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Kathy Marshack News

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.

Helping the Neuro-Typical Children of Aspie Parents

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Over the past few years, there has been increasing interest in learning more about adults with Asperger Syndrome, a high-functioning form of Autism. Asperger Syndrome has gone from being unknown to a term you can hear regularly on television. It has been exciting to see that awareness of this disorder is growing. However, there is still an area in the Asperger world that is a vast territory and largely uncharted. I am speaking of parenting and Asperger Syndrome.

I am starting to find more and more adult Neuro-Typicals who grew up with Asperger (Aspie) parents. This type of situation is unique to say the least. Feelings of neglect, depression, perfectionism, and low self-esteem are common for a child of an Asperger parent. Largely to blame for this is due to the lack of empathy and nurturing from the Asperger parent. NTs report that their Asperger Parents are difficult to connect with and hardly reciprocate love and emotion. Usually, the child ends up with severe resentment toward their Aspie parent.

Asperger parents do love their children. They just don't know how to parent effectively in many areas. If you are an NT who is parenting alongside an Aspie, then you have an uphill battle ahead you. The good news is that you can do it with the right tools. Finding a mental health care professional who specializes in Asperger Syndrome is key. You as well as your partner will need therapy. A specialist can help you see what you can do to help train your child to survive and grow in this unique home environment. Your child may also need therapy to help understand their parent and to build self-esteem and value in themselves.

I am in the process of writing a book entitled, "Parenting with a Spouse or Partner with Asperger Syndrome: Out of Mind, Out of Sight." I hope to shed light on this lifestyle and give practical support to NT parents. Click here to download a free sample chapter. If you live in the Portland, OR or Vancouver, WA area and would like to set up an appointment to discuss your life with an Asperger family member, contact my office for an appointment.

Are You a Neuro-Typical in an Asperger Relationship? You Are Not Alone!

Thursday, September 01, 2011


Loneliness is common for those who have an Asperger partner or family member. I am constantly reminding my clients who are in this position that they are not alone. Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD now has 298 members. Our members are from all over the world. I wanted to share a few thoughts from our overseas members to remind all of you that you are in fact NOT ALONE.

"Thank you for welcoming me in your group. My husband and I met met over 25 years ago and his defense all those years was blaming me for everything that went wrong in his or our life. It was an eye opener that he was diagnosed with Asperger's and now it is time to become ME again. The ME I was when I was just a teenager. I can't battle autism (and I am not in war with autism) but I refuse to let me be overruled by it."

"Hi Kathy, thanks for your welcome. Its a great relief finding this group. My husband is an aspie - nobody understood me. Being isolated and unbelieved made me feel crazy. Then one day I found your book and I realized "this is my story - this is my life."

I appreciate the personal thoughts and comments from our members. The topic for the next Meetup is "You are not alone. Let's play!" It will be held on September 17, 2011 at 1:00 PM in Portland, Oregon. It's time to reaffirm your friendships and reaffirm your right to be alive. We all deserve some time to have some fun! Are you a Neuro-Typical in an Asperger relationship? You are not alone – join us!

Click here for more information about the book, "Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge?"

The Negative Side Effect of Bitterness on Your Health

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


The mind and body connection is very real and very powerful. Our emotions affect our bodies and can cause many physical health problems. Perhaps it’s not surprising that new research from Concordia University suggests that feelings of bitterness can have a negative impact on a person's physical health.

Researchers took note of the connection between failure and bitterness. According to psychologist Dr. Carsten Wrosch, "Persistent bitterness may result in global feelings of anger and hostility that, when strong enough, could affect a person’s physical health. When harbored for a long time bitterness may forecast patterns of biological dysregulation (a physiological impairment that can affect metabolism, immune response or organ function) and physical disease." For more information on this research, read the article - Bitterness Can Make You Sick.

Bitterness can stem from a wide range of events in one's life. It could come from a failed marriage, being a victim of abuse, being laid off or fired, or parenting a disabled child. Whatever the reason may be, you could be left with feelings of bitterness. If that bitterness is left unresolved, you will begin to see the negative affects not only on your physical health, but your entire life. Therapy is a wonderful tool to help someone overcome feelings of failure and bitterness. It will require hard work and an honest assessment of one's self, but you can conquer those emotions. Beat it before it beats you!

For information about therapy, visit Therapy FAQ.

Divorce and Asperger Syndrome

Monday, August 08, 2011


Sadly, divorce is common in Asperger marriages. It has been described that being in a marriage with someone with Asperger Syndrome (AS) is like walking on eggshells. What does that mean? For example, men with undiagnosed AS often feel as if their spouse is being ungrateful when she complains he is uncaring or never listens to her. He knows what he thinks and how he feels, so should she. He has no motive to understand her interior world so her complaints are bothersome to him. He can come to be quite defensive when she asks for clarification or a little sympathy because he knows that he has good intentions so he resents the pressure. The defensiveness can turn into verbal abuse (and sometimes physical abuse) as the husband attempts to control the communication to suit his view of the world.

So, what can you expect if you divorce an Asperger man? Unfortunately he will probably not understand why the woman wants a divorce and he is likely to be quite angry about it. Not knowing how to handle his distress he may turn the energy into revenge. It is believed that many high conflict divorces are the result of the negativity and obsessing of the AS partner regarding the wrongdoing he perceives of his NT spouse. It is likely to be a long, painful and expensive divorce where all suffer, including the children. Some Aspies however, just leave quietly and never remarry because they cannot quite figure out how to rebuild a life separately from their former spouse. Some NT former wives report that their former husband even still refers to her as his “wife” years after the divorce.

If you are struggling in your Asperger marriage, seeking counseling. Click here for my therapy recommendations for this type of situation. With husband and wife working hard, the marriage may be salvageable. I also recommend reading Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge? This book specifically addresses the touchy issues of sex, rage, divorce and shame and gives a glimpse of the “inner workings” of these relationships. It offers new ways to look at the situations presented, as well as tips on how to handle similar situations in one’s own life. Click here to download a FREE sample chapter.

A New Method for Teaching the Art of Conversation to Aspies

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


For many years now, I have been working with clients with Asperger Syndrome. A major challenge that those with Asperger's face is the lack of social or emotional reciprocity. I am continually looking for new and improved ways to break down these barriers with my clients and help them communicate more effectively. One method that I have found particularly effective is to have Aspies enlist in acting classes so they can better understand the reciprocal interaction in a relationship. I have recently stumbled across another method that I think is brilliant and want to share with you.

The Temple Grandin School and the University of Colorado's Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences have joined forces to develop a program called "The Perspectives." This three week course is designed to teach interview skills to Aspies. They teach how to come up with topics for conversation, how to ask appropriate questions, and how to adapt to the shifts in conversation. The interviews are recorded and then played back to the student. This gives them an opportunity to see how they did and what work they need to do to improve. What a clever idea! This may be something that more therapists will want to implement with their Aspie clients. Click here for more information on this program.

If you would like more information on Asperger Syndrome, visit Asperger Syndrome Frequently Asked Questions.

Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Update

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Good news! The word is spreading quickly about our Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Support Group. I recently received an email from a member of another Asperger Support Group - Aspergers and Other Half: The Other Half of Asperger Syndrome. She had heard about us through another member in her group and decided to become an online member of our group.

I wanted to express my appreciation to all who are spreading the word. The response has been overwhelming! It is a reminder of how many people are out there who are in need of support. This is a great start, but there’s much more work to be done.

Thank you to all our members who continually add a level of love and honesty that makes our group so special. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, join us Saturday July 16, 2011 as we discuss the topic "Equality or Freedom." So often we NTs (neurotypicals) get stuck on the lack of empathy or reciprocity in our relationships with adults on the Autism Spectrum. While it is true that the "mind blindness" prevents many with ASDs from recognizing our feelings, thoughts and needs, there may be another way to survive this lack of reciprocity.

I think we have to stop thinking in terms of "Equality" and instead think of "Freedom." We are much better able to detach from our feelings of anger and hurt, when we step back and accept "Freedom" as our guide. We seldom win equality, but we can get to a place where we have Freedom . . . at least to us.

What is Freedom to each individual just depends, doesn't it? One person may find Freedom in his or her life by leaving the relationship. Another may devote his or her energy to more reciprocal relationships in the family. And still another may relish the few moments that his or her Aspie makes you laugh. It all just depends what each of us thinks is freeing.

Let's use this summer meetup to expand our concept of how to cope with these difficult relationships . . . without giving up who you are.

Is There a Disconnect between Cognitive and Emotional Empathy for People with Asperger’s?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Does the subject of "empathy" confuse you, especially with regard to your Aspie loved ones? They seem so sensitive at times and yet clueless about your feelings. Could it be a disconnect between what is in their hearts and what is in their heads?

Simon Baron-Cohen, a British researcher, tells us that a defining quality of Autism is a deficiency in empathy. But in practical terms just what does that mean? A deeper look into the research tells us that those with Asperger's may have a disconnect between the two major types of empathy, Emotional Empathy (EE) and Cognitive Empathy (CE). If you have Emotional Empathy (EE), you can feel the emotions of others (or animals, a noted Autistic strength).

But there is a huge problem with having only EE. Can you tell if what you are feeling is yourself or the other person? And even if you can figure out that these feelings are coming from another person, can you talk about it? You need Cognitive Empathy(CE) in order to recognize the bigger picture of who is feeling what and how to talk to the other person "empathetically."

As a neurotypical with a Asperger loved one in your life, have you pondered this dilemma? If so, you are not the only one. Join us on June 18, 2011 in Portland, Oregon for the Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup. We will be discussing this topic in detail and would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. We will be taking this research a step further into our personal experience and discuss how we live with it and what to do about it.

If you are unable to attend, please become a member online and jump into our online discussions.


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