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Kathy Marshack News

There’s Something Special Going on at Dr. Kathy’s ASD Meetup this Month

Monday, January 08, 2018


It’s been nine years since I began hosting the Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup. When I started this group back in 2009, I intended it to be a place for those in the Portland, Oregon area to meet for lunch and find supportive friends who understood the often frustrating and isolating life of loving an adult with Asperger Syndrome.

I was ever so surprised when people from other states and then other countries started joining, just for the opportunity to share in the online discussions. We have grown to having members all over the world, on every continent. Whatever the language or the culture, we can all relate to the common theme of life with an adult with Asperger Syndrome. Currently we have 2,259 members. But there’s room for more!

What is the mission of this Meetup?

If you’re a Neurotypical Adult with a spouse, partner, sibling, parent or grown child who has Asperger Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD), you will soon learn that you’re not alone. We meet in small face-to-face group meetings, and hold international teleconferences, and have intimate video conferences for those who live abroad but want the small group feel.

If you need daily support you can join one of dozens of private, online discussions. You are safe here. Only members can access the discussion boards. You can ask questions and share stories of your day. Not everyone agrees on everything, but our diversity is what creates opportunity to grow and change, and perhaps even take back your life from these very tough ASD relationships.

I hope you’ll join us as we form a community for those of us who have this unique life of being in relationship with an adult on the Autism Spectrum.

Since beginning this group I’ve also written three books, "Going Over the Edge?" "Out of Mind - Out of Sight" and soon to be released "WHEN EMPATHY FAILS: How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you."

So I have lots to talk about. However, this month I have something special planned for our free international teleconference on January 18th at 2:30PM PT. It’s entitled: Ask Dr. Marshack Anything! I'd like to "share the floor" with those among you who have lots of wisdom because you have lived this life with Aspies. Certainly you can come to the teleconference with your questions, concerns and anecdotes for me, but I also hope to hear from our many members who have been in the trenches a long time.

The reason this group thrives, is that we are there for each other. To know that you are understood and supported and not alone, is incredibly powerful isn't it?

If you’re not a member yet and you’re a NT living with an Aspie, please feel free to join this Meetup. It’s free to join, and you’ll gain a lot of supportive friends and helpful resources.

Time to Talk Openly on #MeToo Stress Effects of Having a Family Member with ASD

Monday, January 01, 2018


ASD meetoo stressAmid all of the stories of stress illness caused by sexual harassment and racism, shouldn't we also be looking at the stress effects on those who are caring for Aspies (those with high-functioning autism)? The research has been there for years, but now it’s surfacing in a new way. And people are finally paying attention.

While it’s more acceptable to discuss the stress of racism and now sexual harassment (thank goodness) it has been "politically incorrect" to discuss the deleterious effects of autism on the caregivers, especially when it comes to high-functioning autism. Sadly many NTs have to suffer in silence or be accused of being uncaring or even discriminatory, making us feel crazy. But it’s time to talk about it, isn't it?

Parents of children with autism especially experience depression and anxiety. They have to struggle with obtaining crucial support services, deal with the crushing financial strain, and relentless worry about their child’s future. It’s overwhelming! And if your mate is an Aspie, then it’s even worse, because the one you should be able to turn to for love and support can’t give you what you need.

That’s why I host video conferences so you can openly talk about how you can take back your health and lives from the incredible stress of living with family members with autism. If you’re a member of Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, please join our next low-cost video conference entitled: #MeToo Stress Effects of ASD. It will be held on January 4, 2018 at 2:30PM or January 24, 2018 at 3PM. Please come prepared to open up about the stress you live with. You’ll get support from those who know and care because they are survivors and chose to be healers, too. We’ll also be talking about tools for healing.

Another great resource is my book, Out of Mind - Out of Sight. It gives great insight into how you navigate through the crazy-making, NT/AS world. You’ll find real stories from real people who will both inspire and instruct you. If you haven’t already done so, please download a free chapter by clicking on the image below. Or you can purchase your own copy from Amazon. It’s available in paperback or Kindle edition.

What Does It Mean that Autistics Think in Pictures?

Monday, December 04, 2017


Autistics think visually, why this hinders good communication, and what you can do about it.Have you seen the Temple Grandin movie? She’s a high-functioning autistic who has built a life helping others understand autism. (She also specializes in understanding what spooks cattle). She’s written a book about thinking in pictures because that’s the only way she relates to the world around her. There are a number of good YouTube videos, like this one if you start at the 9 minute mark, that give you some insight into her visual thinking process.

Temple has an interesting example on how people think about church steeples. Most people think of a generalized image, but her mind flashes through images of existing churches at specific locations that she’s seen in the past. She never sees things in a generalized way, but sees very detailed examples.

Of course, we can all visualize to a degree. At least we call it that. We might see a color in our "mind's eye" when told to see red. What about a checked tablecloth? Or your first car? But we don't generally "think in pictures." We tend to use pictures, or little movies as methods of organizing data, along with words, emotions, feelings, and other types of thought.

Autistics on the other hand rely much more on pictures. This explains why they have a photographic memory or can focus on the minutest detail. As handy as thinking in pictures can be for certain tasks, it can be a disaster for interpersonal communication. Without words to go along with those pictures, we’re left wondering what they’re thinking about. Without empathy, they may ramble on about their topic of interest without realizing we can't see their picture.

For our Aspies it’s also extremely troubling that we can't see their pictures. How can they convey what they are feeling or experiencing?

If you’re a member of Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup

, please join us for the free international teleconference on Thursday, December 14th, at 2:30 PM PT. Our topic is:

What does it mean that autistics think in pictures? Bring your own examples of how your Aspies think in pictures. But if it makes no sense to you yet, don't give up. We'll keep translating for you.

If you’d rather have a one-on-one session with me and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

How Can You Tell if It’s Abuse or Asperger's?

Monday, November 27, 2017


As tough as it is to look at the issue of abuse, it’s important. We aren't helping our Aspies when we allow them to be abusive. Yes, they have sensory sensitivities. Yes, they lack empathy and miss important cues. Yes, they easily get confused and shut down or rage. But to allow the verbal abuse, or their self-abuse, is not OK.

The answer to the question, "Is it abuse or is it Asperger's?" is that it doesn't matter. Regardless of the source of the abuse, it has to cease immediately. That's always the first step.

The second, third and fourth steps require taking into consideration the source of the abuse and developing a treatment plan specific for the person. With Aspies it's a blend of anger management (or domestic violence treatment), and the kind of coaching that teaches them the Rules of Engagement.

For the NT, as you can imagine, the treatment involves a protection plan, plus psychotherapy to restore your confidence and teach you skills to cope with life better.

Like I said this is a tough subject but it's time to bring it up, isn't it? That’s why we’re talking about this at our next videoconference.

If you’re a member of Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, please join our videoconference on Thursday, December 7th at 9:00 A.M. The topic: Is it abuse or is it Asperger’s? We’ll discuss how to assess the situation when the diagnosis alone doesn't help. In other words, let's find practical ways to communicate and problem solve with your Aspie, even if you have to make it up!
(If this time slot if full, I’m holding another one of December 20th.)

If you’re not a member and want to join here are the qualifications: you are a NT trying to deal with life with someone on the Autism Spectrum. That’s it. If that’s you, request an invite. It’s free to join the group and it has a lot of perks, like this low-cost video conference or free international teleconferences.

If you’d like to learn more of the science behind Asperger’s Syndrome, download a free chapter from my book, Out of Mind - Out of Sight. Or click the image below.

Does Your Aspie Make You Feel Like You’re Living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


If your Asperger loved one makes you feel like you’re living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, take heart, you can thrive despite their unintentional wounds.Oh, does that sound mean? It’s not meant to be. Yes, you may feel guilty describing your Aspie loved one in this manner. But the truth is this is how our rollercoaster lives feel. We’re whipsawed about with their contradictory behavior. It hurts; it’s frustrating; and sometimes it’s frightening.

Once again it all comes back to a lack of empathy. With no theory of mind it doesn’t register with our Aspies just how their conduct affects us. And because they don't really intend to cause harm, they don’t readily accept responsibility for their misconduct. (I’ll be sharing more about Empathy Disorders in my upcoming book, including what you can do to protect yourself from people who can’t demonstrate empathy. To stay up-to-date on it’s release sign-up for my newsletter.)

It’s like they have a split personality. What the world sees and what you see are two radically different things. They cut you off after one phrase and finish your sentences with what they think you should do, completely missing your point. It leaves you fuming, “who is he or she to tell me how to feel.” Or maybe like you’re a bother for contradicting anything the Aspie believes.

Layer upon layer of misunderstanding leads to the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde phenomenon. No matter how much you try to reason with them, they’re convinced that you’re the problem.

It’s even more infuriating that others see them as lovable, smart, or just a little kooky, but basically harmless. Only we know how devastating it is to be in the crosshairs of an Aspie when they’re fired up.

At our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, we’ll talk about how to hold your own against Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s important to know your own heart and not compromise. You’ll learn how to keep your channel clear and never allow boundary crossing. Let’s talk about the warning signs and methods to handle this better so you can prevent your own hurt.

If you’re a member, be sure to register for the November Video Conference, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on Thursday, November 9th at 9:00 AM PT. (Not a member? If you’re a NT dealing with life with an Aspie, all you have to do is request an invite. It’s free to join the group and it has a lot of perks, like this low-cost video conference and our free international teleconference.)

If you prefer one-on-one counseling and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

If you’d like to understand more about the science behind Asperger’s Syndrome, grab a free chapter from my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) by clicking on the image below.


Male and Female Differences in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Monday, October 02, 2017


Have you ever wondered if you’re autistic? Do you wonder about your daughter, your mother or your sister? After living with an Aspie for a few years, you may be a bit quirky yourself. Tragically, girls are typically under-represented in studies and treatment programs for high functioning autism, because they do look different.

In fact there’s emerging research that demonstrates that women on the Autism Spectrum have different brain organization than men on the Spectrum. For example, ASD women and girls seem to have more access to some of the empathy circuits in the brain. Not as much as NT women, but enough that they also are quite confused and suffer in relationships with ASD males.

Current estimates of the ratio of ASD male to female is 4 males to 1 female. However Simon Baron-Cohen suggests that once female ASD is diagnosed effectively, the numbers will change to 2:1. Right now females tend to get diagnosed for ASD only when they’re low functioning. More often than not they’re receiving alternate diagnoses like ADHD or OCD.

Have you noticed the differences between male and female Autism? Or would you like to discuss this topic further? If you’re a member of our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD meetup, be sure to register for the free, international Teleconference: Male and Female differences in Autism Spectrum Disorder on Thursday, October 19, 2017 at 2:30 PM PT. We’ll dig into the research on girls and autism. Bring your personal examples. Even if you have no experience with women and girls on the Spectrum, you’ll gain insight into your male Aspies by comparison.

Other resources:
NPR’s Morning Addition: ‘Social Camouflage’ May Lead to Underdiagnosis of Autism in Girls.
Barry Carpenter Education pdf
What is it like to be a girl with autism?
“Putting on My Best Normal”: Social Camouflaging in Adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions

Do you suspect that one of your female family members has undiagnosed autism? With a proper diagnosis, you can begin the process of helping her live a better life. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

You can read my story and that of others’ in my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD). Click on the image below to download a free chapter.

Why Do Those with Asperger’s Syndrome Say the Strangest Things?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


Here are four reasons why your Asperger friends or family members sound like Mr. Spock when they’re sharing their feelings, and what you can do about it.Have you ever noticed that your Aspie friend or family member sounds like Mr. Spock when they’re sharing their feelings? So unattached and impersonal. Why is that? It’s because people with Asperger’s Syndrome have a disconnect between cognitive empathy and emotional empathy. Many also have Alexithymia, which contributes to a disconnect between understanding their own feelings and finding words to tell us what they’re feeling.

In addition to that, Aspies also have developed a belief system as a result of living in a world where others make no sense. For example, have you noticed how they draw a conclusion based on one experience and hold to it forever, no matter how much you plead with them that it’s no longer true?

Another confusing element is when they’re trying to chit-chat but can't remember any important information about the person they’re talking to…as if this is their first encounter? They could be talking to your aunt or the next door neighbor and be totally clueless.

It's like a primary school child who is learning to read and only sounds at the words. By third and fourth grade most children are starting to gather information from their reading, not just dutifully reading words on the page. Our Aspies seem stuck in first grade when it comes to social interaction. They have a few basic rules of engagement but haven't mastered the depth of connecting with others.

Some of you may not care why they say the strangest things, or you may have given up trying to translate. However, some of you are still trying to understand the unfathomable logic and language of our Aspies. I actually think the key to our mental health comes from understanding their disability just a little bit better. This enables us to detach and not take so seriously the odd, hurtful and sometimes mean things they say.

If you’re a member of our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, be sure to register for the October Video Conference: Why do Aspies say the strangest things? There are still opening for this low-cost, hour-long session on either Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 3:00 PM PDT or Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 9:00 AM PDT. Please bring your questions about this phenomenon. I bet you have insights too.

Would you rather have a one-on-one session with me? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. Or if it’s more convenient, I also offer online therapy.

Autism Caretakers – It’s Time Someone Took Care of YOU!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Autism Caretakers – It’s Time Someone Took Care of YOU!There is no way around it. If you live with someone on the Autism Spectrum, whether a child, or a spouse, or a parent, you are a caretaker. It is not easy! You deserve to know that we appreciate you and all that you’re doing. You are not alone in your struggles.

But not everyone is so understanding…

How many times have you been told to take care of yourself? As if you have time to actually get a pedicure, a massage, or just a nap, right? How many strings do you have to pull to actually make time for yourself?

It's one thing to put down your foot with an NT family member and demand some time for yourself. Not so with ASD loved ones. If you try the tough love approach with them, there’s no telling the damage they can wreak. They don't fully understand their connection to others, do they? It's always up to the Autism caretakers to clear the path.

Did you notice that I intentionally didn’t use the word "Caregivers" for this post? Why? I chose “Autism Caretakers” because the process of caring is not reciprocated by our Aspies much of the time. The word "Carers" is appropriate, of course, because it implies neutrality. But don't we often feel like caretakers?

It’s time we take care of you! If you’re a member of our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, please join us on the free teleconference on the topic of Caretakers Dilemma on Thursday, September 21, 2017 at 2:30 PM. We’ll talk about realistic ways to create self-care in an environment where your options are very limited. You can do it with the support of those who care.

If you prefer one-on-one counseling, live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for you.

Autism Caregivers – Are You Down and Depressed?

Monday, August 28, 2017


Autism Caregivers – Are You Down and Depressed? Living in a constant state of emotional distress can cause a variety of health concerns, not the least of which is depression. Sadly this describes a chronic state for many of our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD members. I think they’re a good sampling of families with Autism. This means that there are too many people dealing with this problem alone. Let’s change that!

Medicine and psychotherapy can help some, but what do you do when the stressors from caregiving someone with Autism never goes away?


One of the best methods of psychotherapy for depression in general is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which relies on helping you change your beliefs in order to alleviate the depression. It’s based on the idea that the depression is due to faulty thinking.

However, in the ASD setting we must factor in other experiences… ASD caregivers live in a depressing atmosphere, and they live with oppressive people.

I found that a more successful approach is a combination of education about ASD/NT relationships plus strategic intervention. This makes our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup part of the solution. Knowing that you’re not alone; knowing that others understand from personal experience; knowing that you do not have faulty beliefs; knowing that you need new strategies; this is what helps us cope with depression.

We’re kicking off the fall with a discussion about strategies that effectively keep us sane and connected to others who are loving and supportive. The next videoconference entitled “Down and Depressed?” will be held on two dates: Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 9:00 AM PT and Wednesday, September 27, 2017 at 3:00 PM PT. Maybe you’ll even discover that you aren't really depressed at all; just down. And that can be fixed!

Note: We had to modestly increase the price for our low-cost videoconferences. For $18.00 per person you get a solid hour of healthful interaction with me and 11 other supportive attendees.

If you’d prefer one-on-one counseling and live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

Girls with Autism – They’re Different Than Boys with Autism

Wednesday, August 09, 2017


Here are seven ways that girls with autism are different than boys with autism and the reason why girls and women are being undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Historically it’s been thought that autism is four times more common in boys than in girls. However, studies are now suggesting that the true ratio is one in two. Why the shift?

The current methods for diagnosing autism are skewed toward how autism affects boys. To be diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s, girls need to display more behavioral problems or a significantly higher intellectual disability. Girls with less severe symptoms are more likely to be misdiagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anorexia.

Behavioral and preliminary neuro-imaging suggests that autism manifests differently in girls. Scientific American has a must-read article outlining some of these differences. Here are some highlights:

  1. Females can more easily mask, camouflage or compensate for ASD symptoms than males.
  2. Girls obsessively focus on reading, looking for rules for social life so they can connect and fit in.
  3. The difference between typical and autistic development in girls is in their intensity. They may refuse to talk about anything other than their topic of interest.
  4. Autistic girls exhibit less repetitive behavior than the boys do.
  5. The pastimes and preferences of autistic girls are more similar to those of typical girls rather than stereotypically male interests.
  6. Girls with autism are more likely than autistic boys to pretend play; they just don’t put themselves into the story.
  7. A study published in 2014 by Baron-Cohen and his colleagues found that “66 percent of adults with Asperger's reported suicidal thoughts, a rate nearly 10 times higher than the general population. 71 percent of them were women, who made up about one third of the sample”.

Kevin Pelphrey, a leading autism researcher at Yale University's Child Study Center says, “Everything we thought was true of autism seems to only be true for boys." For example, his (unpublished as of yet) studies show that the brain of an autistic boy uses different regions to processes social information such as eye movements and gestures than a typical boy's brain does.


Yet that’s not true of girls. Each girl's brain “looks like that of a typical boy of the same age, with reduced activity in regions normally associated with socializing.” So according to the tests, these girls appear to be normal. But they’re remarkable different from typical girls of their age.

I experienced first hand many of these things when I was raising my autistic daughter. Until she was diagnosed, I was frantic. I know all too well that hopeless feeling of watching a child struggle in life and not knowing what to do.

Do you suspect that one of your female family members has undiagnosed autism? With a proper diagnosis, you can begin the process of helping her live a better life. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

You can read my story and that of others’ in my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD). Click on the image below to download a free chapter.



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