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Kathy Marshack News

Autism Alert: Will Broccoli Sprouts “Cure” Autism?

Monday, October 27, 2014


broccoli sprouts being grown to treat autismNo doubt you were as thrilled as I was to hear the recent news reports about a new treatment for autism…sulforaphane, which is found in cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts. It’s especially abundant in broccoli sprouts. (Watch the CBS News report here. Read the clinical report here.)

The compound, sulforaphane, has been found to be efficacious for protecting cells from the oxidative stress that sets off cancer. It also bolsters the body’s natural defenses and it stimulates the body’s heat-shock response (the way the body protects itself from stress caused by the high temperature from having a fever).

Perhaps you, like other parents, have noted that your children’s autistic behavior improves while they have a fever. In 2007, Dr. Andrew Zimmerman and his team tested this anecdotal trend clinically and found it to be true. This discovery led to the research group studying sulforaphane’s effect on ASD, with very promising results.

Scientists at MassGeneral Hospital for Children and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine studied the reaction of 40 males (ages 13 to 27, with moderate to severe autism) to a daily dose of sulforaphane compared to those who received a placebo.

During the four weeks of testing, those who received the compound “experienced substantial improvements in their social interaction and verbal communication, along with decreases in repetitive, ritualistic behaviors, compared to those who received a placebo.” Dr Singh noted that, “It appears this supplement corrects underlying cellular problems.” However, once the dosage stopped, all subjects returned to pretreatment levels. This is exciting news!

But before you rush out and start supplementing your child’s diet…here’s a word of caution: Just because this compound is a product of a natural source, the high dosage needed to get results should be given under the supervision of a physician who can do blood work to monitor its effects. The study showed an elevated liver enzyme count, which could possibly be a precursor to liver inflammation. Always talk with your pediatrician before using supplements such as broccoli extract.

Is getting your children to eat more veggies a good idea? Most definitely, yes. It gives the cells the resources they need to heal and provides valuable fiber for proper elimination. Many have also found relief by eliminating foods that contribute to inflammation and toxicity or that trigger immune response such as artificial ingredients, gluten, sugar, and casein. Others have noted improvements by adding digestive enzymes, probiotics, and more fermented foods such as non-dairy yogurt or kefir that heal the damage to the gut.

Learn more on my website: Holistic Health for optimal health practices.

Webinars to Help You Recognize if your Loved One Has Undiagnosed ASD

Thursday, October 16, 2014


help does my husband have autism spectrum disorderDo you suspect your loved one may be on the autism spectrum, yet they haven’t been diagnosed? ASD is more common than most people think. There are large segments of the population that are undiagnosed, which means they are going without the support and intervention they need. There are three groups of people especially who are often unidentified or incorrectly identified for ASD. Who are they?

Females – More males have been diagnosed because the description of ASD is based on what ASD looks like in males. Hence the tools for identifying ASD are skewed and miss females.

High Functioning Individuals – Bright kids with ASD often are dismissed as not needing services until some resulting emotional and behavioral problem arises. Too often they hear, “Just try harder. You can do it.” Then their behavior is addressed without getting to the cause – ASD.

Those with Catatonia – This disorder affects a person’s speech, movement and behavior, often manifested in stupor. Researchers estimate that between 12 to 18 percent of adolescents and young adults with ASD have catatonia (Wing & Shah, 2000). I’m happy to report that Catatonia is now recognized as a specifier for ASD in the DSM-5.

I want to alert you to a resource that may help you recognize whether or not your loved one is in one of these categories of undiagnosed ASD.

There’s going be a webinar series starting on October 20th. It’s produced by The Ziggurat Group with host psychologists, Ruth Aspy, Ph.D. and Barry G. Grossman, Ph.D. They wrote the award winning The Ziggurat Model, a book about designing interventions for students with Asperger’s Disorder and high-functioning autism, which has been adopted at the district-wide and state-wide levels. These webinars will provide strategies and solutions for better identifying and serving each group mentioned above. Each class costs from $50 to $100. This is a small price to pay for changing someone’s life.

Parenting a child with ASD, especially when you’re parenting with an ASD spouse, is no easy task. My new book, Out of Mind - Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD), addresses these issues. Click here for more information.

For more information on Autism Spectrum Disorder, visit Asperger Syndrome - FAQ.

If it Feels Like Abuse…It is Abuse!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014


broken hearted because it feels like abusive asperger behaviorWhat a dilemma! Is it abuse when your loved one with Autism Spectrum Disorder says the meanest things to you, your children or others? If they have an empathy disorder, do you excuse this behavior? Is it less abusive because there’s a reason behind the behavior? How much abuse should you tolerate because you’re trying to help?

You know that there are some things that your Aspie partner can’t change. But what about the things he or she could change but just doesn’t want to put the effort into doing so? Are you required to overlook it? What is that doing to your self-esteem… your health?

My opinion is that if it feels like abuse, it is abuse, and it should not be tolerated. But then what do you do about it? How do you confront your Aspie loved one? How do you stand up for yourself when they will never understand? This is a conundrum. And when passive aggressive behavior turns to life threatening actions, you must keep your children and yourself safe, but will you have enough strength to do so?

Patricia Evans quotes an important aphorism in her book, The Verbally Abusive Relationship:

"Sticks and stone can break my bones, but words can break my heart."

I know I’ve raised a lot of questions in this blog post. Now let’s get together and discuss some solutions. Join me Saturday, October 18, 2014 at 1:00pm PST at our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup in Vancouver, Washington as we explore the topic, If It Feels Like Abuse…It Is Abuse! We’ll discuss how to manage the abuse, how to stand up for yourself, and how to put the responsibility squarely on the abuser. This is the first step for taking back your life, which is your real mission. Sign up to learn more about this group and find the details for the location.

If you’re unable to attend in person, you can also join our teleconference Meetup on the same topic on Friday, October 24, 2014 at 2:30pm PST. I’m so excited that we have members from every continent around the world, so you’ll be able to connect with callers from Canada, USA, New Zealand, Great Britain, Germany, India, Dubai, South Africa, South America and so on.

One member recently wrote me and said this:

“Really sorry to have missed the last teleconference, I knew it would be illuminating. NOTHING will stop me from attending Friday's meeting on another great topic! After exploring the subject of NT/AS marriage since 2009, this website has become more valuable than ever.”

Let me just take a moment and thank you for allowing me this summer break. It’s certainly renewed me and I’m anxious to meet with you again. While you wait for this next Meetup, let me ask you…Have you grabbed your copy of Out of Mind - Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) yet? It continues where “Going Over the Edge?” left off. It’s not just a parenting book but also another look at this life, when children, even grown children are involved.

Dating Advice for People with Asperger's

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


asperger dating adviceAny romantic relationship will have ups and downs due to human nature in general. When Asperger Syndrome is part of the mix, the challenges easily mount. It’s important to note that people with Asperger's Syndrome want love in their lives. They feel love for others and they want to be loved. The difficulty occurs because they struggle with showing and understanding emotions.

A recent NPR interview highlights some of the challenges that those with Asperger’s face while dating. Jesse Saperstein, a 32-year old man with Asperger’s Syndrome candidly shares his experience in his new book, "Getting a Life with Asperger's: Lessons Learned on the Bumpy Road to Adulthood."

Here are some points I appreciate that Mr. Saperstein shares:

  • “Be up front in telling your date that you have Asperger’s.
  • Sincere interest can all too often be perceived as creepiness.
  • Relentlessly pursuing a relationship, i.e. 100 phone calls a week, doesn’t work. People view this as stalking.
  • When someone demands to be let alone you have to respect that.
  • Don’t invest a lot of money the first or second time you meet someone, because you can’t buy their affection.
  • Success with autism or any kind of challenge comes from knowing you have incredible things to offer. Mistakes don't mean you're a loser.”

Kudos to Mr. Saperstein for candidly sharing his experiences. It’s my hope that everyone with Asperger’s can find a specialist trained in Asperger's who can help them navigate more smoothly through life.

What can parents do to prepare their child with Asperger's Syndrome for dating?

They need to be given proper guidance to develop relationship skills throughout the course of their life. Starting at a young age, the child’s parents need to focus on the necessity of developing healthy friendships that will also promote stronger self-esteem. Once they have reached adolescence, there’s an ongoing need to teach an accurate portrayal of attraction, dating, and sexuality. It would be a good idea to have a trusted friend or family member meet possible dates. They can give insight and perspective on whether that person will be a good choice before the dating process begins.

Can AS/NT couples make it work? It does take a lot of commitment and work. You have to go into the relationship knowing that the quality of the relationship will be different than a Neuro-Typical relationship. It’s helpful for the NT’s to help their Aspie date create rules of engagement that tells them what to do and when to do it in an acceptable manner.

Read more on my website: Asperger & Marriage and my two books “Going Over the Edge?” and “Out of Mind-Out of Sight”.

Caring for Someone with Autism? Make Time for Yourself

Friday, September 05, 2014


Out of Mind Out of Sight Parenting with a Partner with Asperger ASDHow do you blunt the stress of parenting a child with disabilities? Do you feel like you can’t take time for yourself? A recent NY Times article, When the Caregivers Need Healing, reminds us all that it’s vital for caregivers to make time for themselves so they have enough emotional and physical strength to continue to care for others.

All parents experience stress-filled moments when raising their children. However, parents of children with autism often experience more stress, depression and anxiety. That’s in part because the care for their autistic child is relentless – day in and day out for the rest of their lives. Plus there are the worries over how to pay for the necessary therapies.

Dr. Fred R. Volkmar, the director of Child Study Center at Yale University School of Medicine sums the situation up, “Having a child that has a disability is all-encompassing. You can see how people would lose themselves.” The article reports that researchers at Vanderbilt University tested the effectiveness of mindfulness training and positive adult development as solutions for the stress of being a caregiver.

The study did not focus on sharpening parental skills, but rather on teaching parents to tackle their stress in positive ways that helped them accept life as it is. Both methods resulted in significant reductions in stress, depression, insomnia and anxiety. Which method worked best?

The ones in the mindfulness treatment group who practiced meditation, breathing exercises, and qigong saw greater improvement than those who received positive adult development training on curbing negative thoughts, practicing gratitude and reclaiming life as an adult.

What solution is best for your specific circumstances? Enlist the help of a trained psychologist to help you create a strategy for managing the stress you deal with daily. I also share in both of my books invaluable, practical tips that I’ve drawn from years of experience helping families to thrive despite the affects of Asperger’s. If you haven’t grabbed your copies yet, now would be a very good time to do so.

Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge? is available on Amazon and AAPC Publishing.

Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) is available in Kindle edition and paperback.

Read more on my website: Depression and Stress.

Can Bipolar Disorder Be Treated?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


hope for those who suffer with bipolar disorderOur hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Robin Williams as they suffer such a terrible loss. It’s heart breaking that anyone, whether famous or not, suffers so much emotional and mental pain such as he did.

What especially concerns me right now is that some who suffer might to be frightened that they too could reach a point where they feel there is no hope. It is important for anyone, whether you have severe depression, bipolar disorder or a serious health condition such as Parkinson’s, to know that you can get treatment that will help you cope. Suicide is never the right option.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health “about 2.4% of people around the world have had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder at some point in their lifetime. The United States has the highest lifetime rate of bipolar disorder at 4.4% (more than 10 million people).”

The Mayo Clinic lists the following symptoms for bipolar disorder. The manic phase can include:

  • Euphoria
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Poor judgment
  • Rapid speech
  • Racing thoughts
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Agitation or irritation
  • Increased physical activity
  • Risky behavior
  • Spending sprees or unwise financial choices
  • Increased drive to perform or achieve goals
  • Increased sex drive
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Easily distracted
  • Careless or dangerous use of drugs or alcohol
  • Frequent absences from work or school
  • Delusions or a break from reality (psychosis)
  • Poor performance at work or school

Symptoms of the depressive phase of bipolar disorder can include:

  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Sleep problems
  • Low appetite or increased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in activities once considered enjoyable
  • Problems concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Chronic pain without a known cause
  • Frequent absences from work or school
  • Poor performance at work or school

The sypmtoms in children are much harder to diagnose and needs immediate attention from a doctor trained to recognize both bipolar disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. Why these two disorders in particular?

Did you know Asperger’s Syndrome often displays the same symptoms as bipolar disorder? Oftentimes people with Asperger’s are misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder, which can lead to the wrong treatment.

If you struggle with any of the above mental health issues or feel like life isn’t worth living, please don’t wait another moment to get help. Talk with someone you trust and consult a doctor trained in Bipolar Therapy and Asperger Syndrome. You deserve to receive an accurate diagnosis. If you live in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area please contact my office to set up an appointment.

For more information, visit Overcoming Depression.

New Research into the Link between Autism and Suicidal Thoughts

Wednesday, August 06, 2014


autism and suicidalityRecently I was interviewed by Sarah DeWeerdt for an article, Suicidal thoughts alarmingly common in people with autism. At the suggestion of Dr. Oren Shtayermman, PhD, MSW, she spoke with me about what it’s like to have an autistic child express suicidal thoughts. I shared with her the story of my daughter, who used to beg me to kill her so that we both wouldn't suffer any more. She was in so much emotional pain, and that was the only way she could tell me that she felt helpless. While this is a painful topic, I was glad that I could contribute to further understanding an issue that has for too long been ignored.

The alarming statistics show that both children and adults with autism have a much higher likelihood of suicidal thoughts and behavior. One study the article quoted says that “two-thirds of a group of adults diagnosed with Asperger syndrome said they had thought about committing suicide at some point, and 35 percent had made specific plans or actually made an attempt.” Research is showing that the very cognitive patterns that people with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome possess make them more vulnerable to suicidal tendencies.

Because those on the Autism Spectrum can’t express their feelings well, it’s been assumed that they don’t feel depressed. When they are asked if they feel depressed, they may say “No”. Yet at that same moment, they may be harboring thoughts of wanting to end their lives. They don’t make the connection. As a result, I am so grateful that research into this connection between autism and suicide is increasing.

It’s important to note that our autistic loved ones may have these suicidal feelings, but be unable to express them. It’s imperative then that we be alert and sensitive to hear their unusual way of crying for help.

Asking for help is another social skill that those with autism may be lacking. If you or someone you know is struggling with hopelessness or deep sadness, I urge you to get help immediately. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and set up an appointment. I assure you no matter how bleak your life looks, it can get better.

Read more on my website – Overcoming Depression and Asperger Syndrome.

Let’s Support Northwest Autism Foundation Art Walk on Labor Day

Thursday, July 24, 2014


North West Autism Foundation Art WalkThe Northwest Autism Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides valuable education to those with autism, their families, caregivers, and health care providers. Their services include:

  • Publishing a detailed Autism Resource Directory of local and national resources for ASD information and services. (Download the Directory here.)
  • Continuing education to the medical professionals in Oregon.
  • Sponsoring workshops and lectures about the most up-to-date ASD topics.
  • Organizing and sponsoring the annual Autism OASIS conference, which enlists the best scientists and doctors to speak on the most effective treatment options.

They can now add to this list an annual Art Walk that raises money for worthy organizations. Their goal this year is to raise $25,000 for the Victory Academy, Oregon’s only year-round accredited school for children with autism. Victory Academy’s mission is “to provide children affected by ASD with an integrated academic and therapeutic program, carefully designed to address an individual’s strengths and challenges. They foster the development of meaningful relationships and the achievement of life-long learning.”

To support this Art Walk, you can either sponsor your own team or donate to one of the fundraising teams listed here. They are also looking for sponsors and volunteers to help them get this event off the ground. If you’d like to help you can email them at: autismnwaf@gmail.com.

This fun for the family event will be held at Clackamas Community College, 19600 Molalla Ave., Oregon City, Oregon during Labor Day Weekend on Saturday, August 30th from 11-3pm. I’m going to be there. Will you be able to come and support this worthy cause, too? If so, visit my Facebook page, (https://www.facebook.com/Kathy.Marshack.Ph.D), and click on the upcoming event “First Ever Northwest Autism Foundation Art Walk” and say you’ll attend. And please share this with your friends and neighbors. I appreciate your help in getting the word out.

Learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder – Asperger's Syndrome.

How Can Families Thrive When It’s Mom Who Has Asperger’s Syndrome?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


mom has aspergers syndromeEven though it is more common for a husband to have Asperger’s Syndrome, it’s quite possible for a mother to have it too. Recent statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention show that five times more males are diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (AS) than females. And while males can reliably be diagnosed as early as 18 months to two years of age; females are often not diagnosed until adulthood.

This presents a real challenge to family happiness, because culturally women are revered as the nurturers of the family. And while women with Asperger’s generally accept that it is a woman’s duty to care for the children and maintain the household and in general keep the family happy and healthy, they just are not very well equipped to handle this role. As a result they are viewed as cold, uncaring, and selfish because they can’t live up to what’s expected of them.

Because women often go undiagnosed, dads are clueless as to why their family dynamics aren’t working. Nuero-Typical (non-Asperger) men need to learn about Asperger Syndrome and be able to talk about their experiences in order to learn how to cope and indeed help themselves and their families to thrive under these challenging circumstances.

How do many Neuro-Typical (NT) dads react when they are faced with a spouse that has Asperger’s Syndrome?

On the surface their reaction is the same as many NT mom’s. They’re angry and hurt. And since they see their wives as neglectful of and abusive to their children, because they expect their wives to be the more nurturing parent, these feelings are magnified for an NT dad. Without help, the NT father gets angrier and angrier. This clouds the real problem—his undiagnosed Asperger’s wife and her limited parenting skills. Anger and withdrawal are common ways NT dads deal with parenting problems associated with marriage to an Aspie wife.

NT dads should recognize the anger for what it is, depression. They feel trapped by the double bind of wanting to protect their children and wanting to be free of the emotional neglect in their marriage. Even in our contemporary society, the role reversal for NT dads is hard. Besides working full-time, these dads must come home and do much of the cooking, cleaning and caring for the children.

Something that exacerbates the problem is that many NT dads grew up in families with members who are autistic. These men may unconsciously have sought out an Aspie spouse, because it is a dynamic with which they are familiar. If they have not learned how to cope with Asperger’s in their childhood, which is very likely the case, they will carry this dysfunctional behavior into their married lives.

What can NT dads do to help their families to thrive?

Recognizing the problem is an important first step. If you’re a dad dealing with an AS spouse, get professional help immediately for your own sake and that of your family. Trust that your anger is not without reason, and realize that staying angry will only make you sick and destroy the family. Family counseling is good, but it’s also advisable for dads to find a personal therapist, separate from the marital therapist. NT dads need a safe place to talk and resolve their feelings of anger without being destructive.

Read a free chapter of “Our of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)”. This book discusses the science behind Aspie behavior and how you can initiate the rules of engagement that help your Aspie give you and your children the emotional support you need.

Does Trying to Converse with your Aspie Partner Wear You Out?

Sunday, July 06, 2014


difficult talking with asperger partnerPleasant conversation is governed by unspoken rules. We listen carefully, ask relevant questions, make eye contact, show genuine interest in the one we’re conversing with and we don’t interrupt or go off on unrelated tangents. All of this social give-and-take is very difficult for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. Their lack of social awareness and empathy allows them do insensitive things or blurt out inappropriate comments.

Because of not knowing or understanding the rules, our Aspies tend to either control or avoid the conversation or the situation. Because they don't really understand where their partner is coming from, they feel really anxious, and they conclude that the best solutions to their discomfort is to dominate the conversation or avoid the subject entirely.

Often those with Asperger’s find it impossible to say “No”. If they receive an invitation and they want to participate, they can easily say “Yes”. However, they resort to the avoidance mechanism rather than actually decline an invitation. It’s just too much to acknowledge the person and say "No". So they avoid the person that invites them until it all blows over.

Another social norm that Aspies struggle with is saying “Thank you”. You might ask him if he would like a cup of coffee. Rather than answering, the Aspie just talks on about something that interests him. When he gets the cup of coffee, he takes it and happily drinks the beverage, but acknowledging it is just too personal for him.

How can it be that these simple interchanges are so difficult for our Aspie loved ones? The simple empathic process that Neuro-typicals use daily to acknowledge the other person is lost on Aspies. Why is that?

More importantly, are these simple not-so-ordinary moments wearing you down?

Join us Saturday, July 19, 2014 at 1:00pm PST at our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup in Vancouver, Washington as we discuss the topic, Aspies Tend to Avoid or Control. We’ll discuss the reasons behind this behavior and the best ways to cope. Sign up to learn more about this group and find the details for the location. If unable to attend in person, you can also join our teleconference Meetup on the same topic on Friday, July 25, 2014 at 2:30pm PST and connect with our international group of supporters.

Notice: This is the last Meetup until October 2014 due to a very busy summer schedule. I will continue to check in daily with our Meetup postings, so let’s keep the spirit and conversation alive.

Read a free chapter of “Our of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)”. This book discusses the science behind Aspie behavior and how you can initiate the rules of engagement that help your Aspie give you the emotional support that you need.



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