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Kathy Marshack News

5 Ways to Make Back-to-School Anxieties Disappear

Monday, August 17, 2015


It’s only natural for your child to feel anxious about the new school year. And if your children have ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), AS (Asperger's Syndrome), or ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) they need extra help to transition into the new routine. Yes, it might be tempting to put off back-to-school preparations, however the more you prepare your child the easier it will be on you, your child and the teachers. Here are a few reminders to make this process easier…

Be Positive
You can help ease their worries by always speaking positively about returning to school. Get them excited about that they’re going to learn. Help them remember what they enjoyed from previous years.

Make Appointments Early
Does your child need to see his doctor, dentist, or optometrist? How about teachers and administrators you need to talk with before school starts? It relieves a lot of stress to get these appointments taken care of well before the school year starts.

Get into the School Routine
Routine is so important for children with ASD and ADD. A month before school starts, review class materials that your child likes for a scheduled time each day, gradually increasing the time and adding more difficult materials so your child transitions from the carefree summer to the classroom structure. Also gradually shift wake up time and bedtime to match what your child needs to function well at school.

Involve Your Child in Back-to-School Preparation
Let them go school shopping with you so they can pick out things they like. Work together as you assemble their backpacks. Talk about what they’d like to eat for lunch and snacks. And the night before school starts, help them lay out the clothes they want to wear.

Visit the School
Introduce your child to as many people as possible – the teacher, principal, office staff, school nurse, teacher assistants, custodians. Alert them to your child’s special needs and how they can assist you.

I really recommend that you put together a packet about your child for the teacher. Take a look at the article How to Assemble a Teacher Information Packet for some helpful tips.

For additional back to school and safety tips, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics - Back To School Tips. My website also has information about Parenting a Child with ADD.

Your Child Struggling with Uncontrolled Temper or Aggressive Behavior?

Monday, May 18, 2015


child struggling with uncontrolled temper or aggressive behaviorRecently I watched a video by Dr. Daniel Amen M.D. where he discusses how, after researching 100,000 brain scans, he’s discovered that actual brain damage is contributing to emotional problems such as anger issues and even brutal killings. Judges and defense attorneys often consult with Dr. Amen in order to understanding criminal behavior. While he does not in any way condone what these criminals have done, he’s made some fascinating discoveries by studying their brains.

For example, after looking at Kip Kinkle’s brain in 1998, (you may remember he shot 25 at his school, killing two plus his parents in Springfield, OR) he found that sometime in the past this person had suffered either deprivation of oxygen or some type of infection that made his the worst 15-year-old brain scan that Dr. Amen had ever seen.

What can we learn about rehabilitating people who have aggressive behavior and are violent? By taking their entire history and imaging the brain, we can discover the biological, psychological, and social reasons why they’re acting the way they do.

When we see homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, ADHD and suicide, we should seriously look at the health of the brain for answers. The good news is we can prevent these brain injuries from escalating into hurtful behavior, either towards themselves or towards others. They can be rehabilitated if it’s caught early enough!

Is your son or daughter troubled with anxiety, depression, anger, or destructive behavior? Please do not ignore these symptoms or dismiss them as typical teen moods. Seek help immediately to determine if there’s a physical or psychological cause. That way the problem can be resolved now, so he or she can live a happy and productive life. Brain health can be restored. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment to find out how.

Watch Dr. Amen's video for the very emotional success story of how he helped a young man go from a troubled youth to an American hero.

Is ADHD Really a Disease or Is It a Symptom of Something Else?

Friday, December 19, 2014


thrill seeking on the rollercoaster releases dopamine which those with ADHD wantThis question was recently discussed by Richard Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College. He’s looking at the alarming increase in ADHD diagnoses and is trying to determine the best treatment options.

Here’s a snippet from his NY Times article, A Natural Fix for ADHD:

“Recent neuroscience research shows that people with A.D.H.D. are actually hard-wired for novelty-seeking…Compared with the rest of us, they have sluggish and underfed brain reward circuits, so much of everyday life feels routine and understimulating.

To compensate, they are drawn to new and exciting experiences and get famously impatient and restless with the regimented structure that characterizes our modern world. In short, people with A.D.H.D. may not have a disease, so much as a set of behavioral traits that don’t match the expectations of our contemporary culture. From the standpoint of teachers, parents and the world at large, the problem with people with A.D.H.D. looks like a lack of focus and attention and impulsive behavior. But if you have the “illness,” the real problem is that, to your brain, the world that you live in essentially feels not very interesting.”


Novel experiences release dopamine in the reward circuit of the brain, which varies in sensitivity from person to person. And according to research done by Dr. Nora D. Volkow, a scientist who directs the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people with ADHD have less sensitive receptors, so it takes more stimulation to satisfy them. Hence they are more easily bored. Changing their environment and helping them to modify their behavior has helped many to “outgrow” ADHD as Dr. Friedman’s article attests. I encourage you to read his entire article.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Oregon and Washington have some of the highest percentages of children diagnosed with ADHD (9.1% to 11%) yet they receive a significantly less amount of treatment (3.15 to 5%). Most alarmingly however, is that nationwide more than 10,000 toddlers, ages 2 and 3, are given ADHD drugs! I can’t help but wonder what the far-reaching consequences of this will be.

Medication is not the only option for treatment of ADHD. Psychotherapy has proven to be very effective in helping children with ADHD. I encourage you to consult with a mental health professional and explore these healthier, alternative treatments for ADHD. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more on my website: ADD and ADHD.

Over-Medicating? Is There a Better Way of Treating ADD and ADHD?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Is there a better way to treat ADD and ADHDAre you concerned about the overuse of stimulant medications for ADD and ADHD in children? According the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “The percentage of children with an ADHD diagnosis continues to increase, from 7.8% in 2003 to 9.5% in 2007 and to 11.0% in 2011.” Oregon and Washington are listed at 9.1% to 11%, which falls in the moderately high portion of their scale.

When parents see their children struggling in life because they can’t concentrate, find it hard to sit still, and impulsively say and do things that interfere with their ability to form lasting friendships and do well in school, they desperately want to find a solution to the problem. Many children are put on stimulants such as methylphenidate (Ritalin), dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine or Dextrostat), and pemoline (Cylert), which can dramatically reduce the hyperactivity and improve their ability to focus, work, and learn.

However, do you want to settle for controlling ADD/ADHD symptoms, when it’s possible to create life-long improvements? There is a more effective treatment...

People with ADD see immediate improvement with medication and think that’s good enough. But these medicines won’t cure the disorder. They only temporarily control the symptoms. Although drugs help people pay attention and complete their work, they can't increase knowledge or improve academic skills. Drugs alone won’t help people improve their self-esteem or cope with problems. The most significant, long-lasting improvements are made when medication is combined with behavioral therapy, emotional counseling, and practical support. Yet according to a September 2014 PsychCentral article, “Just one in four kids get drugs plus psychotherapy.”

Are concerns about how to pay for mental health treatment holding you back from getting help? Then you need to know that a 2008 law, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (also known as the mental health parity law), requires insurance coverage of services for mental health, behavioral health and substance-use disorders to be comparable to physical health coverage. Read more about the parity law here.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and your child with ADD/ADHD is not doing as well as he or she could be or you personally are struggling with your ADD/ADHD, please contact my office and schedule an appointment so we can get started on a program to help.

Read more on my website: ADD & ADHD.

15 Questions to Assess How Your ADHD Child Is Doing in School

Thursday, November 20, 2014


15 questions to assess how hour ADD or ADHD child is doing in schoolThe people who care most about your child’s education (you and the teacher) have a great opportunity to communicate and work together at the regularly scheduled parent/teacher conferences. Teachers have a lot of kids to keep track of – and each one has their own strengths and weaknesses. But since school can be especially difficult for your ADD and ADHD child, this conference with the teacher is the perfect opportunity for you to make sure your child doesn’t fall behind and have trouble fitting in at school.

You know your child better than anyone else. You know the problems aren’t because your child is a bad kid and it’s not because you’re a bad parent. Just as a child with a broken bone needs special care, so a child with an interrupted brain balance needs special attention. And things can change for the better!

When a parent takes some time to prepare for the parent/teacher conference or schedules a private meeting with the teacher, you can respectfully show that you want to be involved and supportive. Some questions you can discuss are:

  1. What skills (math, reading, etc) should my child learn this year?
  2. What are my child’s weaknesses and strengths?
  3. How is my child’s class behavior?
  4. How is my child doing socially?
  5. How is my child doing emotionally?
  6. In what areas do you see need for improvement?
  7. Do you feel my child is doing his/her best?
  8. What type of learner is my child – visual, auditory, or kinesthetic?
  9. How can we best accommodate my child’s learning style?
  10. Is my child performing at Grade Level?
  11. Does my child need extra help in any areas?
  12. How much time should my child spend on homework?
  13. How can I help?
  14. If your child is having a problem, initiate a conversation about it by asking: “May I share a concern?”
  15. What would you advise?

What more can you do? The first step to really improving life for those with ADD and ADHD is to build your child’s self-esteem. They don’t have many experiences that build their self-esteem and competence. And it's not easy coping with the frustrations day after day. They may fear that they’re strange, abnormal, or stupid. Some children release their frustration by acting contrary, starting fights, or destroying property. Some turn the frustration into body ailments, like the child who gets a stomachache everyday before school. Others hold their needs and fears inside, so that no one sees how badly they feel.

Over time a trained therapist

can help children with ADD or ADHD identify and build on their strengths, cope with daily problems, and learn to control their attention and aggression. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please

contact my office and schedule an appointment. Holiday breaks are a great time to fit it into your busy schedule.

New Research: Is the Risk of ASD or ADHD Increased by Taking Depression Medicine during Pregnancy?

Thursday, November 13, 2014


depression and pregnancyResearch shows that genetic factors play a large role in autism spectrum disorder. However, not as much is known about the role of medications prescribed during pregnancy. Do antidepressants and antipsychotics increase the risk of ASD and ADHD? Or is it the mother’s depression a greater contributing factor? That’s what researchers are trying to find out.

New research suggests that increased risk of autism after medication use during pregnancy may actually be reflecting the increased risk associated with severe maternal depression instead. According to SFARI (Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative), “Women who have a history of bipolar disorder or depression are more likely to have a child with Asperger syndrome than classic autism.” They base this statement on a study published in the 2012 issue of Autism Research and Treatment.

PsychCentral reports on a study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital researchers, which discovered, “While a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder was more common in the children of mothers prescribed antidepressants during pregnancy than in those with no prenatal exposure, when the severity of the mother’s depression was accounted for, that increased risk was no longer statistically significant.”  They did, however, discover an increased risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). And antipsychotic drugs sometimes used to treat severe, treatment-resistant depression appeared to increase the risk for autism.

The senior author of the report, Roy Perlis, M.D., M.Sc., M.G.H., made this comment, “Untreated depression can pose serious health risks to both a mother and child, so it’s important that women being treated with antidepressants who become pregnant, or who are thinking about becoming pregnant, know that these medications will not increase their child’s risk of autism.”

Depression is not something you want to ignore because you’re afraid of what medication will do to you or your unborn child. There are a variety of depression treatment options available, with medication and without medication. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and a holistic health approach are beneficial in helping anxious or depressed people lower medication requirements. Please discuss these options with your doctor. You don’t need to stay in the darkness. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and set up an appointment so we can discuss the best treatment for you.

Wondering if you or someone you love has depression? Take the online PsychCentral Depression Quiz. If depression is indicated, please contact your physician or a mental health professional immediately.

Read more on my website: Overcoming Depression.

Research Shows That the Autistic Brain Is too “Noisy”

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


the autistic brain in too noisy from too many connections being made at one timeFor years I have described the brains of my autistic clients as too "noisy". I’ve long suspected that this also applies to those with ADHD and Bipolar Disorder. Now it appears that science is proving my point. Health and science writer for the New York Times, Pam Belluck, reported on an exciting new study in her article: “Study Finds That Brains With Autism Fail to Trim Synapses as They Develop”. Scientists have long debated whether autism occurs because there’s too much connectivity in the brain or not enough. Now it seems we are much closer to having the answer…

Research published by a group of researchers from Columbia University Medical Center is showing that it’s a matter of too much. A baby’s brain produces a massive amount of synapses – the electrical and chemical connections that allow the neuron’s spines to send and receive signals. It might help to think of each neuron being covered with spines that are like very sensitive antennae. When there are too many signals, the system gets jammed.

One of the groundbreaking findings in this recent study is that all the children started with approximately the same number of synapses and spines on their neurons. So they’ve discovered that it’s not a question of overproduction of at birth.

The problem arises as the child ages. It’s normal for the brain to start pruning these synapses, so each area of the brain can develop its specific function. Within the group of autistic children, they found that the brain was not pruning the synapses, resulting in “too much noise”.

Ralph-Axel Müller, a neuroscientist at San Diego State University, agrees that there’s growing evidence of over-connectivity. After conducting brain imaging studies, he concluded, “Impairments that we see in autism seem to be partly due to different parts of the brain talking too much to each other. You need to lose connections in order to develop a fine-tuned system of brain networks, because if all parts of the brain talk to all parts of the brain, all you get is noise.”

This goes a long way in explaining why those with autism spectrum disorder experience oversensitivity to noise, problematic social interactions, and even why they are more prone to epilepsy. This is an exciting discovery, because it brings us one step closer to discovering effective treatments. Studies are already being done on possible drug therapy. But they have a long way to go to find an effective one that doesn’t have troubling side effects.

The use of medicines, whole foods, vitamins and supplements can help heal the brain. Combining this type of holistic health regimen and therapy has helped many of my clients to live a fuller and more productive life. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office and set up an appointment.

Learn more on my website – Mind and Body: Holistic Health and Therapy FAQ.

Muse Headband – New Technology Could Help Us Stay on Top of Mental Health

Friday, September 26, 2014


new technology - muse headband- could help us stay on top of mental healthFor a number of years, people have been able to travel to brain scanning facilities and find out how their brains respond to stimulation in a clinical setting. It hasn’t been possible for everyone to see how the brain is really responding to situations in every day life. 

Wouldn’t it be helpful if you could monitor your brain activity at home, at work, or at the shopping center? If you found that something was bothering you more than you really expected, then you could focus on changing your responses and gain greater control of your life immediately. The idea of everyone being able to do this isn’t as farfetched as it sounds. 

Ariel Garten CEO of interaXon, was interviewed by CNN about a computer headband they’ve developed that tracks the brain’s electro-signals. It’s called Muse. She said,We're very interested in creating solutions that help you calm yourself; that can help you stay grounded, choose what to focus your attention on, and understanding and managing your own mind and response to the world so that people can be more productive in life.” 

While Muse isn’t a medical device, it has fantastic possibilities for controlling stress, helping those with ADHD to increase their abilities to focus, and providing cognitive recognition of negative thinking patterns so you can turn them into positive ones. It tracks your brain activity and then sends that information to your computer, smart phone or tablet, giving you real time feedback. 

While I haven’t tried this product out myself, I’m interested in the possibilities that a product like this could have for helping people gain greater control of their emotions, thoughts, and activities. I’m happy to keep you current on the latest technological advances that could contribute to greater physical and mental health. 

Being able to identify your self-condemning internal dialogue and self-defeating attitudes and actions in the instance of them occurring doesn’t give you the skill to automatically overcome them. It’s helpful to seek the guidance of a psychotherapist who can help you learn the skills to deal with the frustration and anger from years of unresolved emotions and to feel better about yourself. A psychotherapist can also build on the strengths you have so you can cope with daily problems and learn alternative ways to handle your emotions.

Are you ready to gain control of your life with the help of a trained psychotherapist? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, contact my office to make an appointment. 

For more information read on my website: Psychotherapy Options.

Medication or Therapy? Which Treatment Is Best for your ADHD Children?

Friday, February 07, 2014


best treatment for adhd childrenThere has been a decades long debate whether medication or behavioral therapy is the best long-term treatment for children with ADHD. So an article written by Alan Schwarz in the New York Times caught my eye. He reports that the original findings of the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children With A.D.H.D were taken to mean that medication was hands down the best option.


Now, some of the authors of this study are worried that these findings were skewed because they tested primarily for reducing the hyperactivity and lack of focus, which medication is designed to remedy quickly. How children perform in school and on a social level was not addressed in the study.

He reports that one of the study researchers, Stephen Hinshaw, a psychologist at U.C. Berkeley said, “My belief based on the science is that symptom reduction is a good thing, but adding skill-building is a better thing. If you don’t provide skills-based training, you’re doing the kid a disservice. I wish we had had a fairer test.”

Medication can treat the symptoms of hyperactivity and improve the ability to concentrate. This makes a person more receptive to learning new behaviors. But life-long improvement in interpersonal relationships must include learning, through therapy, social skills among which is empathy. Kids with ADHD are not just impulsive and distractible they also often ignore the feelings of others.

Behavioral therapy, emotional counseling and practical support are all needed to improve the child’s self-esteem and ability to cope with the frustrations of daily life. Some children release this frustration by acting contrary, starting fights or destroying property. Some turn the frustration into body ailments, like the stomachache before school. Still others hide how badly they feel.

Over time a therapist can help people with ADHD identify and build on their strengths and learn to cope with daily stresses in a constructive way. If you live near Portland, OR or Vancouver, WA, and would like assistance for your child, please contact my office and set up an appointment.

You can read more about Parenting a Child with ADD/ADHD on my website.

Pharmaceutical Ad Campaigns Influence Over-Diagnosis of ADHD

Monday, January 20, 2014


boy with ADHD is very activeAt one time they were labeled as “bad kids.” Thankfully over the last two decades doctors, educators and parents have come to recognize that children with ADHD have a very real neurological disorder that needs treatment. But are we swinging too far in the opposite direction? Is ADHD being over-diagnosed?

A recent New York Times article draws attention to what Dr. Keith Conners, psychologist, professor emeritus at Duke University, and early advocate for recognition of ADHD, had to say about this alarming trend. He noted that recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the diagnosis had been made in 15 percent of high school-age children, and that the number of children on medication for the disorder had soared to 3.5 million from 600,000 in 1990. “The numbers make it look like an epidemic. Well, it’s not. It’s preposterous. This is a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.”

This highlights the problem of over-diagnosis and over-medication of ADHD. The pharmaceutical companies are vigorously marketing their drugs to doctors, parents and even children through various ad campaigns. This article goes on to report, “The Food and Drug Administration has cited every major A.D.H.D. drug — stimulants like Adderall, Concerta, Focalin and Vyvanse, and nonstimulants like Intuniv and Strattera — for false and misleading advertising since 2000, some multiple times.”

Because of side effects and danger of addiction, medication cannot be viewed as harmless. It’s important for parents to educate themselves before consenting to drug treatment for their children. After a proper diagnosis, medications can be prescribed to temporarily control the symptoms, but they cannot cure the disorder.

Psychological help is also needed to improve self-esteem and to instill life-long coping skills. Behavioral therapy, emotional counseling and practical support are essential for lasting improvement. After discussing with a doctor ALL treatments available, as a parent you ultimately need to make the final decision about what’s best for your child.

If you are searching for the best diagnosis and treatment for neurological disorders such as ADHD, consult a psychologist or psychiatrist. A thorough evaluation of the person’s medical, academic and family history is essential for a proper assessment of type and severity of the disorder and other associated emotional problems. Contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office to schedule an appointment.

Learn more on my website – ADD & ADHD.


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