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Kathy Marshack News

Turn Worries into Solution Incentives

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I worry. I worry about all kinds of things. Not that all of this worrying has accomplished much in and of itself. However worrying can serve a useful purpose if it directs your attention to problem solving. I think worriers, more than most take a hard cold look at reality. The problem is we can scare ourselves to death with this worry...worry over the economy...worry over the political scene...worry over our health...worry over environmental degradation...worry over the problems our children will inherit. Or…we can take our worries as incentive to search for solutions. I can’t tell you everything is going to be OK. I am just a psychologist, not a fortune teller. But what I do know is that solutions do not come from worry or fear or other forms of negativity. Solutions come from putting our attention on what is right and good and pure and loving and compassionate. Solutions come when we give ourselves to others to make the world a better place. Solutions come when we tear ourselves away from our negativity and we are grateful for all of the small, wonderful things that bring us happiness. Believe it or not, solutions often materialize out of thin air when we believe that the challenges we are facing are a gift, not a burden. If you have faith and hope you will not only come through hardship but you will be better for it. Like me you may still worry, but let those worries guide you to the kind of solutions that can only come from your indomitable human spirit.

Should a computer hacker with Asperger Syndrome go to prison?

Friday, May 08, 2009

Gary McKinnon, a UK citizen, 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. McKinnon believed that information on UFO technology was being suppressed by the US government.  Furthermore he claims to have found proof. What makes this case so interesting is that he suffers from the development disorder, Asperger Syndrome. Recently rights activist Terry Waite spoke in support of Gary McKinnon. Waite told the press that the US should thank McKinnon for “exposing the fragility” of the Pentagon’s computer system. While Waite does not condone McKinnon's illegal activity, he does believe that McKinnon should not be held to the same standards as other international criminals because he suffers from Asperger Syndrome. Other celebrities and legal experts have also announced their backing of McKinnon. McKinnon was diagnosed by Cambridge Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, a well known expert on adult Asperger Syndrome.  Along with Terry Waite, Baron-Cohen believes that McKinnon should not be treated as an ordinary criminal but as someone with a disability. According to Professor Baron-Cohen, McKinnon is obsessed with finding the truth. This obsession with the truth is taken to an extreme by those with Asperger Syndrome because they have a characteristic called “mind blindness” according to Baron-Cohen. “Mind blindness” is a complex theory, but in a nutshell McKinnon’s “mind blindness” prevented him from fully understanding the social consequences of his actions, in spite of his obvious intellectual giftedness. This leads me to ask, should McKinnon be extradited to the US to stand trial for his crimes against the American government? If so, should the US government consider his diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome a mitigating factor? I do believe that the fate of Gary McKinnon could change the way Asperger Syndrome is treated all over the world. I for one am not sure anyone fully grasps the depth of the problems, when a mental disorder becomes a political issue. Gary McKinnon is just one man fighting for his freedom, but in the process thousands of people with Asperger Syndrome and their families will be judged. I will continue to write more on this story and discuss the topic of "Should Asperger Syndrome be used as a defense?"

Why do women with Asperger Syndrome go undiagnosed?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Like so many other examples of the double standard, research on the health issues of women lags behind the health discoveries for men.  Autism Spectrum Disorders are no different.  Many more boys are diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, than are girls.  Does this mean the disorder is more prevalent in males?  Or is it once again an example of the typical research error so common in university labs. For example, not long ago women unnecessarily suffered fatal heart attacks because physicians did not recognize the medical symptoms of heart disease in women.  They studied male symptomatology in medical school, not how heart disease affects women.  As a result more men are diagnosed sooner, and often survive their first heart attack as a result, while women go undiagnosed.  When women have their "first" heart attack it is frequently a killer since no one noticed early enough  the unique way that heart disease is expressed in women. Research is tricky with human subjects so universities typically don't address gender issues at first.  It is a "confounding" variable.  Instead they study a group of males and post their conclusions after the study. Physicians then take this research and apply it to women, often with disastrous results.  If you want to know more about how one woman has dealt with her undiagnosed Asperger Syndrome, read her story at Luckily she found a therapist who diagnosed her as having Asperger Syndrome when she was in her early forties, but that was years after a heartbreaking struggle to do a life.  The fact that this one blog post garnered 173 responses from NTs and Aspies alike, demonstrates how important is the subject  of Women and Asperger Syndrome. Since the release of my book Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: GOING OVER THE EDGE? - Practical Steps to Saving You and Your Relationship, I have received emails from mothers and husbands asking for help with their daughters and wives.  I have addressed the issue of AS in girls in women in my book, but it is only a cursory look.  Clearly we desperately need more research and services for women and girls with AS.

Creative Family Fun on a Tight Budget

Saturday, May 02, 2009

With the recent dive in our economy, families are increasingly stressed about the future. Whether it be lay-offs, budget cuts or rising prices, many families are making drastic adjustments to their lifestyle just to survive. Is there time or money left for recreation? Should that be a priority? Without a balance between work and pleasure, the family will become stressed out and anxious which ultimately creates an unstable home environment. The key to this balancing act is to be creative! There are many alternatives to fun family time that won't break the budget. A little extra time and research may be required, but it will be well worth the effort. Here are a few ideas for fun and inexpensive alternatives: 1. Go to the library. The library has a large variety of books, DVDs, videos, and audio books and the best part is they’re FREE. Make it a family trip and everyone can pick out something that will entertain them. 2. Entertain at home. Instead of going out to dinner with friends, invite them over for a potluck. Everyone can pitch in by providing a portion of the meal which lowers the cost drastically and gives you the opportunity to try new recipes. After dinner, play cards, charades, board games, or just enjoy some good conversation. It will be a relaxing evening and the whole family can get involved. 3. Enjoy nature. With spring in the air and summer just around the corner, it's a perfect time to enjoy the outdoors. Get online and research trails and hikes in your local area. Most parks and hiking trails have free access. While you are out and about, start a new hobby like bird watching, fossil collecting, or photography. All of these require little expense and you can get the whole family to participate. With a positive and creative attitude your family can come up with their own list of exciting and low budget ways to have fun. I guarantee you will have some good family fun that everyone can enjoy.

Fascinating New Research Highlights Genetic Link to Autism

Friday, May 01, 2009

From Turkey to Ireland, the news of the genetic link to Asperger Syndrome and other Autism Spectrum Disorders took the world by storm.  Within a few hours news agencies all over the world were announcing the discovery first published in Nature – an international weekly journal of science. Scientists have identified a new gene variant (CDH10) that is highly common in autistic children. When researchers scrutinized the activity of the gene in the fetal brain, they discovered that it is most active in key regions that support language, speech and interpreting social behavior. These findings were published April 28 in the advance online edition of the journal Nature. Previously, scientists believed that autism was a developmental disorder resulting from abnormal connections in the brain. However, this new research suggests that CDH10 plays a critical role in shaping the developing brain and may therefore contribute to a prenatal risk of autism. Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) range from severe autism to mild Asperger’s syndrome.  In one of these new studies, of more than 10,000 people including those with ASD and their families, researchers found that genetic factors play a strong role in ASD. I found this research fascinating because it confirms what I’ve observed in families that come to me for therapy. I find that frequently a child who is diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome has an undiagnosed parent with the same disorder. Click here to learn more about adults with Asperger Syndrome.

Journey for Asperger Syndrome Adolescents

Friday, April 24, 2009

The opportunity to travel and explore another culture is a once in a lifetime adventure for many young adults, but it is often off limits for Asperger youth.  Thankfully, more and more universities are establishing programs for Asperger teens. I recently learned that USC University Center For Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) professionals have put together an adventure for students with Asperger Syndrome (AS). Thirteen days will be spent throughout England and Scotland with professionals from CHLA as well as graduate students who are experienced with students with AS. If you have AS and are between the ages of 16-20, this might be something to look into. Apparently the goal of this trip is to boost independence and self-sufficiency. With many group activities, it will provide an opportunity to grow in a group environment as well as receive specific mentoring from staff members. There also lies the potential for making life-long friends with those who understand the personal struggles of Asperger Syndrome. Please contact Beverly Daley, Ph.D. at or (323) 361-2490 for more information.

Be Involved in April's National Autism Awareness Month

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Since the 1970's, the Autism Society of America, ASA, has recognized April as the National Autism Awareness Month. With autism on the rise, it's encouraging to see so many people taking the time to educate our society on this subject. Visit ASA's website to see eight ways you can celebrate National Autism Awareness Month. In honor of National Autism Awareness Month, the University of Washington Autism Center will be offering FREE autism screenings at their clinics in Tacoma and Seattle. The UW has been dedicated to researching, educating, and providing intervention services for children with autism. Another giant step forward is the new bill that the Washington State Legislature passed to honor individuals with autism. I recommending reading Resolution 8629 to see how the government is determined to provide more support and research for those with autism and their families. The bottom line is, get involved! The more we know, the more we can help.

Raun Kaufman, a Leader in the Field of Autism, Visits Portland

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I saw that Raun K. Kaufman spoke this week at Oregon Health & Science University. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the lecture, but I am very impressed by the work of Mr. Kaufman. His stop in Portland was part of a nationwide tour entitled, "Autism: Recovery Is Possible - 2 Hours that Will Change Your Child's Life - The Autism Hope Action Plan." Raun Kaufman is an autism specialist and CEO of the Autism Treatment Center of America. When Raun was a child, he was diagnosed with autism and was said to be incurable. With the help and guidance from his parents, Samahria and Barry Neil Kaufman, they developed a one of a kind home program to help Raun. Their work is known as The Son-Rise Program®. Today Raun is a successful and outgoing speaker, author, and teacher. Raun graduated from Brown University and is now using his life to help others who suffer from autism. He is a valuable member of The Sun Rise Program® and is now covering the country with his inspiring lectures. I am sure we will be hearing much more about Raun Kaufman and the strides he is making to share principles that could greatly impact the autism community.

A New Study Sheds Light on Asperger Syndrome and Hormone Levels

Thursday, April 09, 2009

A fascinating study at Bath University sheds some light on a possible reason why children with Asperger Syndrome (AS) have difficulties adjusting to change in their routine. Studies showed a low level of cortisol, a stress hormone, in children with AS. Normally, there is a surge in cortisol in the early morning hours, but that peak doesn’t occur for those with AS. Mark Bronson, a psychologist at Bath University, commented, "Although these are early days, we think this difference in stress hormone levels could be really significant in explaining why children with AS are less able to react and cope with unexpected change." Bath and Bristol Universities plan to continue researching why children with AS find more situations stressful than other children. This will help parents and teachers comprehend what is happening and enable them to avoid adding unnecessary stress to the child. For more information on this study, I recommend reading  an article on Psych Central entitled “New Theories of Autism, Asperger Syndrome”. Also visit my Frequently Asked Questions for more information on Asperger Syndrome.

Recommended Books on Asperger Syndrome

Friday, April 03, 2009

With autism on the rise, more and more information is being written for those with autism – including Asperger Syndrome – and their loved ones. I have been doing a lot of reading on autism and have come across some excellent books on the subject.

Here are a few that I highly recommend picking up:

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's
- John Elder Robison Intense, funny, inspiring autobiography of a young man coming of age with Asperger's Syndrome. You can't possibly understand what goes on in the mind of someone with Asperger's Syndrome, if you are neuro-typical. The normal rules do not apply. But Robison describes the inner workings of his mind in a way that shows the incredible structure of an "Aspergian" mind. This is an excellent book for anyone trying to love and understand a loved one with Asperger's Syndrome.

Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism
- Dawn Prince-Hughes A most beautiful and painful look at the struggle the author has lived with as she comes to terms with her Asperger's Syndrome. What is so important about this book is that it is a woman's story. So much is written by parents about raising a child with Asperger's Syndrome. More recently we have learned some about grown men with this developmental disorder. Time Magazine even referred to them as Geeks. But what about women with this disorder? Dawn Prince-Hughes paints a most inspiring story of her rebirth from a disturbed girl and teen into a woman who is a leader in her field, a supportive partner and a loving mother.

Pretending to Be Normal: Living With Asperger's Syndrome
- Liane Holliday Willey I love this title! Pretending to be normal is the exact description of the lives of many with Asperger's Syndrome. Pretending to be normal and never really being true to themselves. This book offers a better way to live one's life. Not just for those suffering from Asperger's Syndrome, this book helps their loved ones better understand the complexities of their Asperger's loved ones.

Click here to learn about my new book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome:  GOING OVER THE EDGE?

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