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Kathy Marshack News

How to Find the Right Support Group

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Joining a support group can feel intimidating. The idea of sharing intimate stories with people you don’t know can make even the most outgoing person anxious. A lot of times, fear of joining can be dispelled by doing your research to see if the group fits you and your needs.
 
Here are a few thing to keep in mind when searching for a support group:
 
Join Online
Many support groups have websites that include the members, message boards, and meeting information. Joining online before going to the group in person will give you some time to get to know the members and their personalities. You can also get a clue as to what they are discussing and see if it will suit your needs. Don't feel bad if it is not a fit. Remember, this is about you and it's okay to be picky!
 
Ask Questions
Contact the group facilitator and ask questions about the group. Think of the questions ahead of time and be specific about what you are looking for. Ask about location, price, meeting format, and confidentiality.  
 
Avoid Negativity
Look for a support group that is solution-oriented. Having a safe place to “vent” is important but beware of groups that turn into a pity party or a place to constantly spew negative emotions. The goal of a support group is to walk away feeling refreshed. A sign of a healthy group is when there are regular members attending and you see friendships budding. If arguments are a regular feature, then walk away.
 
I have been facilitating a support group for the last couple of years –  Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD. This group has continued to grow because members realize that in order to cope effectively with their unique situation, they need love and support from others who can completely relate. I have been receiving many messages from our members sharing their feeling about our group. Here are some of the latest comments:
 
"Thank you for this site and your ongoing support. I have only been a member here for exactly one month, but it has meant more to me than all the counseling I've attempted over a 30-year marriage. I just can't emphasize enough what a relief from profound confusion, invalidation, and loneliness this experience of being heard and guided here has been. I think I'm finally making some real progress in regaining myself."
 
"In starting this discussion group, you are truly creating something big. Out of your pain and life lessons, you are giving others life through awareness and the chance to express and feel. . .normal again. Further, your continued presence on this site is amazing since you already have a business to run yourself."
 

Thank you to all who have shown your support to our group. If you are interested in joining, please take the leap! We would love to meet you. Click here for more information about Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD.

Appreciate the Lighter Side of Asperger Syndrome - Don't Forget to Laugh

Thursday, February 03, 2011


If you have a loved one with Asperger Syndrome, life can be filled with frustration and tension. As easy as it is to focus on the negative, it is not always healthy. So I want remind and encourage you to laugh!

Countless studies have shown that laughter really is the "best medicine." Laughing can reduce your level of stress hormones, change your perspective on a difficult situation, and is also good for your physical health. Such a simple idea!

Aspies are known for their unique perspective on life and with that comes many humorous situations. Do you choose to laugh at those types of situations or do you get frustrated? There can be great value in looking for the positive and humorous side of their personality or situation. By doing this, you will grow to appreciate some of the differences in your loved one and look at the lighter side of things now and then.

If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please join us for our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD support group on February 19, 2011. We will be discussing the lighter side of Asperger's by sharing our funny stories. We all need a good laugh and this will be a perfect opportunity to do so! If you are not able to attend, please become a member on our website and join our lively discussion groups. We would still love to hear your funny stories.

 

New Features and Feedback from Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD

Friday, January 07, 2011


Thank you to all who are making the Meetup support group, Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD, a place of support and understanding. You have exceeded my wildest expectations.

 

I wanted to share with you what some of our members are saying about our group:

"This site is a God send. NT spouses reaching out to kindred spirits for understanding and support. AS is difficult to diagnosis and only those of us who live with it truly understand how emotionally devastating it can be. Thank you Kathy for starting this Meetup group."

"Every non Asperger spouse or family member would find valuable support in sharing their real life experiences living with a spouse or family member with AS.
"

"Genuine support group, extremely helpful to understanding ASD."

For those of you who do not live in the Portland/Vancouver area, there is new feature on our  Meetup site just for you. I have created message board space for members to post on the same subject we’re addressing in our face-to-face Meetups. I recognize that this is not the same, but I hope that this will help you to connect with us on the topic at hand.

I also wanted to mention that you can email other members via the Meetup site. If you want to connect personally with any of our members feel free to do so. It is all anonymous, so no personal information is given out.

On January 8, 2011 at 1:00 pm, the Beaverton Group will
be meeting to discuss "What did the holidays look like in your household? How did you take care of yourself?"

On January 15, 2011 at 1:00 pm, the Portland Group will be discussing, "Are you invisible? How do you cope with Aspies?"

We hope that you will be able to attend or share your thoughts on our message board. I look forward to hearing from you.


For more information, visit the Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup website. In order to access information on the Meetup site, please register as a member. All members are approved on the basis that they have adult family or loved ones on the Autism Spectrum.  

Why Do Aspies and Neuro-Typicals Get Married?

Monday, December 27, 2010


Someone with Asperger Syndrome is characterized by their lack of communication skills, social skills and reciprocity of feelings. The Aspie knows what they think and feel but are often unaware of what others think or feel. With a deficiency in these critical areas, some have wondered how someone with Asperger's develops an intimate relationship or even gets married.

The answer is simple, Aspies and NT's (someone not on the autism spectrum) choose partners much the same way as do all human beings. We are attracted physically and intellectually and emotionally. We may enjoy the similarities for the comfort and the differences for the spice!

We also unconsciously seek mates who have qualities we lack. An AS person may be attracted to a strong, intelligent, compassionate NT who can handle the social world for them. The NT may be attracted to the unconventional nature and child-like charm of the AS adult. They may sense that the Aspie will allow the NT his or her independence. It is only later that they learn their AS partner is quite conservative in relating. Instead of supporting independence, the NT spouse realizes that his or her AS mate is just not aware of (and even disinterested) the NT’s interests. The Aspie’s attention is narrowly focused on her or his own interests.

But it is important to remember that Aspies do love. They just love in a different way. The marriage will be trying, but there are things that can be done to help the relationship. If you are in a marriage with someone with Asperger Syndrome and want that marriage to succeed, you must learn how to understand your partner.

My book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge?, was written specifically with the NT spouse in mind, but it can also be beneficial for the Aspie spouse. After reading the book, my hope is that readers can more clearly look at their own situations and, based on the ideas in this book, take the necessary steps to live happier, more full-filled lives. Going Over the Edge is available for purchase or download a free sample chapter.

For more on Asperger Syndrome, visit Asperger Syndrome Frequently Asked Questions.

New Research Shows How MRI Scan May Be Used to Diagnosis Autism

Thursday, December 09, 2010


Harvard University and the University of Utah have been working together to develop a new method for diagnosing autism. The results of their research is very noteworthy. A MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is used to test the regions in the brain that relate to emotions, social cognition, and language. When scanning the brain of someone with autism, researchers found that there was not as much information being passed between these areas of the brain.

Lead study author Nicholas Lange, ScD, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, told Medscape Medical News that, "The test was able to detect autism in this high-functioning population with 94% accuracy. This technique shows that someone with autism has less organized wiring."

What makes this method so much better than the previous? Dr. Lange said, "Autism is diagnosed now with a very subjective measure, a formal interview that takes 4 hours, and with observation of the child for another hour or so. But it’s the doctor’s call. This test is a more definitive way of determining autism early on, by pointing to something in the brain that is biologically based."

This test is not yet available, but as for the future of this type of testing, Dr. Lange states, "We are continuing to study and develop the test, and more findings are due out a year or 2 from now. We are also planning future studies to look at patients with high-severity autism and younger children less than 7 years of age and patients with brain disorders, such as developmental language disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder, who do not have autism." For a more detailed description of this study, read MRI Test Shows Diagnostic Promise for Autism.

Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Find Support Online

Friday, December 03, 2010


Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD now has 216 members from around the world. Since our meetings are currently held in Portland, Beaverton, and Lake Oswego, Oregon, many of our members are not able to physically attend. In spite of this, our message boards have become a Meetup location in itself.

Our message board currently contain 8 different discussion forums. Out of these forums, literally hundreds of discussions have been formed with thousands of posts. Issues such as sleep problems, sex, parenting, co-dependency, grieving, medication, and much more are being discussed. Some of the most popular discussions: Christian and Asperger's, Alexithymia, Humorous Differences, Why God Made Aspergers, and How To Leave and Grieve. I have been impressed with the prolific writers in the group and I encourage you to keep writing! Something you write may touch the life of someone else.

Please come and join our group. No matter where you are in the world, you can chat with others, gain insight, and support. If you live in the Portland, OR or Vancouver, WA area, we would love to meet you in person at one of our Meetups. We will be meeting December 4, 2010 in Westside Portland to discuss, Asperger's and Other Co-Occurring Disorders- Does My Loved One Have Any? On December 11, 2010 in Portland, we will discuss Sensory Overload, Holiday Meltdowns and How to Survive. Click here for more information about the upcoming meetings.

We look forward to seeing you there or meeting you online! Thank you to all who continue to give support.

Parenting with an Asperger Spouse in Real Life vs. Hollywood

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


With as many as 1.5 million Americans having some form of autism, including milder variants, autism is a hot topic.  In 2009, the movie “Adam" highlighted the difficulties of falling in love with someone who has Asperger Syndrome and currently NBC’s “Parenthood” has a character with Asperger Syndrome. When I talk to couples in these difficult relationships, they’re not that interested in Hollywood, they’re looking for real life solutions.

With so much emphasis being placed on Asperger Syndrome, many are left wondering, how can someone co-parent with an Aspie partner? What about the children of an Asperger parent? How can a child thrive when his or her parent has so little empathy?

I’ve been moved to investigate these sensitive and unique issues especially after writing “Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going over the Edge? Practical Steps to Saving You and Your Relationship." As many of you know, I am currently writing a new book entitled, “Parenting with a Spouse or Partner with Asperger Syndrome: Out of Sight, Out of Mind.”

I have found that when you live with Aspies it’s the ordinary things of life that cease to function properly – like getting enough sleep, or asking your spouse to pick up a child from soccer practice. When co-parenting with an Aspie these ordinary things become strained and turn into not-so-ordinary moments leaving the Neuro-typical (NT) partner feeling drained, unnerved, and tense. In fact many NT spouses/partners report a variety of psycho-somatic and immunodeficiency illnesses such as migraines, arthritis, gastric reflux and fibromyalgia.

If you find yourself in this situation, you are not alone. There are answers to this dilemma and I will continue to write about those answers. I encourage you to download a FREE
sample chapter of Parenting with a Spouse or Partner with Asperger Syndrome: Out of Sight, Out of Mind.” I will continue to keep you updated on any news about the book and when it will be available. 

Autism and Anger - What is the Connection?

Monday, November 15, 2010


Behavioral problems, anxiety, and anger have all been linked with autism. These emotions stem back to the basic characteristics of autism which makes life much more challenging. When a child with autism can't understand or confront the challenge, they get frustrated and then act out their frustration by displaying anger. This is a vicious cycle that can be physically and emotionally taxing for them and also for their loved ones.

As a parent, it’s vital that you take action to help your autistic child work through the anger they may be experiencing. Methods for coping with frustration and anger include:

Identifying Triggers
Try to identify what triggers the anger. What frustrates them? When does it turn from frustration to anger? By identifying the cause, you can work to either eliminate it or work to overcome it. You may want to keep an accurate record of the events and reactions to help you identify what the triggers are.

Teaching Them How to Communicate
After identifying the triggers, you can begin teaching and training your child to work through their frustration. Explain to them what they should do when they begin to feel that way. Come up with a system or a way for them to communicate to you that they are feeling that way and need help. This takes time and persistence on the part of the parent. Ask your therapist for suggestions on how to do this effectively.

Getting the Right Kind of Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been the most effective type of therapy when dealing with autism. CBT addresses the way you think and how to change faulty irrationally thinking into more constructive, solution-oriented thinking. Click here for more information on CBT. Please contact my office if you live in the Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington area and are looking for a therapist to help you parent your autistic child.

 

Neuro-typicals Ask – Am I Really That Different?

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Am I really that different? Am I really that hard to understand or identify with? Am I really unlovable? When you are married or in a relationship with someone with Asperger Syndrome, you have probably asked yourself that question before. For some reason we have a hard time shaking the belief that we are different, difficult to understand, or even not very likeable.

Obviously there are reasons for this . . . such as the fact that living with someone who has a deficit in the area of empathy and reciprocity can contribute to misconceptions about ourselves. We may lose sight of our own reality and collapse into agonizing despair and sadly we begin to believe that those misconceptions are true.

This type of mental and emotional confusion needs powerful therapy to break through the faulty reasoning that is a result of using NT (neurotypical) logic to make sense of the Asperger world. Often times therapy is directed towards the Asperger spouse, but in order for the relationship to heal and progress, therapy is necessary for both partners. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office for more information regarding effective therapy options.

You are also invited to join our upcoming Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD support group. We will be discussing the theme: Are we really that different? on November 13, 2010.

My book Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going over the Edge? is also available for purchase. 

Give Your Autistic Child Positive Reinforcement

Sunday, October 31, 2010


In a recent blog, I wrote about the value of learning the early signs of Autism Spectrum Disorders. The benefit of early recognition is that specific training can begin immediately. One type of training is to instill positive reinforcement when working with your child. When you reinforce their good behavior, it will help them to understand what is the right way to act.

This actually works whether or not your child has ASD. However, as parents it’s so easy to fall into only commenting on bad behavior. In order to give positive reinforcement, you have to be looking 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. Did they do a good job making eye contact? Did they use the right language? Even a little thing can be a good thing to reinforce.

Another way to do this is to offer rewards when they have done something positive. Make sure that the reward fits the child otherwise it will not mean anything to them. The reward can be verbal or something tangible. The goal is to help them to make the connection that their good behavior equals positive reinforcement.

Each child is different, so different things work for different children. So be patient and focus on the positive. For more information on positive reinforcement, read Being Proactive in Therapy and Research.

If you are parenting with a spouse with Asperger Syndrome, download a free sample chapter from my newest project Parenting with a Spouse or Partner with Asperger Syndrome: Out of Sight, Out of Mind.

 

 



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