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Kathy Marshack News

So Grateful for Dr. Lorna Wing’s Pioneering Work into Autism

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Dr. Lorna Wing died on June 6th at the age of 85. It is with sadness that I think about the death of this wonderful psychiatrist, researcher and autism advocate. While I didn’t know her personally, I am filled with immense gratitude for all the work that she accomplished throughout her life. Dr. Wing has contributed so much to our understanding of Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. Like so many of us, she began her research into autism in the 1950’s as she looked for answers to her daughter’s behavior.

Dr. Wing’s outstanding contributions are numerous. She and her colleague, Dr. Judith Gould, determined that autism is not just one single condition, but is rather a wide spectrum of behaviors that stem from a common disorder that she described as “a lack of ability to understand and use the rules governing social behavior.” They subsequently established a clinic, Center for Social and Communications Disorders, that is a benchmark for diagnosis and treatment for autism in children.

She also brought to light the work of Hans Asperger, the Austrian psychiatrist who first described the behavior of the form of autism that is known today as Asperger’s Syndrome. Dr. Asperger’s work had been eclipsed by WWII and was forgotten until Dr. Wing rediscovered it. In his original writings he called this disorder, “autistic psychopathy”, but when writing about his findings, she titled her 1981 published paper as, “Asperger’s Syndrome: A Clinical Account”, and that name has become widely known.

You can read more in the New York Times article: Dr. Lorna Wing, Who Broadened Views of Autism, Dies at 85.

Asperger MicroAggression – What Is It and What Can You Do About It?

Friday, June 20, 2014


asperger microaggressionEver heard of MicroAggression? Maybe you’ve heard of it in connection with racism and sexism. It’s a phrase that was coined by psychiatrist, Chester M Pierce, MD, in the 1970’s and it refers to the intentional or unintentional ways of invalidating, degrading or insulting an individual based on a bias.
 
At last a word that describes perfectly those crazy making moments with your Aspie! What are some of these moments?
 
  • When your Aspie denies your reality with a deft chess move to a totally unrelated topic.
  • When they accuse you of always yelling when, in fact, you only exploded after great provocation.
  • When your Aspie gives you the blank look.
 
What damage does Asperger MicroAgression do to a Neuro Typical partner?
 
  • It destroys a person’s self-esteem.
  • There is a growing body of science that shows MicroAggression causes physiological stress, which can lead to chronic inflammation in the body. Chronic low-grade inflammation leads to a whole host of illnesses.
  • There’s even evidence of brain damage due to prolonged MicroAggression that looks like PTSD on brain scans. Buts it’s not Post Traumatic is it? Not when you live daily with these micro-assaults on your sense of self. We NTs refer to it as Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Disorder (or Syndrome).

This can leave you feeling tired, achy, depressed, and forgetful. There are healthy ways to confront and sidestep these debilitating MicroAggressions. When you create rules of engagement that satisfy your needs and that your Asperger’s partner can use to create systems that compensate for his or her lack of empathy, you can begin to reclaim your personal freedom and help your family to thrive.

Join us Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 1:00pm PST at our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup. Its topic is Brain Scans, PTSD and MicroAggression. We’ll discuss the best ways to cope with these debilitating MicroAggressions. 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, June 27, 2014 at 2:30pm PST and connect with our international group of supporters.
 
If you’ve been putting off getting a copy of Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) because you thought it was just for parents with young children, don’t wait another moment. The above information is just a sampling of the science behind Asperger that is explored in the book. If you want to understand your Aspie better, this is a must read.

Understanding the Science of Asperger Behavior

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Out of Mind Out of sight Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome ASDWhy do those with Asperger’s Syndrome act the way that they do? Why can’t they connect with the feelings of others? Science is unlocking the key to understanding these questions about Asperger behavior.

Our brains have an amazing intricate and complicated connection of circuits. If one part doesn’t work correctly, the system it’s connected with malfunctions. Take for example, just a few of the connections that needs to be made for the empathy circuits to work.

One area of your brain, the medial prefrontal cortex compares your perspective to another person’s. Another area, the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex, helps you understand your own thoughts and feelings. Yet, it’s the ventral medial prefrontal cortex that registers how strongly you feel about something. Still another area, the inferior frontal gyrus helps you recognize emotions. Stick with me here, we’re not even half way through the list of connections that must be made to complete the empathy circuits.

Next, we have the area of the brain that is activated by the pain you feel or that you observe in others. That’s the caudal anterior cingulate cortex. But the tricky part is that it doesn’t tell us how to respond to that pain.

Add to the empathy circuits the anterior insula, which is involved in bodily self-awareness, and the right temporoparietal junction that governs judgment of someone’s intentions and beliefs.

And we can’t forget the amygdala because, when prompted by the fear response, we look at someone’s eyes to discern that person’s emotions and intentions. Are you seeing why people with Asperger’s Syndrome struggle. Don’t they generally avoid eye contact? Think of all the information that is lost by not looking someone in the eyes. 

And the list goes on, including the parts of the brain that make the connections and attach meanings to our emotional responses. If a part of your brain isn’t telling you why and how to react, you’ll lack empathy.

If you’ve been putting off getting a copy of Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) because you thought it was just for parents with young children, don’t wait another moment. The above information is just a sampling of the science behind Asperger that is explored in the book. If you want to understand your Aspie better, this is a must read.

Would You Marry Your Aspie All Over Again?

Monday, May 12, 2014


Would you marry your aspie all over again?If you knew then what you know now…would you marry someone with Asperger’s Syndrome? Of course, second guessing yourself is a recipe for depression. On the other hand, there’s a lot to be learned when you ask yourself this question. If you knew about Asperger’s then and if he or she knew it too… and if both of you were committed to building an “interface protocol” would it all have worked out better?

What do I mean by interface protocol? Another way of say it is, what rules of engagement would you have implemented early on? This involves creating a template for how you and your Aspie relate to each other. While it might be distasteful to think of having to design rules to live by, it’s pointless to expect your Aspie partner to give what they are incapable of delivering, such as empathy. However, if your Aspie partner can master the rules of engagement, even though true empathy is lacking, you can accept their intentions as honorable. They can learn to express their care for you with the right responses while really not understanding the empathetic reasons for doing so.

For example, a husband may leap up to help his wife if she trips and drops something. That’s the right response, but when questioned, his motivation might be, “because she’ll be mad if I don’t”, not the empathetic “she might have been hurt and needs comfort”. You can help your Aspie understand the rules of engagement by explaining, “This is how it works. Since men are macho and may not want help, the rule is that you can offer help once to a guy and if he refuses, it’s okay to let it go. But if a woman trips, I want you to offer to help her at least three times and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. She really wants your help even if she says ‘no’. Okay?”

Would creating a rules of engagement playbook have helped you prevent the anguish and depression? Would you have moved on more quickly? There are a hundred questions. Within these questions we’ll find seeds for healing.

If you are a Neuro-Typical who wants to discussion this topic: “Would you do it again?” with a group of empathetic listeners, join us May 17, 2014 at our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup in Portland, Oregon. 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 May 23, 2014 and connect with our international group of supporters.

Would you like to understand more of the scientific reasons why our Aspies do what they do and what we can do to help them? My new book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) is packed full of insightful, scientific research discussed in layman terms, so you can not only grasp the concepts but have sensible suggestions to apply in your own situation.

New Research Helps Those with ASD Recognize Compound Emotions

Monday, May 05, 2014


helping those with ASD to understand facial expressionsIn grade school art class we learned that our crayon box had primary colors and secondary colors. The primaries are red, blue, and yellow. When you start mixing these colors together you get the beautiful rainbow of endless colors. But what does this have to do with emotions?

A recent CNN article by Jacque Wilson explains that until recently, scientists classified happy, sad, fearful, angry, surprised and disgusted as the six basic human emotions. While scientists aren’t sure if it’s biological or learned, we use the same facial muscles to express these specific emotions.

In a new study, Aleix Martinez, associate professor at Ohio State University, and his colleagues have identified 15 additional “compound emotions”. He explains why this is important: “The problem with (only having the 6 basic emotions) is that we cannot fully understand our cognitive system ... if we do not study the full rainbow of expressions that our brain can produce.”

How does this research on facial awareness benefit us? Scientists plan on using these new categories while mapping out the brain activity of those who suffer from schizophrenia, PTSD, and autism spectrum disorder. By identifying the genetic and chemical changes in the brain, they can develop better therapies and medicines to treat these mental disorders. Also, by teaching those who lack facial perception (mind blindness) to recognize these additional categories of emotions, imagine how much their social interactions will improve.

Japanese engineers are also applying this to computer science. They are already working on creating a robot that reads facial expressions and thereby interacts naturally with the elderly, since there is a deficit of young caregivers.

What are these “compound emotions”? "Happily surprised", "happily disgusted”, “sadly fearful", “sadly angry”, “sadly surprised”, sadly disgusted”, fearfully angry”, "fearfully surprised", “fearfully disgusted”, angrily surprised”, “angrily disgusted”, “disgustedly surprised”, “hatred”, “awed” and “appalled”.

How good are you at recognizing facial expressions? Check out the faces in the CNN story and see if you can identify the compound expressions that have recently been classified.

Are you dealing with an ASD family member and are experiencing difficulty with communicating your emotions? Please reach out to a trained mental health professional without delay. If you live in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area, please contact my office to schedule an appointment.

Brain Research May Unlock ASD Facial Perception

Monday, April 28, 2014


brain research may unlock autism spectrum disorder facial perceptionScience is making giant strides in brain research. Many scientists are devoting time to studying the brain from various angles. A recent article on CNN, “Scan a brain, read a mind", discussed some of these ongoing studies.

Here are some highlights from these studies:

  • ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories, Kyoto suggest it’s possible to decode our dreams based on brain activity.
  • The BrainLab at the Georgia Institute of Technology is trying to create thought-directed wheelchairs and artificial limbs, which would greatly assist people with disabilities.
  • University of Washington researchers are studying how brain signals can cross the internet – so far they’ve been able to control the hand movements of the second participant.
  • A University of California, Berkeley group is trying to determine how the brain responds to language. They hope to eventually be able to decode our very thoughts based of brain activity.
  • Marvin Chun, professor of psychology at Yale is working on studying what happens when people's minds wander or are “zoning-out”.
  • Dr. Josef Parvizi, a neurologist at Stanford University, is working on how the brain retrieves memories.

The study that interests me the most is the one that could, in time, assist those with autism to “read” faces so that they can respond more appropriately in the social situations.

Alan Cowen, while an undergraduate at Yale University, conducted a study using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scans. The brain was scanned as a person viewed hundreds of pictures of faces. The researchers noted what areas of the brain were reacting to the facial images. They then used a computer to generate what was recorded in the brain mathematically. The CNN article has a bank of pictures showing the actual images and then the computer-generated image based on the brain activity patterns. (Click here to see them.) It’s remarkable how identifiable they really are. Wouldn’t it be terrific if they could pinpoint and fix the area of the brain that causes the perception disorder in Autism?

Until that time, how can we assist those on the Autism Spectrum Disorder? Since this is still Autism Awareness Month, join me on Facebook at (https://www.facebook.com/Kathy.Marshack.Ph.D) and share what you’re doing to help an individual or an organization dealing with Autism.

Tips on Finding the Right Support Group For You

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Finding the Best Support Group for YouWe all need someone to talk with that understands our unique situation and non-judgmentally supports us as we travel through our journey of life. A good Support Group will provide you with needed emotional support and often give you information on the latest treatment or research on your particular concern. In today’s technological world, you can either attend a local Support Group in person or you can join an online Support Group.

But you may have some questions before joining … How can you be sure the group you’re joining is going to be a healthy environment for you? What are some ways of identifying a good Support Group? I found an informative article written by John Grohol Psy.D, founder of PsychCentral.com that can help you identify characteristics of a good Support Group. Some of these are listed below:

A good Support Group has a community that is stable. You can determine this by how well it’s moderated and how long it’s been functioning. A group that has a moderator AND an administrative team will be able to continually bring new resources to you without the group leader burning out and shutting the group down.

Find a Support Group with members who are welcoming, non-judgmental and open to sharing. You want to be encouraged, not discouraged, in your chosen group.

The best Support Group has a non-techy, user-friendly site. If you’re stressing out over the tech stuff, you won’t be reaping any benefits from the group.

A reasonable Support Group clearly posts its guidelines and rules of conduct so everyone knows the boundaries of what’s acceptable and what’s not.

A secure Support Group guards your privacy so nothing you say is splashed across the worldwide web inadvertently.

Look for a Support Group that offers you the features that are important to you. Are you interested in just reading what people have posted or do you desire more, such as mood tracking tools, treatment or product reviews, or a live chat room?

I facilitate two very supportive and secure Meetups. One is for Entrepreneurial Couples and Families. The other is for Partners & Family of Adults with Asperger Syndrome. Both of these Groups have local Meetups and International Teleconferences that are uniting members around the world.

I’m very excited about my newest Support Group – a Meetup for ENTREPRENEURS-Making It Work for Couples and Families. We focus on learning to balance Work and Love, the two things entrepreneurial families cherish most. The local Meetup is held once a month in Vancouver, Washington.

The Meetup for Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with AS has been supporting Neuro-Typicals who care for adult Aspie family since 2009. At our last call our international AS Group included people from around the globe. The local Meetup is held once a month in Portland, Oregon.

I am passionate about providing ongoing education for these two diverse topics. My team and I are working hard to provide you with a secure environment the gives the support you crave and deserve. If you have any questions about either one of these Meetup Support Groups, please feel free to contact us.

Coping With Asperger Eccentric Mannerisms and Behavior

Friday, April 11, 2014


Asperger Syndrome MeetupPeople with Asperger’s Syndrome often develop mannerisms and behaviors that can be very distracting and even annoying to Neuro-Typical family members. There are a number of reasons why they display this behavior. One reason is that their senses are overly stimulated. Another reason is that these Asperger mannerisms are a way of creating order in their disrupted world.

For example, their over-sensitivity to touch may make them picky about what clothes they wear – it needs to be soft with the tags removed. They don’t like strong smells, bright lights, loud noises, and most foods. Aspies rigidly crave routine so any variations in their schedule upset them. The same plate has to be used for dinner, objects must be lined up in a repetitive manner, certain items must never be moved, and the list of Asperger eccentricities goes on and on.

What’s up with these eccentricities? Why does one person eat an orange by peeling the membrane off of each segment and then eats one kernel at a time? Why does another collect lint and roll it into a ball to keep in a jar? And still others hoard everything that comes into the house? Nothing can be thrown away, even shoes that are holey and beyond the point of wearing.

What can family members do to deal with these Asperger mannerisms so that it doesn’t drive you crazy? You can find ways to accept these eccentricities if you understand the reason behind this Asperger behavior. Sharing information about “What’s Up with these Aspie Eccentricities” is the topic for our next Portland, Oregon Meetup on Saturday, April 19, 2014.

The same topic will be discussed on our Teleconference Meetup – Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with AS on Friday, April 25, 2014. If you are a Neuro-Typical family member who needs someone to talk with that truly understands what you’re going through, please join us in this discussion. We’re here to support you. These calls are uniting our members from around the world from Canada, New Zealand, India, South Africa, Great Britain, South America and more!

For greater understanding of your relationship with your Asperger’s Syndrome family member, check out my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD). It picks up where my first book, Going Over the Edge? left off and goes into more depth about the science behind Asperger’s.

April – Autism Awareness Month – What Can We Do About It?

Thursday, April 10, 2014


april autism awarenessEvery time I look at the statistics for the number of people with Autism it changes, and not for the better. Back in 2006 the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that it was 1 in 110. In 2008 it was 1 in 88. As of March 24, 2014 the CDC, declares that 1 in 68 children have been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

They cited studies to support the following data:

  • “If one identical twin has ASD, the other will be affected about 36-95% of the time.
  • If one non-identical twin has ASD, the other is affected about 0-31% of the time. 
  • If one child has ASD, there’s a 2%–18% chance the second child will also.
  • About 10% of children with autism are also identified as having Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, or other genetic and chromosomal disorders.
  • 46% of children identified with ASD have average to above average intellectual ability.
  • Children born to older parents are at a higher risk for having ASD.
  • On average, children identified with ASD were not diagnosed until after age 4, even though children can be diagnosed as early as age 2.
  • Parents of children with ASD notice a developmental problem before their child's first birthday. Concerns about vision and hearing were more often reported in the first year, and differences in social, communication, and fine motor skills were evident from 6 months of age.”

Since this disorder is so prevalent, it’s important to educate ourselves about it. Teachers and first responders such as police, fire, and EMT personnel especially need special skills to help those with ASD.

April 2nd was Autism Awareness Day and many joined Autism Speaks in their Light It Up Blue initiative. In honor of this 7th annual United Nations sanctioned commemoration, many landmarks, buildings, and structures “went blue”.

During this Autism Awareness Month, let’s express appreciation for all the people who are working hard for this disorder. If you know any of them personally, take a moment to thank them for their hard work. If your circumstances allow, look into how you can make a difference. Every little bit helps! Then join me on Facebook and share with our community what you’ve done. It’s time to toot your own horn and encourage others to take action, too.

I’m passionate about providing education that will lead to the betterment of lives. Recently I’ve made myself available for providing Remote Education so many more people can be reached with this important information. Please, check out my Remote Education on Asperger Relationships

, a high functioning form of ADS, to learn more about this service.


Is There “Shame” in being Married to Someone with Asperger’s?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Asperger Syndrome Parnters and Family of Adults with ASDLet me say this right up front…No, I don’t think it’s shameful to acknowledge that your spouse suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, a highly functioning form of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Nor is it shameful that your spouse has Asperger’s. But, the shame associated with living with Aspies can be extreme for some.

There’s such a stigma against being “labeled” Asperger or Autistic, that Aspies may fear losing their standing in the community or their business relationships, so they don’t want anyone to know of the diagnosis, if indeed they consent to being diagnosed at all. This puts pressure on the Neuro-typical family members to hide what their lives are really like. In fact, Neuro-typicals are terrified to come out of the closet and talk about their lives.

NT family members work so hard to please the person on the spectrum that they aren’t able to live their authentic selves. The Aspie thinks everything is fine and normal, but you can see your friends having loving relationships and you know that’s not what you have. Yet, you may start doubting yourself, thinking that maybe it is your fault, blaming yourself that you’re unlovable and unreasonable in your expectations. The pressure of keeping it secret and not having anyone who understands to talk to can make you question your own sanity.

This situation is so similar to the cycle of abuse. The victim is terrified to confront the abuser. They fear retaliation. But even worse, they fear that they are wrong about the abuse . . . and the abuser.

Sadly the nature of living in these relationships is that they cause confusion and defensiveness and shame. If we are to restore our lives to sanity, we need to be honest about our feelings and our situation. This doesn't mean blame and it doesn't mean shame. It means facing the problem squarely and developing a solution that works.

If you are a member of our Meetup group, Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Families of Adults with ASD, please join us for “The Skeleton in the Closet”. We’ll be discussing questions such as…why are we afraid to discuss our feelings or complain about our Aspie family members…and why are we afraid to admit we have failed in our relationships? Our Local Meetup will be on March 15th at 1:00pm PST.

The International Teleconference will be on March 28th at 2:30pm PST. Our first Teleconference was greeted with heartfelt thanks. One member wrote, “It is a small world when we all share the same difficulties, whether we're in London or LA. I think the teleconference was fantastic and absolutely historic. Look forward to talking to you all again in March!”

To be a member of Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Families of Adults with ASD Meetup you must be a Neuro-typical family member who loves and cares for an adult with Asperger Syndrome because we meet to openly discuss issues and concerns without hindrance of saving someone’s feelings. After joining the group you will receive an email with all the details. Join me on Facebook and let me know your thoughts on this.



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