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Kathy Marshack News

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.

The 42nd Autism Society National Conference and Exposition,

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


According to the Autism Society, 1 to 1.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder. If that includes you or a family member you may want to consider attending the upcoming 42nd Autism Society National Conference and Exposition. This is the largest autism conference in the nation and it will be held on July 6-9, 2011, at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

According to The Autism Society - Conference website, "The Autism Society recognizes that families and individuals living with an autism spectrum disorder have a range of issues and needs. Our National Conference addresses the range of issues affecting people with autism including early intervention, education, employment, behavior, communication, social skills, biomedical interventions and others, across the entire lifespan. Bringing together the expertise and experiences of family members, professionals and individuals on the spectrum, attendees are able to learn how to more effectively advocate and obtain supports for the individual with ASD. The ultimate goal is to empower family members, individuals on the spectrum and professionals to make informed decisions."

Attendees will gain knowledge of the latest research in the field, connect with parents and professionals, and learn about local and national resources. Autism Asperger Publishing Company (AAPC) will have a booth at the conference with many of their highly-respected authors presenting more information and offering book signings. (AAPC published my book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge?.) Click here for more information about the conference.

Do You Feel Alone in an Asperger Relationship?

Friday, May 20, 2011


Do you feel alone even though you have a family? This is a common feeling for neurotypicals (NTs) who are in an Asperger marriage or have a family member with Asperger Syndrome. Even though you have a family, you can still feel very alone. Rest assured that your family member loves you, but they are blind to the emotional needs that you have. This is known as "mind-blindness." You may logically be able to comprehend this fact about your loved one, but after time, it can take a toll on you emotionally and even physically.

Your family may not understand what you are going through, but there are others who do. There are many men and women who are in the same situation, coping with the loneliness that comes from being in an Asperger relationship. How can you find each other ? By joining Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD. Time and time again, I hear our members refer to this group as a "family." Its intent is not to replace the family you have, but rather extend it by filling the emotional needs that each individual has. I find it an honor to be a part of this unique family circle.

If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, I encourage your attendance. Some upcoming topics for discussion are: Is your body taking a beating? Is Asperger’s a disconnect between cognitive and emotional empathy? Is your Asperger partner or loved one a survivor?

If you do not live locally, look for a support group for families of Asperger Syndrome in your area. You are also welcome to join our site and participate on the message boards. We have lively discussions and would love to hear from you. Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD

Also you may find my book helpful. Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge? is available for purchase. The book primarily focuses on the NT in the relationship and how to guide yourself through these unique relationships. Click here to download a free sample chapter.

The Latest Autism Statistics (1 Child in 38) Are Staggering

Monday, May 09, 2011


You may have heard the numbers reported on by the CDC – that 1 in 110 children are being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the United States. According to new research, it could be much higher! The American Journal of Psychiatry will be publishing new research from a study performed by researchers at the Child Study Center at Yale University and George Washington University.

For the last six years, researchers studied 7-12 year old children from the Ilsan District of the city of Goyang, South Korea. They estimate that 2.64% or 1 in 38 children in South Korea have autism. This doesn't necessarily mean that there are now more autistic children than before, but that the method of screening was more thorough.

In the past, the statistics given by researchers came from records of existing autism cases, but it never included children from parents who did not seek out a diagnosis. In the study performed in South Korea, the researchers tried to screen every child from the ages of 7-12. No wonder it took them six years! For more details on this study, read Study Uncovers Higher Rate of Autism.

These numbers can come as quite a shock. It raises the question, if this was done in the United States, would that 1 to 110 statistic change? It is my hope that doctors, parents, and teachers take a more proactive approach to uncovering autism. The earlier autism is detected, the sooner that child can receive the right kind of therapy, training, and schooling. Early detection is vital!

TV Series “Exploring Critical Issues” Delves into Autism and Asperger Syndrome

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


"A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle." - Khalil Gibran

Dr. Robert A. Scott, Adelphi University President, the host of the television series "Exploring Critical Issues" will soon be discussing the topic, "Autism and Asperger Syndrome." The purpose of the segment is to discuss the newest autism research and policies with the goal of bring awareness to this fast growing disorder.

Asperger Syndrome (AS) is much more common than previously realized and many adults are undiagnosed. Studies suggest that AS is considerably more common than "classic" Autism. Whereas Autism has traditionally been thought to occur in about 4 out of every 10,000 children, estimates of Asperger Syndrome have ranged as high as 20-25 per 10,000. A study carried out in Sweden , concluded that nearly 0.7% of the children studied had symptoms suggestive of AS to some degree. Time Magazine notes in its May 6, 2002 issue cover story, “ASD is five times as common as Down syndrome and three times as common as juvenile diabetes." Click here to learn more about Asperger Syndrome.

Along with Dr. Robert Scott is a panel of four autism experts including Dr. Stephen Shore, Assistant Professor of Education at Adelphi University. Dr. Shore wrote the forward to my book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge?. He teaches courses in special education and autism at Adelphi University. In addition to working with children and talking about life on the autism spectrum, Dr. Shore addresses adult issues pertinent to education, relationships, employment, advocacy, and disclosure as discussed in his many books.

This one hour broadcast will air:
Sunday, May 8th
Sunday, May 15th
Tuesday, May 10th
Tuesday, May 17th
Thursday, May 12th
Thursday, May 19th

"Autism and Asperger Syndrome" can be viewed online at www.telecaretv.org.

Do Women have Asperger Syndrome?

Monday, April 04, 2011


Yes, women do have Asperger Syndrome (AS). It is true that the bulk of those diagnosed are men, there are many girls and women with AS. Women with Asperger's may lead more complex lives than men with Asperger's. To some extent, males with Asperger’s are more accepted because their behavior is viewed as "extreme male thinking." But women with Asperger Syndrome are viewed as cold, uncaring, and selfish because the cultural expectation is for women to be more aware of the needs of the relationship, something which is extremely difficult for most Aspies.

Men around the world are in relationships with women who have Asperger's. Even though the disorder is the same, there are unique differences between a relationship with an AS woman and an AS man. Just like NT women, NT men need to be able to learn about Asperger Syndrome and be able to talk about their experiences.

In order to fill the need that NT men have, I have created two message boards on the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD webpage specifically for male member. Of course, men do not need to be confined to male only sites, but their experiences are specific and so are their needs. If you are a man in a relationship with a women with ASD or have a family member, please feel free to join our message boards whether it is male only or any others that fit your circumstances.

My book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going over the Edge? can be a valuable resource for both men and women in Asperger relationships. Click here to download a free sample chapter.

Mind Blindness and the Disconnect in Asperger Syndrome Relationships

Thursday, March 17, 2011


If you have a loved one with Asperger Syndrome, it is vital that you learn about "mind blindness" or "lack of empathy." This is a key feature of what makes your relationship with the Aspie unique. Mind blindness or lack of empathy is the disconnect between emotional and social cognition. A person with Asperger Syndrome has trouble reading nonverbal clues and therefore ignores the bulk of a conversation. The Aspie knows what they think and feel but are often unaware of what their loved ones think or feel. They become so focused on themselves that it may seem like they don't care or love you, but that is not true. What happens is that they just don't notice.

Mind blindness can have some especially serious side effects on the partner or spouse of someone with Asperger's. Even though their behavior is not intended to hurt you, it still does. Then you may reach out to someone else like a friend, but if they do not understand Asperger's they will most likely not understand what you are going through. Without the right care, low self-esteem, depression, and resentment may settle in deep.

If you find yourself in a relationship that has a lack of empathy, realize you are not alone! Many experience a similar situation. As a psychologist and marriage counselor I recognized that there’s a great need to give guidance to families of adults with Asperger Syndrome. Here are my suggestions for you:

1. Seek out therapy from a professional specializing in Asperger Syndrome. Click here to see my specific therapy recommendations.

2. Join a support group. Click here for tips on how to find one that suits your needs.

3. Educate yourself about Asperger Syndrome. My book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge? was written specifically for those in a relationship with someone with Asperger's. My upcoming book is entitled, Parenting with a Spouse or Partner with Asperger Syndrome: Out of Sight, Out of Mind. A free sample chapter is available for download. I have also compiled a list of books that I have found especially helpful - Recommended Books Part 1 and Recommended Books Part 2.

These suggestions will help you to see more clearly your own situation and take the necessary steps to live a happier, more full-filled life.

Are You a Survivor of Survivors?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


How do you describe a person who has been traumatized by another person's trauma? I would describe them as a "survivor of survivors." Whether it is from PTSD, alcoholism, Asperger Syndrome, or something else, the actions of that person will affect their loved ones, sparking a cycle of re-traumatization. This type of cycle is vicious and harmful to say the least.

It's hard to explain why a person will feel traumatized by the behavior of another person, but those feelings are very real and should not be minimized. If those feelings are not addressed, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem will set in.

The key is to try and stop the cycle so no one else turns into a survivor of survivors. For the cycle to stop, both parties must seek professional help. There are a variety of effective therapies now available. In addition to therapy, joining a support group is an excellent way to gain comfort and strength from those in a similar situation.

If you have a family member with Asperger Syndrome and live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, I invite you to join Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD. On March 19, 2011, we will be discussing "Are You a Survivor of Survivors?" and exploring this topic in detail.

If your loved one is suffering from another type of trauma or disorder, please contact my office for more information. Do not delay in stopping the cycle!


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