said that these bacteria, in combination with metals like mercury, stimulate the creation of high levels of a gas in the body. This in turn sets off a chain reaction limiting the body's ability to produce energy and creating a build-up of acid which muscles find difficult to breakdown. The new test searches for the bacteria in the urine. If it comes back positive, the treatment includes antibiotics, probiotics, and diet. Obviously this is very exciting news, but still in the beginning stages of more conclusive research. If you are currently suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, ask your family physician for more information. Fatigue is also a symptom of depression, click here to learn more about the common symptoms of depression.

Unexpected Feedback on My New Book – Going Over the Edge?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


I set out to write my new book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge?, with the hope that it would help those in Asperger relationships. I’ve already received feedback from readers around the world who are benefiting from the lessons I share. However, I recently heard from one of my clients, who read my book, and I was touched to hear how it impacted his life in an unexpected way.

My client is a father to an Asperger child and decided to read the book to better understand his child. He has a strong desire to help his child as he continues to grow and form relationships as an adult. Although he did find information helpful to his Aspie child, what he was surprised to discover was the changes he personally needed to make.

This parent realized that there are areas in his own personal life that need improving. He learned that he needs to take back his life too and live a life that is more true to his spirit. He recognized that he was isolating himself and stewing in depression rather than putting his talent into the world. The actions he needed to take are in his behalf but will ultimately help his child as well. I never quite thought that my book might be meant for those not struggling with an adult AS relationship. However, the messages in this book are universal. All of us need to take stock and decide if it is time to take back our lives. I truly appreciate my clients heartfelt comments. If there are others who have comments on my book, I would love to hear from you. Feel free to send me an email at info@kmarshack.com.

Should Asperger Syndrome be used as a defense?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


There are those in the Asperger Community who suggest that Asperger Syndrome should not be considered a psychiatric diagnosis at all.  Using the term “neurodiversity” they assert that Asperger Syndrome, although atypical, is a normal human difference.  Individuals with Asperger Syndrome should be respected for their differences according to these advocates. So where does that leave Gary McKinnon and his obsession?  I wrote about McKinnon who has Asperger Syndrome in an earlier post – he was indicted in a U.S. District Court in Virginia for hacking into NASA and US Military computer systems in search of information on extraterrestrials. According to the neurodiversity model, Mr. McKinnon should be treated as any other cyber-terrorist. (I presume the other side of being respected for being different, is also being responsible for one’s actions.) Under the extradition treaty between the US and the UK, he should be extradited to the US and stand trial for the crimes he committed.  And if found guilty, I presume the judge and jury would determine a punishment that suits the severity of the crime, even prison. However, even if Asperger Syndrome is used as a mitigating factor, what are those mitigating circumstances.  If he was obsessed and didn’t fully comprehend the social consequences of his actions, didn’t he still commit a crime?  Didn’t he still harm people? Another question that comes to mind is whether or not prison will rehabilitate Mr. McKinnon.  Whether he has a developmental disorder or is just a little different than the norm group, won’t he be the same computer hacker he was before he went to prison, still unable to fathom the social world? The tragedy of allowing the justice system to make judgments about a mental disorder really came home to me when I recently treated a young man with Asperger Syndrome for a brief time, before he was arrested, tried and imprisoned. His life has been a series of unimaginable bad luck as a result of living on the edge of society.  He has never been able to secure fulltime employment because of his poor interpersonal skills and “mind blindness.”  He was alienated from his family years before he was arrested.  He lived alone in a small dingy apartment, friendless and trying to survive on a very limited income.  His only crime was befriending a young teenage boy who complained of abuse by his parents. The teen’s parents retaliated by accusing the man of molesting the boy.  Although this man passed the polygraph and tests for pedophilia, he was convicted and sent to prison anyway because the Court psychologist reported he had “no remorse.”  First of all it is hard to have remorse for a crime you didn’t commit.  Secondly, a classic characteristic of Asperger Syndrome is the inability to convey one’s feelings to others.  No doubt this man was depressed and frightened, but all he could do was sit motionless in the examining psychologist’s office.  Now he sits in prison. Does McKinnon need a doctor or prison? I wish I could tell you that I had the answers to this dilemma. I do believe that Asperger Syndrome is a developmental disorder, worthy of diagnosis and treatment.  There is a lot of suffering among those in this population, including their loved ones.  And there are psychological treatments that alleviate some of this suffering, with inspiring new research breaking ground daily.  So I would hate to see people continue to suffer simply because this diagnosis is part of a political debate. Likewise it is just too simple to turn over to the justice system an individual who is disabled by the peculiarities of Asperger Syndrome. Gary McKinnon did commit a crime.  He has publicly admitted to everything, though he didn’t come forward until he was caught. He engaged in subterfuge to hide his identity, so he was capable of comprehending that what he was doing was wrong, or at the very least could get him caught.  Yet he persisted to engage in those actions because he was obsessed beyond common sense . . .  a classic characteristic of Asperger Syndrome.  Like Howard Hughes (who some suggest had Asperger Syndrome) in his obsessive search for ever more efficient airplanes, McKinnon was determined to uncover the truth . . . that the US military is holding out evidence of anti-gravity propulsion systems.  Would an ordinary person risk going to prison over UFOs? The bottom line is intention.  If the news stories are accurate McKinnon did not set out to harm anyone.  Neither did my unfortunate client, and he is hardly a threat to anyone.  So the legal experts need to determine how to protect the citizenry from people who commit crimes, whether intended or not, and whether people like Gary McKinnon are really a threat to society.  And the mental health experts need to determine how to successfully treat those with Asperger Syndrome.  But what do you do when these two worlds collide? Thomas Szasz, a psychiatrist in the “antipsychiatry” movement, wrote an article in 1960 entitled, “The Myth of Mental Illness,” wherein he proposes that it is dangerous to make mental health care a political issue.  You can only imagine the ramifications if the government controls who is mentally fit.  According to Szasz’ controversial view, Gary McKinnon needs a doctor and he should be held accountable for his actions, regardless of whether he fully understood the outcome or was obsessed with his mission. And at the other end of this continuum, if mental health care and the justice system were separate as they should be, my young client would not be in prison for the non-crime of having poor interpersonal skills. You can read more about McKinnon’s story at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1189651/Can-harmless-UFO-obsessive-stricken-autism-saved-70-years-brutal-American-jail.html.


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