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Kathy Marshack News

Asperger Syndrome Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup is Filling an Incredible Need

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Asperger Syndrome Partners and Family of Adults with ASD MeetupCan you believe it’s been seven years? The free Asperger Syndrome Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup was founded on April 5, 2009. And I’ve been offering the free international teleconference for two years now! Our first teleconference was held on February 21, 2014, and the worldwide response has been phenomenal! People are signing up months in advance.

There’s so little support for families with children on the Autism Spectrum. And there’s next to nothing for partners and families with adults on the Spectrum. This Meetup group and my books are really filling that gap.

If you’re a member of the Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup group, you know about the monthly free international teleconference and the paid video conferences.

Here’s what one of our participants said about a recent Video Conference:

“This group has been a lifeline to me and I can see it is for so many others as well. Even though we were not in the same room, and even though we didn't have time to say very much; seeing each other's faces and expressions and interest level – on top of the fact that we "get" each other – was a monumentally positive experience. Very encouraging and uplifting, and the information learned was vital.”

However, there are many other resources within the Meetup dashboard that you may not know about…

When you're a member of the group, you can listen to past teleconferences. Go to Discussions Tab, scroll down the page and click on Teleconference Meetups folder. Select the topic you wish to hear. Or login and click on this link to take you to the index of topics. Note: The more intimate video conferences are not recorded!

When you become a member of the group, you can also join ongoing discussions around informational, inspirational and fun topics.

If you’re cautious about preserving your anonymity, you can use a pseudonym. However, we’ve made this a safe place to express yourself freely, so most members feel very comfortable with simply using their first name. Remember, this is a group for Neurotypical family members to get the support they need in dealing with the craziness of living with someone on the Spectrum. If that describes your situation, feel free to join us today.

Free International Teleconference: Should you Stay or Leave Your NT/AS Marriage

Monday, February 08, 2016

stay or leave your asperger syndrome-neuro typical marriageBreaking up is hard to do for any married couple. When Asperger’s Syndrome is thrown into the mix, the question of staying or leaving becomes especially poignant.

I don't know how many times I have heard neurotypical partners of a NT/AS marriage say, "I'm staying . . . for now." The sadness and heartbreak is intense in these words. Yet there’s hope that the relationship will turn around. Or perhaps the speaker is aware that they have no other options. Another possibility is that commitments to children outweigh leaving a disastrous marriage. However, "staying for now" is a strange place to be, isn't it? Not quite a commitment. Not quite an answer to the painful dilemma of these relationships.

The February FREE International Asperger Syndrome Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Teleconference will address this topic: To Stay or To Leave. You can tie in by telephone on Thursday, February 18, 2016 at 2:30 PM PDT. Already 39 people have signed up because they’re so eager and hungry to be heard and learn how to make their NT/AS marriages survive and thrive if it’s at all possible. Often there are 50 to 60 people from all over the globe who call in. No matter where you live, you can gain free access to this call.
After I make a short introduction and presentation, I’ll open the call for questions from the audience and systematically work to get to all of your questions. Don’t worry! It’s very organized. Everyone doesn’t talk at once.

Let's meet to share ways we "stay for now." While some have progressed beyond this place and others are just waking up to what living with an Aspie is all about, there is a huge group in the middle. How do you do it? How do others do it? Let's share our collective wisdom.

Also, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to read a free chapter of “Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)”. This book discusses the science behind Aspie behavior and how you can initiate the rules of engagement that help your Aspie give you the emotional support that you need.

Aspie Rants, Meltdowns and the Silent Treatment – What Can You Do?

Monday, February 01, 2016

Conversing with ones who have Asperger’s is fraught with stress, because you never know how they’ll react – the rants, meltdowns, or the silent treatment hurt. A conversation with some who has Asperger’s Syndrome is fraught with stress. You never know how they’ll react to the simplest of statements. Whether your Aspie rants, or melts down into a rage or torrent of tears, or gives you that blank look and walks away, you feel rejected, confused and abused.

An Aspie client of mine once threatened me with quitting therapy because he claimed I was "judgmental." He said he could get better therapy from the Internet. He told me he just wanted to get the anger out of his head but that my judgmental behavior got in his way. I thought for a moment and had an epiphany. "Do you just want to rant with no interference from me?" He looked at me with surprise and said, "Of course. That's the type of therapy that works for me!"

I don't consider listening to my clients rant very effective therapy. It just reinforces anger. On the other hand it may be a place to start.

But what do you do when you aren't the psychologist? How can you explore the confusing logic and sensory system of our Aspies and figure out why they dissolve over the simplest of human interactions? And in the process, how do you support yourself during these extreme emotional reactions? It overwhelms our sensory system too. So how do you hang in there with your loved ones and still take care of yourself?

The February Video Conference will address this topic: Rants, Meltdowns and the Silent Treatment. You can choose from either of these two convenient time slots, Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 8:30 AM or Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 4:00 PM. These sessions will NOT be recorded, so make sure you honor your commitment to attend. The price is $15.00 and there are a few spots still open. Let's discuss this mysterious need to rant, control, and hide from strong emotions. And in the process, let’s support each other as we learn to cope.

Also, be sure to read a free chapter of “Our of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)”. This book discusses the science behind Aspie behavior and how you can initiate the rules of engagement that help your Aspie give you the emotional support that you need.

Explore Alternative Treatment of Depression as Research Links SSRIs During Pregnancy with Increased Risk of Autism

Monday, January 25, 2016

Should I take SSRIs for depression while I'm pregnant?" This is a vital question to discuss with your Dr. since there's an increased risk of autism in your childOnce again a study links taking SSRIs (Prozac, Zoloft or Paxil) during pregnancy with increased risk of autism in the child. Anick Bérard of the University of Montreal an internationally known expert in the field of pharmaceutical safety during pregnancy published the finding in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. The researchers factored into the study genetic predisposition or family history, maternal age, socioeconomic factors such as poverty, and the affects of depression itself. And they found that you double the risk of Autism if SSRIs are used.

Bérard and her team followed 145,456 children from birth to 10 years of age. Significantly, 1,054 of those children were diagnosed with autism. When interviewed she said:

“Using antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), during the 2nd/3rd trimesters of pregnancy increases the risk of having a child with autism (87 percent increased risk of autism with any antidepressants; more than doubling the risk with SSRI use specifically) – this risk is above and beyond the risk associated with maternal depression alone (maternal depression was associated with a 20 percent increased risk of autism in our study). Given the mounting evidence showing increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcome with antidepressant use during pregnancy, our study shows that depression should be treated with other options (other than antidepressants) during this critical period.

Indeed, 80-85 percent of depressed pregnant women are mildly to moderately depressed; exercise and psychotherapy have been shown to be efficacious to treat depression in this sub-group. Therefore, we acknowledge that depression is a serious condition but that antidepressants are not always the best solution.

Our study is not out to scare women. It’s 2015 and women can make informed decisions, but they need to have evidence-based data. A discussion with their physician is warranted in order to fully consider all treatment options.”

The prevalence of autism amongst children is increasing. So is depression. According to the World Health Organization, by the year 2020 depression will be the second leading cause of disability throughout the world, after heart disease. Therefore, it’s likely that antidepressants will remain widely prescribed, including during pregnancy.

Today six to 10 percent of pregnant women are currently being treated for depression with antidepressants. Since 80 to 85 percent of depressed pregnant women are mildly to moderately depressed, it is advantageous to use medication as the last resort. This degree of depression can often be effectively treated with alternative methods such as exercise, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and a holistic health approach.

If you’re depressed and plan on becoming pregnant, please learn about your medical choices. If you’re already taking SSRIs please consult your doctor. It would be harmful to stop taking them without your doctor’s supervision. And it’s harmful to leave depression untreated for the duration of the pregnancy, since depression itself increases the risk of autism.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and would like to be fully informed about treating depression with holistic health options, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome – Can You Tell the Difference?

Monday, January 18, 2016

narcissistic personality disorder or aspergers syndrome which is itIf you met someone who has poor self-awareness, who doesn’t show remorse, who doesn’t learn from mistakes, who can’t empathize, appreciate others feelings or even reciprocate those feelings, and he treats people like objects, would you think the person suffers from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder or from Aspergers Syndrome?

It would be a tough call wouldn’t it? It’s difficult to distinguish between the two without a clinical evaluation. Both disorders lack empathy as a guide.

So what’s the difference between the two disorders?
The difference is that those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder intentionally manipulate others, because they’re self-absorbed and see others as useful tools to achieve their goals, not as people with feelings. They’re often described as “vicious”, “malignant” or “malicious” because they stop at nothing to get what they want. On the other hand while the Aspie is focused on achieving a goal and is self-absorbed, it just doesn’t register that others would feel differently than he does. A person with Asperger’s doesn’t intentionally set out to hurt anyone. He wants to be loved, have a family and a home, but he just doesn’t know how to connect.

One of the key traits in people with autism is that they lack what is known in psychology as a ‘theory of mind’, which is also known as ‘mind-blindness’. Theory of mind (T.O.M) means you have the ability to understand that other people have thoughts that differ from your own. People with Asperger’s see things from their own point of view, and can’t imagine how something may affect someone else, which makes them seem self-centered.

It’s not fair or reasonable to treat someone who is unintentionally being insensitive as if they were someone who is doing it on purpose because they don’t care about your feelings. Neither is it fair for you to simply take it.

Under the increased pressure of the recent holiday season, those prone to narcissism may have become even more narcissistic. And even if your Aspie usually sticks to a responsible code of conduct, they may be inclined to dip into narcissism as they find it difficult to regulate emotions.

You need to be prepared so that you don't collapse under the pressure. Let's discuss how to stay strong in the face of narcissistic manipulation. There are some simple tools to stop this destructive type of communication. Most importantly it is about being true to yourself. Trust your instincts. If your Aspie makes no sense, or seems overwhelmed, or makes you feel crazy, they just might need a break. And so do you.

I invite you to our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with AS International Teleconference where we’ll discuss the topic: Narcissism and the ASD Adult on Thursday, January 21, 2016 at 2:30 PM. Come and learn how to distinguish between a "normal" ASD communication snag and truly selfish narcissistic manipulation and what you can do to cope.

Don’t Be a Victim in Your Asperger Relationship

Monday, January 04, 2016

don't be a victim in your asperger relationshipJanuary is a great month to commit to New Year's Resolutions. It’s a time to reflect on what’s happening and look for opportunities to improve the quality of your life.

Over the last year in our video conferences, we've been talking talk about the stress of life with an adult with Asperger Syndrome (or ASD). It’s been a relief for many to talk about this because we all need that acknowledgment that we are not alone. However, if all we do is focus on what's wrong, we can sink into a depression that’s so severe we cut ourselves off from hope. We can become so negative in our thinking that we feel like victims and act like it too.

Learning to thrive in the face of such hardship is the ticket. Truly resilient people have a number of traits that we can learn. For example, they accept what is and stop wishing for the impossible. They also believe that no matter how hard it gets, there’s a way to survive and thrive…even if they don't know how to do it yet. They turn to good friends for support and love. And if all else fails they turn to their religious and spiritual foundations (or should this be first?).

The January Video Conference will discuss this topic: Thriver or Victim? You can choose from either of these two convenient time slots, Thursday, January 7, 2016 at 8:30 AM or Thursday, January 28, 2016 at 4:00 PM. These sessions will NOT be recorded, so make sure you honor your commitment to attend. The price is still $15.00 and there are a few spots open.

We’ll share inspiration on how to thrive in the face of adversity, especially when so few people really know what we go through. Let's also help each other out of the stuck, depressed spot. We've all been there more than once. Helping others is one trait of resilience too.

Sesame Street and Others Are Lifting the Stigma from Autism Spectrum Disorder

Monday, December 28, 2015

sesame street and others are lifting the stigma from autismIt wasn’t that long ago that people who suffered from Autism were labeled stupid and treated like they couldn’t make any contribution to society. Thankfully, that veil is lifting as people become better educated about what Autism really is and how much people on the Spectrum have to offer.

For example the following people have reported that they have Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome (a high-functioning form of autism). Just look at the wonderful things they’ve accomplished!

  • Danny Beath, award-winning British landscape and wildlife photographer
  • Susan Boyle, British singer and Britain's Got Talent finalist
  • Daryl Hannah, actress
  • Temple Grandin, food animal handling systems designer and author
  • Tim Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and author
  • And now we can add one more…Julia on Sesame Street!

She’s an orange-haired, green-eyed girl, and she appeared for the first time in an online book entitled, “We’re Amazing, 1, 2, 3!” It was written by Leslie Zimmerman, whose son was diagnosed with autism 20 years ago. She writes, “I knew nothing about autism…it seemed that those around me—even the professionals—didn’t know much either.”

Julia is part of Sesame Street’s new autism-awareness initiative called, Sesame Street and Autism: See All in Amazing Children, which was launched Wednesday, October 21, 2015. Sesame Street is encouraging friends and families to keep the conversation going with the social media hashtag #SeeAmazing. “This project is an extension of the belief we’ve always promoted: ‘we are all different, but all the same’”, said Sherrie Westin, executive president of global impact and philanthropy at Sesame Workshop.

Are you or is someone you know on the Autism Spectrum and need help in coping with confusing social interactions? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment and we’ll work out a protocol that elevates your quality of life as you connect with people from where you are.

Looking at Autism through the Eyes of One Who Knows

Monday, December 14, 2015

what its like to have autismPerhaps you’re familiar with these phrases that describe empathy: “Put yourself in his shoes” or “Until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes, you won’t understand”. If we’ve never experienced it, we can’t fully comprehend the feelings and emotions of another person.

Recently, in a Huffington Post article, Dr. Jordan Schaul, a board member and chief science officer for Zoo Nation revealed what it’s like to be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s entitled, I Can't Fake it Until I Make It – I'm Autistic. Please take the time to read it. It sheds light on the autistic perspective. In the process, I hope it helps us be more empathetic, patient and understanding of those we meet, no matter what they’re dealing with.

Upon being diagnosed at the age of 40, Dr. Schaul’s first response was anger – anger at family, friends and professionals for not recognizing it sooner. (Earlier diagnosis was Attention Deficit Disorder.) He was also relieved to finally have an explanation for why he felt he didn’t fit in, why he felt exhausted and stressed at social interactions.

I’ve done extensive research on empathy and autism so he quoted me as a clinician and autism expert for the article. I said, "Empathy explains it all when it comes to Asperger's Syndrome. Regardless of where an individual falls on the autism spectrum, lack of empathy is the defining characteristic. Empathy is that ineffable skill of reading between the lines, knowing where the other person is coming from, sizing up the context and speaking in a way that respectfully cares for the feelings of others. Without empathy the autistic person is left in an isolated and disconnected world. They may feel compassion, sympathy and love without a clear way to express it to others with a few simple words or a look. "High Functioning Autism" is such a misnomer. What good is it to be brilliant, talented, well-educated or good looking, if you can't connect with others in a way that makes them feel acknowledged and cared for... and want to love you back?"

Rather than talk about someone’s lack of social skills, why not talk with them and see if you can help them discover the reasons for it. If you suspect autism, please consult with a mental health professional who specializes in Asperger’s Syndrome to make sure you arrive at the proper diagnosis. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

What To Do When Your Husband’s Asperger-Type Love Is Not Enough

Monday, November 23, 2015

aspergers loveStatistically five times more males are diagnosed with Asperger’s, yet there are women who have Asperger’s Syndrome, too. So, while in this post we discuss husbands, it can apply equally if your wife has Asperger’s. Either way, you have a tough road ahead when it comes to romance and love.

As Neuro-typicals (those not on the autism spectrum), we tend to see our lives as a function of a network of interconnected relationships. During the day we’re busy doing things, but behind it all we’re constantly thinking about our loved ones. Let me give you two examples:

1. As you look at the computer screen, you keep your mind and eye on the clock in the corner because it reminds you that soon the kids will be home and you’ll need to stop to make dinner for your family.

2. In the garden you may want to plant Roma tomatoes, but you also plant cherry tomatoes for your husband because they’re his favorite.

Can you see how everything we think and do revolves around our loved ones, family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers? But this is not true for our Aspie loved ones. It’s true we’re on their list somewhere. But not as part of the context of their lives. We’re just one of many things they hold dear. Instead of being the glue that holds their world together, we’re a love object. We may be a very important love object, but it’s not the same is it?

So many times I hear that our Asperger Syndrome Meetup members struggle with how to resolve their relationship problems with their Aspies. They love them, even though nothing else seems to work in the relationship. That love feeling is so strong and so binding for NTs that it’s unimaginable that the other problems in the relationship can’t be resolved by sheer willpower. However, we soon learn with Aspies that love is not enough.

During the December paid Video Conference, we’ll explore the emotion and concept of love with regard to these trying relationships. This topic, Love Is Not Enough, is scheduled for Thursday, December 3rd at 9:00 AM PT. There’s only room for 10 attendees, so register right away. One of my past attendees put this Video Call on her calendar as “Lifesaving Video Conference”. It’s that powerful to connect with others who understand.

Update: The December 3rd call is full. There are still a few openings to discuss the same topic on Thursday, December 10th at 2:00 PM PT.

Learn more on my website: Asperger & Marriage and Frequently Asked Questions About Asperger’s Syndrome.

Minimize Asperger-Induced Stress by Creating New Holiday Traditions

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Lessen Asperger-Induced Holiday StressHolidays should be a fun time to connect with friends and family, but when your husband, wife or child has Asperger’s Syndrome it can be anything but joyful. The increased number of social occasions makes it tough on your Aspie loved one because they have difficulty with socializing. This makes it hard on you, because you always feel like you need to be on guard to field their social faux pas.

To help you cope, let’s focus on how you can minimize the stresses of the coming holidays. This will help you be more prepared to manage the meltdowns and your own dashed hopes for the upcoming seasonal events.

Of course you can plan better self-care, like a massage or an extra session with your psychologist. You can reduce the number of parties you attend or you could even skip taking the kids to see Santa. However, instead of thinking about what to avoid, why not think about the positive things you can do?

You can introduce these new traditions that actually are fun and soothing…

1. Have the holiday meal catered or ordered from your deli. If you don't have the stress of planning and cooking a big meal, you’ll be in better shape to handle the other stresses. Plus you can stay home where your Aspies feel safer.

2. Drive separately to the event so your Aspies can go home early or one of you can take home a overtired child. This leaves you and more stable family members to still have fun.

3. Skip all of the extended family invitations and leave town for a quiet weekend at the beach or the mountains or even at a downtown hotel. You can still enjoy the holiday spirit if you phone ahead and request that your children are allowed to decorate the tree in the hotel lobby.

Your Aspie may be appalled that you want to do these things, but you can tell them "This is a new tradition that I want to start. Let's try it to see if it works." They might buy it. In any case you need a break.

Sometimes you’re too close to the situation to see the best solution to your problem. Often others can think outside the box and provide you with some great ideas. That’s what we’re going to focus on in our next, free, International Teleconference entitled, Creating New Holiday Traditions. It’s scheduled for Thursday, November 19th at 2:30PM PDT. Come and share your best Asperger holiday tips.

Learn more about the science of Asperger Syndrome and how it can help your family be happier in my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD), click on the image below to download a free chapter.

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