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Kathy Marshack News

Help Your Child Cope with Their Asperger Sibling

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I have written a lot about the impact of Asperger Syndrome (AS) on a marriage – particularly from the perspective of the spouse of someone with Asperger's. It's very clear that the spouse will be affected and self-care is vital. (See previous blog - Self Care Vital When You Live With A Partner With Asperger Syndrome.) You may be wondering if the same principle applies when it comes to a child with an Asperger sibling. The answer is YES! It can be especially challenging for a child to deal with their AS sibling. With the AS child’s limited social interactions, lack of emotional reciprocity, and preoccupation with him or herself or a particular task, can make playing with siblings extremely difficult. This could lead the non AS child to feel confused and frustrated . . . even depressed. As always though, there are practical steps that parents can take to help both children. Here are some helpful tips: 1. Spend one-on-one time with your child. The AS child can suck a lot of your time and energy possibly making the other child feel neglected. Make sure you give them special time and attention. This is beneficial for both parent and child. Also, make sure that NT child has a well-rounded group of playmates. It is important that they have balance when it comes to fun and recreation. 2. Educate yourself and your child about Asperger Syndrome. This will help you both understand where the Asperger child is coming from. It will also help the NT child to develop compassion for their AS sibling rather than grow resentful. My book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge?, was written to assist the spouse of someone with Asperger's, but I also recommend it for parents with Asperger children. I have received positive feedback from parents who have read it and found principles that apply also to dealing with their children. (See previous blog - Unexpected Feedback on My New Book - Going Over the Edge?) Another good resource is The Parenting Aspergers Blog - 3. Counseling from a mental health care professional. There is nothing negative about taking your child to receive extra assistance to help them cope with their sibling. In psychotherapy they can learn specific tools, build self confidence, and also have a safe environment to share their thoughts and feelings. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, feel free to contact my office for more information.

Living Life with Asperger Syndrome - A Surfer's Story

Monday, October 19, 2009

I am always touched to read a positive story about someone with Asperger Syndrome. Fortunately, I keep coming across more and more. The recent article in USA Today, Surfer Marzo rides the waves of the ocean and autism, was a great example. It is the story of Clay Marzo, a 20 year old surf prodigy from Hawaii. In 2007, Clay was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (AS). Instead of looking at Asperger Syndrome as a hindrance, it was the gift that has made Clay one of the most incredible surfers in modern times. Jaime Tierney directed a surf film about Clay and was actually the one who recognized that Clay might have AS. He said, "Clay is so good because he has Asperger's, not in spite of it. His level of focus in the wave is incredible, he makes instant natural connections with the water, something very few people have." Of course, living with Asperger's or living with someone with Asperger's is no walk in the park, however it's important to remember that the way we choose to look at something will change the way we feel about it. Yes, Clay Marzo may have an abrasive personality and connecting with him may be difficult, but you can choose to focus on his talent, devotion, and creativity. I’m sure we will continue to hear more about Clay in the near future. I also encourage becoming familiar with the symptoms of Asperger Syndrome. If we are able to understand more about it, we will grow to be more appreciative of what people with AS have to offer. Please read my Frequently Asked Questions about Asperger's.

Tips to Experiencing Happiness on a Daily Basis

Friday, October 16, 2009

Happiness…we all want it, but it sure is hard to find sometimes.  Some even call happiness elusive.  Maybe, however, we are just not looking at the problem from the right perspective.  Could it be that we are happy but just don’t know it?

Research is now discovering (yes, they had to do a study to find this out) that most people are so focused on their future, the “big picture”, that they are often blinded to small moments of happiness, such as the goodness in kind things that people are doing for them, as well as the beauty that surrounds them right outside their window.  It is an easy pitfall for entrepreneurs who seem naturally to look at the “big picture” in order to move forward with their goals.


Here are some suggestions to help experience happiness on a daily basis:

  • Focus on small moments during the day that give pleasure 
  • Cultivate positive emotions 
  • Build resources that help you rebound
  • Be open and flexible 
  • Savor the good, regardless of how small it may seem

As one practices these suggestions in their lives, they will discover that their overall mood is elevated and there is more resilience to negative events.  In turn, such appreciation for small moments will enhance our “big picture” by promoting success in jobs, relationships, and even health outcomes.   It seems that happiness isn’t all that hard to find after all.

For more information, access the study in the journal Emotion, or read the book written by Barbara Fredrickson, the lead author of the study, entitled Positivity:  Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity and Thrive, published by Crown Publishing, 2009.

New Research Suggests One Percent of US Children may have Autism Disorders

Monday, October 12, 2009

Two new government studies indicate about 1 in 100 American children have autism disorders – which is significantly higher than a previous US estimate of one in 150. One of the studies, published in the journal Pediatrics by researchers at the Health Resources and Services Administration, reports that one in every 91 children ages 3 to 17 have such a disorder, as determined by a survey of 78,000 parents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is announcing their not-yet published results of a study that finds about one in 100 8-year-olds has an autism spectrum disorder, or ASD.


Researchers don’t know how much of the increase is a result of more frequent and earlier diagnoses and how much is a result of a real rise in the conditions. The Pediatrics paper discusses several possible explanations for the apparent increase in ASD diagnoses including a broader definition of autism disorders and a heightened awareness on the part of parents and doctors. Tom Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said in a news conference: "The concern here is that buried in these numbers is a true increase." Insel noted that President Obama wants to increase spending on autism research by the National Institutes of Health by 16% — a bigger increase than in any other area of NIH research.


 England just recently released their first study of adults with autism. Apparently the findings confirm that ASD is just as common in adults as it is in children. Researchers at the University of Leicester, found that roughly 1 in 100 adults are on the spectrum — the same rate found for children in England. In fact, researchers found no significant differences in autism prevalence among people they surveyed in their 30s, 40s, 50s, right up through their 70s! Yet, as we know, the adult population with ASD is definitely under-diagnosed and therefore underserved.


Families in Business – The Benefits of Volunteering

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

In families that share family and business, it is easy for their time to be taken up by the essentials of daily living.  It can become a work-and-little-play situation.  If this scenario sounds all too familiar, think about balancing out the family by incorporating volunteering into your family’s lifestyle.  What? You have no time, you say?  Well, consider what family volunteering can do for you and your family, before you conclusively make up your mind.

Family volunteering produces quality time.  This includes:

      Establishing common bonds while helping others. 

      Discovering new knowledge about each other. 

      Mutual respect as demonstrating skills and learning new ones are processed. 

      Deeper and meaningful conversations around the dinner table.

Convinced, but need help getting started?  Call a family meeting and take time to consider this whole idea. Make sure everyone, no matter how young, participates in the discussion. You might want to proceed this way:

      Explore and list current volunteer efforts.

      Everyone has a community concern.  Discuss each person’s concern.

      Consider the possibilities and efforts involved.  Be realistic in determining how much time and effort the family can afford.

To arrive at the best volunteering scenario for your family may require several family meetings, but if you are looking for meaningful and quality time together, this time will be well spent. A one-time activity may be a good place to start. Perhaps look close to home for an opportunity, such as raking leaves for an elderly neighbor.  This will provide an opportunity to see how everyone likes volunteering together.

Show your children that volunteer work is important and meaningful by taking your commitment seriously. Even when things are hectic, keep the commitment alive by talking and planning. Think about how this experience will enable you to pass along your legacy of values and ethics to your children, giving them not only an important example, but wonderful family memories as well. 



Asperger Syndrome and Codependency

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

As more adults are being diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (AS), mental health professionals are learning that one of the most handicapping problems faced by these adults occurs in their interpersonal relationships. The primary reason that adults with Asperger Syndrome have poor interpersonal relationships is that they have underdeveloped social skills, the major one being empathy. The way the spouse of the Asperger Syndrome partner often copes with this lack of empathy is to become codependent.


Codependence is defined as a state of mind where you put your needs and dreams aside in order to help the other person have a life. Kindness is doing these kinds of things sometimes and having a balance of give and take in a relationship. In a codependent relationship, no matter how much you give the other person does not return the favor. Yet you keep on giving and getting more fatigued, frustrated and resentful.


Codependence leads to micromanaging the AS members of the family. Because the AS members are doing everything they can to function in other areas of life, such as their job, everything else gets dropped. The codependent person picks up what is dropped as well as managing his or her own life.


1.    The codependent arranges all of the social life.

2.    Or the codependent is fully responsible for childcare and home management.

3.    Or the codependent covers for his spouses social faux pas.

4.    Or the codependent lays out her husband’s clothes because he always mismatches things.

5.    Or the codependent pays for extra childcare or dry cleaning because his wife is so overloaded.

6.    Or the codependent works overtime or a second job because his spouse cannot earn enough money or keep a steady job.

7.    Or the codependent takes a job for health benefits because her spouse is self-employed in lieu of unsteady employment.

8.    Or the codependent stays up late to type the teenager’s paper so that the kid won’t turn in homework late again.


The codependent experiences burnout eventually. To get beyond codependency, you need to explore self-care. Put your needs first and see to them first.  Since your AS spouse or child loves you but has no idea how you tick, make your beliefs and needs known in concrete ways.


Educate yourself as much as possible about the relationship issues of AS so that you can spot the symptoms of dysfunction early and correct the problems. Use books, tapes, and psychotherapy. You can also use a support group to replenish your energy because this is a difficult task – if you live in Portland/Vancouver check out the group Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD.


To learn more about AS and codependency in relationships visit my Asperger & Marriage page or take a look at my book - Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going over the Edge? Practical Steps to Saving You and Your Relationship.





Why Women in Business Are Frequently Misunderstood

Saturday, September 19, 2009

With the changes in the economy, more and more women are going back to work and many of them are starting their own businesses. At times women are not always taken seriously when it comes to running a business. I don't think that people are discriminating because of gender necessarily. It's probably more because they don't know how to relate to women business owners. Women have different values and these values are showing up in how women design their businesses. Women business owners are more likely to be in tune with the challenge of juggling work and family. A lot of women business owners work from home, which allows them to be available for work and family. While this sounds ideal for a woman, it can sometimes cause a problem. The problem is invisibility. For example, I lost a contract to provide certain psychological services because my office is at home. I was told that home offices are not professional enough. However, I always thought I was clever to find a way to be with my family and still develop my career interests. Obviously this is not a value shared by the contractor. So, how can a woman overcome the challenge of invisibility? Simply put, they need to be bold and speak up. They need to educate lenders and others about the values of blending family and work life. Learn to be clear, assertive, and decisive. Just think of the example that these working mothers are teaching their daughters. They are teaching them how to be true to their feminine spirit and yet develop their creative side through career, professional and business. This is extremely valuable since it is most likely that these young women will grow up and be in the working world. If you are a working woman or are married to one, I recommend reading my article Balancing Life as a Dual-Career Couple. Understanding one another better in your different roles will lead to harmony within the family arrangement.

Asperger Syndrome and Famous Figures from the Past

Friday, September 11, 2009

Just in recent years Asperger Syndrome (AS) has become a more common diagnosis, however many adults still go undiagnosed. Studies suggest that AS is considerably more common than "classic" Autism. Now with a surge of new information on Asperger Syndrome, researchers are seeing symptoms of AS in famous historical figures from the past. BBC News wrote an fascinating article containing Asperger research by Cambridge and Oxford Universities. These researchers strongly believe that Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton had Asperger Syndrome. The article focuses more on Albert Einstein and how he exhibited textbook AS symptoms. Simon Baron-Cohen, professor at Cambridge and renowned author about all things autism, commented in the article about Einstein's passion and social challenges. This type of research gives so much insight on the kind of success that’s possible with AS. To read more about symptoms of Asperger Syndrome, visit my AS Frequently Asked Questions.

Adults and ADD

Friday, September 04, 2009

You don't outgrow ADD. With that being said, many adults are being diagnosed with this disorder. Many ADD adults say that they weren’t aware of the disorder until they had a child who was diagnosed. After seeing ADD in their children, these adults gradually realized that they had the same signs and symptoms. Imagine the shock of learning as an adult you have ADD. This has been the case for many. Interestingly, the reactions of learning about the diagnosis have been completely varied. ADDitude, an online magazine, wrote a great article on adults with ADD and commented about the different reactions. ADD made some adults feel like outsiders, frustrated and disorganized. For these, learning of their disorder and getting proper care was complete relief! Others felt angry that they didn't know sooner and blamed their parents for not recognizing the signs. Then there are the type that love having ADD because of their high intellect, creative energy and abilities so they decide to refuse treatment. Even though ADD does not affect everyone the same, I do recommend seeking treatment. Many have learned counterproductive survival skills that could have damaging effects on their job, marriage, and parenting style. To learn more about ADD and the type of treatment that I recommend visit my website or contact me personally for more information.

Thrilling Possibilities for My New Book

Friday, August 28, 2009

In honor of my daughter's graduation from high school and my birthday, I have planned a holiday to Greece in September. It is somewhere I have always wanted to visit and the time has finally arrived for it to become reality. While there, I have decided to visit the Greek Society for the Protection of Autistic People. While communicating with them to plan a visit, an interesting development arose. Prof. Sophia Bonanou of the Greek Society told me that they are working on acquiring books on autism in English and then translating them into Greek. I was then asked to send them a copy of my new book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge? Practical Steps for Saving You and Your Marriage, to be considered for translation. I'm still awaiting for their response on the book, but to know that there is a possibility for this information to reach more people is such an exciting thought. I'll continue to update you on new developments.

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