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Kathy Marshack News

Find Support After Divorcing Your Asperger Spouse

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Divorce is a touchy subject and even more so when one partner has Asperger Syndrome. Since Asperger Syndrome is a high-functioning form of autism, their relationships and marriages are more challenging. This is not to say that divorce is inevitable but it requires a high level of commitment from both partners.

Why are relationships difficult for Aspies? Reciprocity is a vital part to any healthy relationship, but is usually lacking in an Asperger marriage. What I mean by reciprocity is connecting to the interior life of your loved one and sharing their interior life. An Aspie/Neuro-typical (NT or without Asperger Syndrome) couple are often described as like two insulated wires wrapped around each other . . . touching but not connecting. Because of the lack of reciprocity, divorce is common.

The aftermath of divorcing an Aspie can be devastating. In order to cope with this aftermath, you must learn to be brave, strong, and resolute. One of the best ways to do this is alongside others who have done the same. A support group provides a regular structure to help you navigate through the shock, guilt, and sadness that you may experience after you divorce your Aspie spouse. This type of support group is the only place where you can surely find a level of compassion, understanding, and support that you will so desperately need.

On April 21, 2012 1:00 PM in Portland, Oregon the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of ASD Adults will be meeting to discuss, "Divorce and Asperger Syndrome: A Dangerous Topic." This Meetup will no doubt be a difficult topic to discuss, but it will be highly therapeutic. I encourage as many as possible to attend. If you cannot, feel free to log onto our Meetup page and join our online community.

For more information on Asperger Syndrome and relationships, my book Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge is available for purchase or click here to download a free sample chapter.

A Unique Take on an Autism Diagnosis

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


The Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) published the latest autism statistics last week. According to the report, 1 in 88 American children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This includes high-functioning forms of autism such as Asperger Syndrome. Compared to statistics 10 years ago, there has been a 78 % increase. The reasons for this increase is unknown, but greater autism awareness is sure to play a part. Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder. The range of severity on the autism spectrum is expansive. To learn more about high-functioning autism or Asperger Syndrome, click here.

CNN.com posted a fascinating profile of a 42 year old man with high-functioning autism named Joseph Sheppard. I thought this profile was worth writing about because of the attitude Joseph has regarding his disorder. After being diagnosed just six years ago, Joseph finally received clarity. He expressed that he felt his behaviors were a bit odd. Now he had the missing piece to the puzzle.

What impresses me most about Joseph is the fact that he chose to take his diagnosis and run with it. Instead of feeling stuck with a label, he embraced it even referring it to his "inner splendor." Now he is an advocate for others with autism. An excerpt from CNN Profile, Joseph says, " What I choose to do is change the course of the future for persons with autism, because I believe in them and I believe, given the right support and environment, they will be a strong force in repairing the world."

If you have been diagnosed with high-functioning autism, you can likewise choose to be like Joseph. If you are struggling to adjust to your diagnosis, I recommend seeking help from a mental health care professional who works with autism. Contact my office for more information or visit Asperger Syndrome Frequently Asked Questions.

Asperger Syndrome and True Love

Thursday, March 08, 2012


Love is an interesting emotion. You may think that love would mean the same thing to everyone, but it doesn't. This is especially true for someone with Asperger Syndrome. Asperger Syndrome is a high- functioning form of autism. Asperger Syndrome is demonstrated by deficits in communication, social skills and reciprocity of feelings. Because of this odd display of emotion, you could assume that an Aspie does not love, but that is not true. Everyone loves, it is just expressed differently for an Aspie.

This is the case for two Aspies, Jack Robison and Kirsten Lindsmith. Jack is the son of John Elder Robison, author of the acclaimed memoir about Asperger Syndrome, Look Me in the Eye. Kirsten was diagnosed with ADHD at age 11, but 2011, she realized that she had Asperger Syndrome. Jack and Kirsten have been dating for two years and now live together. According to them, they have found love. This isn't to say it has been a walk in the park for them. There have been challenges. To read more about Jack and Kirsten's relationship, read The New York Times article - Navigating Love and Autism.

If you are raising an Asperger child, I am sure you would agree that you would love for your child to grow up and find the kind of happiness that comes from love. If you are married to someone with Asperger's, you may feel lost and confused as to what love really means to your partner.

There are so many questions surrounding this topic. . . Do Aspie's really want or need true love? What really is true love? This will be the topic for discussion at the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup Support Group. This meeting will be held in Portland, Oregon on March 17. We look forward to having a lively discussion and hearing your thoughts on this very personal topic that is central to the lives of many. If you will not be able to join us in person, become part of our online family.

For more information on Asperger Syndrome, read Asperger Syndrome Frequently Asked Questions.

Autistic Teens are Caught Up with TV & Video Games

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Does it feel like your teenager is addicted to TV or video games? That can be a real concern to parents, but especially for parents of autistic children. The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders published a study online about autistic teenagers and their preoccupation with TV and video games. Researchers are concerned that this preoccupation could interfere with important socialization and communication.

After evaluating 1,000 teenagers with ASD, around 60% spent most of their time watching television or videos while 41% played videos games. Interestingly, 64.4% do not use email or chat online. This is largely due to the fact that email, chatting, and social networking require social interaction, which is difficult for those on the spectrum.

Since autistic children and teens are drawn to technology, it can be a beneficial tool if used properly. In a previous blog, I discussed the benefits of using the iPad with specialized autism applications. Research also showed that autistic teens who use social media showed improvement with cognitive skills. A word of caution for parents – if your autistic teen is using social media, help them to use it properly since there are risks involved. Be alert to who their "friends" are and their privacy preferences. You do not want anyone to take advantage of your child especially since they may lack the ability to see genuineness. For more on helping your child develop social skills, click here for some practical suggestions.

In addition to whatever you are doing at home for your child or teen, seek out a therapist who specializes in autistic disorders. They will be able to help you find ways to develop your child's cognitive skills. Contact my office for an appointment if you live in Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington.

Asperger Syndrome Parenting and Middle Childhood

Friday, February 03, 2012


Think back to when you were 6 or 7 years old. You may not have realized it at the time, but your body was undergoing a profound hormonal change. Scientists refer this time period as the Theory of the Mind. The brain is reaching its adult size while tens of billions of synapses connections are being made. Loads of information is being "downloaded" and organized. Impulses are being controlled, plans for the future are being made as well as intense reasoning ability.

Children at this age also beginning to comprehend deep subjects such as death, justice, social rules, and relationships. In the area of relationships, children in middle childhood start to learn the value of love reciprocity. The selfishness that a toddler once displayed with no longer work. In order to get love and attention from parents, you must give in order to receive. What a valuable lesson to learn at such a young age.

Stop to consider what middle childhood would be like with an Asperger parent(s). Asperger Syndrome is a high functioning form of autism. They have trouble reading non verbal cues, lack empathy, and struggle with communication. Imagine what it would be like to not learn loving reciprocity because of the AS parent’s mind blindness. When that child begins to reach out for love and attention they are often rejected, even if it’s unwittingly. The results of this can have a damaging effect on the child.

In many cases, a child who is raised with an Asperger parent marries someone with Asperger's. This is because your childhood modeled your ideals of marriage. The question then becomes, can you change the pattern after all of these years? Can you learn to allow true love into your life even if you learned that love is one sided?

The answers to those questions will be discussed at the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adult with ASD Support Group Meetup on February 18, 2012 in Portland, Oregon. If you do not live in the local area, please become a member of our online community and join in on our discussion groups. I would also encourage one-on-one therapy with a therapist specialized in Asperger relationships. Contact my office for more information.

If you would to learn more about middle childhood, I recommend the New York Times article - Now We Are Six - The Hormone Surge of Middle Childhood.

Research Study to Find Connection Between ASD and Birth Defects

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I recently received a message through the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup page from Marni Pasch, Executive Assistant of Birth Defects Research for Children Inc. After reading the message, I felt inclined to write about the effort that is being made to find out if there is a connection between Autism Spectrum Disorders and congenital defects.

Birth Defects Research for Children has sponsored the National Birth Defect Registry which is a program designed to look for connections between prenatal factors and birth defects both structural and functional. A study about ASD was released in 2009. Because of interesting trends in the study, BDRC plans to revisit the previous findings in 2012.

Here are some of the interesting findings taken directly from the 2009 BDRC Report:

• Over 60% of registry cases with ASDs also had structural birth defects. These were primarily Central Nervous System of Craniofacial Defects.
• Seven cases of ASDs reported chromosomal disorders. There were also two cases of Goldenhar Syndrome – Goldenhar Syndrome has been previously linked with Autism.
• 40% of ASD cases reported were associated developmental problems but not structural birth defects.
• 21 families who reported one child with an ASD had other children with birth defects. Seven families had two children with ASD (including one set of twins).
• In 12 cases, one parent served in the first Gulf War. In 13 cases, one parent was a Vietnam veteran.

Click here to read the entire study.

Only 137 cases were used in the 2009 research. With the upcoming study, researchers are looking for more participants. If you are a parent with an ASD child, I encourage you to investigate this research. The more case studies there are, the closer we may be to discovering meaningful research. Visit www.birthdefects.org for more information and to learn how you can participate.

Summer Program for Teens with Learning Disabilities

Thursday, December 08, 2011


To parents with high school students who have Asperger's, High-Functioning Autism, PDD-NOS, ADD, NLD, Dyslexia, and other learning differences, College Internship Program (CIP) has an exciting offer for you. CIP is offering a program to help your teen transition from high school to college with a 2012 summer program.

Making that transition for a teen with learning disabilities can be incredibly challenging. To assist with this challenge, CIP has specifically designed this program. The curriculum includes:


• Roommate Rules: Written and Unwritten
• Navigating a college campus
• Social dining, chit chat and eating rules
• Self-advocacy and disclosure
• Self-initiation
• Making plans with friends and planning leisure activities
• College 101

• Dealing with being away from home

In addition to the above, every day will begin with using ice breakers, idioms, and a discussion of expected versus unexpected behaviors. Six different dates and locations are being offered. This is a wonderful opportunity. I highly recommend looking into it for your teen. They are now accepting applications. Click here for more information.

Parents - How to Teach Your Asperger Child Social Skills

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I like to remind parents with Asperger children, you are the most valuable instructor your child has. Granted, teachers and therapists play a vital role in assisting your child, but as a parent, your relationship with your child is unique. For one thing, your child loves you which also means they trust you. You also spend the most amount of time with them. You may feel that you are inadequate as an instructor, but that is not the case. You do not have to be a professional to assist your child to develop and grow.

Asperger Syndrome (AS) is usually demonstrated by deficits in communication, social skills and reciprocity of feelings. The Aspie knows what they think and feel but are often unaware of what their loved ones think or feel. Therefore, one of the most important areas a parent should work on is to helping their child to develop socials skills.

Here are a few easy ideas to help develop stronger social skills in Aspie children:

Practice eye contact. Teach your child why they should make eye contact. Then practice. When you and your child are speaking, make sure they are looking you in the eye. If they become more comfortable making eye contact at home, they will be more likely to try it with others.

Use pictures. Reading emotions in others can be very difficult for Aspies. One of my favorite tips in this regard is to use pictures to help your child identify different emotions. Have a picture of someone who is angry, sad, afraid, happy etc. Once they have mastered how to identify these emotions, you can then progress to teaching them how to respond to when they see someone with that expression.

Role play. Think of different socials situations your child may be in. Role play with them those situations. Practice with them what they should say and how they should act. It is important for them to repeat the words and the actions. It will make a deeper impression on them.

Encourage observation. When you are in a situation with other children, encourage your child to look around to see what the other children are doing. Then tell them what you see and what is good about the observed action. The goal is to help them to imitate that good behavior.

Positive reinforcement. Look for the good behavior and good qualities that they are exhibiting and be quick to commend them. When giving commendation, be specific. Explain what they did that you liked and why you liked it. Click here for more information about the benefits of positive reinforcement.

Parents, take the time to help your child develop the necessary social skills. If you need assistance or more advice in this area, seek out a therapist who specializes in Asperger Syndrome. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, contact my office to set up an appointment.

Click here to read Asperger Syndrome Frequently Asked Questions.

Family of People with Asperger Syndrome: How to Combat Chronic Stress

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Chronic stress is a serious health concern. Many do not realize that if stress is not managed, the side effects can be severe. Chronic stress increases the risk of heart problems, strokes, susceptibility to infections and gastrointestinal problems. Stress can also affect weight. Some people suffer a loss of appetite and lose weight while others develop cravings for salt, fat, and sugar to counteract tension and end up gaining weight. Tension-type headache episodes are highly associated with stress. The tensions of unresolved stress can also frequently cause insomnia, generally keeping the stressed person awake or causing awakening in the middle of the night or early morning. Stress also has significant effects on the brain, particularly on memory. The typical victim of severe stress suffers loss of concentration at work and at home and may become inefficient and accident-prone.

If you have a loved one with Asperger Syndrome, you may be suffering from chronic stress. My advice to you is to take some time for "self-care." It's difficult to sometimes take time for ourselves, but it is necessary. Think about it this way, if you do not take care of yourself, it will be impossible to take care of others especially for your Aspie loved one. Self-care is different for every individual. For some it may be a trip to a massage therapist or a chiropractor. For others it may be reading a good book, taking a hot bath, or going for a run. Whatever it is, do it! Do not delay.

If taking a little "me" time is not lowering your stress level, you may need a more aggressive approach. I highly recommend therapy which will help you to learn valuable coping mechanisms. For more information, visit Managing Stress and Asperger Syndrome Support.

If you live in the Portland, Oregon area, I invite you to join the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD. On November 19, 2011 at 1:00 PM, we will be discussing "Adrenal Failure." Come prepared with your self-care tips.


Click here to learn more about my book Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge?

New Research on How to Treat Autistic Children with ADHD

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Children with autism have many challenges to overcome in the course of their life. But what if autism is compounded with ADHD? It would make life even more challenging – especially if it goes undiagnosed. That’s why it’s important for doctors, educators and parents of autistic children to be aware that someone with autism may also have symptoms of ADHD.

Researchers from Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and Oregon Health Sciences University collected data from Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network's Registry and found that out of 2,000 autistic children and adolescents over 50% exhibited symptoms of ADD or ADHD. They also concluded that over a third exhibited severe symptoms. However, only 10% were taking medication that could be used to treat ADHD.

Children with autism and ADHD may benefit by taking medication for their ADHD symptoms. With their ADHD under control, they can then focus on tackling the affects of autism. It is important to note that medication is not a cure for ADHD. It can help to control the symptoms, but more is needed. Emotional therapy, behavioral counseling, and practical support should be combined with medication if the doctor deems it appropriate.

For more information on ADHD and recommended therapy, visit Parenting a Child with ADD.


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