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Kathy Marshack News

Hapa Aspie – How Can We Help Children Caught in Between the Asperger-Neurotypical Worlds?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Hapa Aspie refers to children raised in a family where one parent is neurotypical and one has Asperger’s, and they need help to cope with the mixed signals.Hapa is the Hawaiian slang word meaning half. Hapa Aspie is a term I coined for the children who are born and raised in a family where one of the parents is neurotypical (NT) and one has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a high functioning form of ASD.

Throughout mankind’s history there have been those who have been torn between two worlds because they’re the half – the half sister, the half brother, or even the derogatory term for mixed races.

Parenting children in a home with an Aspie parent is very complex, particularly if you have Aspie and neurotypical (NT) children. The NT spouse has to switch back and forth between the worlds of Aspie partner, Aspie children and NT children. This is also true for NT children (those who don’t have AS). Their world is a very confusing mix. At school or with friends, they can engage in the NT interactions that reinforce their perception of reality. At home, they get mixed signals. It’s hard for adults to maneuver the unusual world of Aspie/NT family life. Imagine how hard it is for NT children.

During crucial developmental stages, NT children who get different signals from their parents and their siblings learn to cope in unique ways that last a lifetime. Very often, NT children are lonely, depressed and feel invisible to others. They frequently develop a variety of Aspie-like traits, too. That’s not surprising, given that’s what is modeled for them. Whether by genetic inheritance or behavioral learning, NT children from these families acquire a unique perspective that can best be explained as Hapa Aspie. (Read more about how to help Hapa Aspie children in my book, Out of Mind-Out of Sight chapter 7.)

In order to free yourself from the confusing childhood of being raised by an Aspie parent…and in order to help your children keep their self-esteem in tact, we really need to look at this phenomenon very carefully. The usual parenting tips do not work. Nor does the usual divorce advice work.

The next free international teleconference will be held on Friday, October 23, 2015 at 2:30 PM PT and we’ll discuss this topic: What about the kids? Were you one? Please join us and bring your questions and share your strategies for parenting with a partner who has no empathy for his or her children (love maybe, but no empathy). Plus if you grew up with an Aspie parent as I did, this is your chance to clear the air for yourself and to give tips to those NTs still raising these Hapa Aspies.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and need personalized counsel on helping your family come to grips with the conflicting Aspie/NT worlds, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

 

Can a Child Have Both Autism and ADHD?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


a child can have both ADHD and autism

Yes! And this can cause a real problem when the very young are being diagnosed. A doctor may stop looking when he or she sees ADHD symptoms and then they miss that the child is also suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder. Dr. Amir Miodovnik, a developmental pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital authored a recent study, which shows that symptoms of ADHD may, in fact, conceal ASD in very young children.


Why is this significant? Because a delayed diagnosis of autism delays vital treatment. Dr. Miodovnik found, “It took an average of three years longer to diagnose autism in children initially thought to have just ADHD. It's been shown the earlier that you implement these therapies for autism, the better children do in terms of outcome." He found that some cases the ASD diagnosis didn’t occur until six or more years later. (Look for more information on this study in the October print issue of Pediatrics.)

ASD and ADHD are different neurological disorders, however they do have some symptoms in common. What similar symptoms do Autism and ADHD have?

  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity
  • Inattentive
  • Social awkwardness
  • Difficulty in interactions with others

What are some differences between ADHD and ASD?

Asperger’s Syndrome
  • All-absorbing interest in specialized topics, like sports statistics or dinosaurs
  • Lack of nonverbal communication - eye contact, facial expressions, body gestures
  • Lack of empathy or understanding others’ feelings
  • Monotone pitch or lack of rhythm when speaking
  • >Missed motor skill development mile markers, such as catching a ball

ADHD
  • Easily distracted and forgetful
  • Problems processing information accurately and quickly
  • Touching or playing with everything especially in a new environment
  • Very impatient and can’t wait their turn
  • Over-reacting when upset or bothered, without consideration for others

Can you see why there might be confusion? Dr Miodovnik recommends that parents who believe that a child younger than 5 has ADHD should take their child to a developmental pediatrician, rather than a family physician, to make sure that possible autism will not be overlooked. He also recommends this because managing a child with ADHD can be complicated.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and you’re concerned that your child has been thoroughly diagnosed and is receiving optimal treatment, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

If you have a loved one that has been diagnosed with ASD, you will also benefit from learning how science is unlocking the key to understanding Asperger behavior. My book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD), explores the science behind Asperger’s. If you want to understand your Aspie better, this is a must read.

Why Women with Asperger’s Syndrome Don’t Fit In

Friday, September 18, 2015


women with aspergers don't fit inIt’s a harsh fact that women are valued for who they are, whereas men are valued for what they do. While we may make allowances for the eccentricities of men with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), such as the stereotypical absent-minded professor or geeky software engineer, there are no acceptable and endearing stereotypes for women with AS. This is because women – all women, whether they have careers or work in the home – are val­ued for how well they fit in. Most women sense they need to be pleasant, supportive and caring, or they’re labeled “bossy”, “pushy”, or worse.

 In mapping out the “theory-of-mind network” of the brain, neuroscientists have found that women without Asperger’s score the highest in showing empathy – being able to read a person’s feeling by looking at them. Men without Asperger’s score the next highest. However, studies are showing that women with Asperger’s score a lot worse. In fact they are on the extreme male side of the spectrum. This is called the “extreme male brain” theory of autism. You can read more about this study led by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the ARC at Cambridge University here.

For the woman with Asperger Syndrome this gender impera­tive can be a nightmare. Fitting in is almost the antithesis of Asperger’s Syndrome. How can you fit in when you don’t have “social radar”?

The most important first step for an AS woman is self-accep­tance, which doesn’t come from trying to fit in. Once you and your family can accept that this is the way it is, you can finally move on to develop a structure that you can live with. Here are some ways to achieve self-acceptance:

  • Stop expecting to fit in, but reach out to others who accept your uniqueness.
  • Laugh at your foibles.
  • Explore the little-known world of Asperger’s Syndrome and teach your daughters to navigate the world from the lessons you’ve learned.
  • Believe you have gifts to offer.
  • Develop housekeeping routines and mothering techniques that work for you.
  • Hire as much help as you can afford.

What matters is preserving your self-esteem so that you have time to enjoy your loved ones and they you. Seek the support and guidance of a psychologist who is well versed in the double whammy of dealing with being a woman and having Asperger Syndrome. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

New Video Conference Connects People Who Have Family Members with ASD

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


worldwide asperger syndrome video conference"Know that you are not alone."

This is the underlying message of all of the Asperger Syndrome Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetups since the group was organized over six years ago. Now it’s even more profound since members are talking together from around the world. To my surprise we have grown from a handful of people in Portland, Oregon to an international membership from ever continent.

Are you interested in knowing more about the new format for the worldwide video conference? Here are some frequently asked questions that will help you get acquainted with this new process:

Who may join the calls? Only NT (neuro-typical) members of the Asperger Syndrome Partners & Family of Adults with ASD will be approved to join the video call, as we will be discussing what it’s like to live with an adult on the Autism Spectrum or with Asperger's Syndrome.

How many will be attending at one time? Each video call is limited to Dr. Kathy Marshack plus 10 so the conversation can be more intimate.

Can I attend anonymously? Instead of using your real name, you can use a pseudonym.

Can I attend even if I don’t have a webcam or video capability? The purpose of this small group is to get real, to be seen, heard and understood like you would in an in-person support group. If you don't have video capability or are uncomfortable with this format please join us for one of our teleconferences that can be accessed through your phone.

Will these calls be confidential? Absolutely yes! Dr. Marshack is using a very secure software called Scopia to ensure your confidentiality.

Will I be able to talk with individual parties privately while the call is in progress? Yes, you can have a private text chat with another meetup member or you can talk to the entire group.

Can I use my Smart Phone to access this call? Yes! Check out this page to learn what browser and devices will work.

Will this call be translated into my language? The call will be in English only.

How much does it cost? At the time of this writing, the price is $15 USD per person. This fee is non-refundable.

How do I pay? If you are not able to pay by credit card or PayPal, please call 503-222-6678 to make alternate arrangements.

When should I login to the call? **IMPORTANT** If you have RSVP’d “yes” to the video conference please download the software one or two days ahead of time. This will ensure you’re ready to go when the video conference takes place and can maximize your time.

Depending on when you RSVP, you will receive an email invitation approximately 5-10 business days prior to the video conference date. SAVE THIS EMAIL. It contains a link to join the meeting along with a PIN number. This PIN gives you access into the meeting. Login at least 10 minutes before the conference starts.

Choose the instructions corresponding to your device/internet browser here.

How often will these video conference calls be scheduled? Two calls are scheduled per month to accommodate as many time zones as possible. They are posted for Pacific Time. Check the schedule often to make sure you get in on the topics that interest you. You can use this world clock converter to see how USA – Oregon – Portland time converts to your time.

September Video Conference Calls

Thursday, September 10, 2015 8am PDT Topic: You are not alone.

Friday, September 11, 2015 1:30pm PDT Topic: You are not alone.


Whether you live in the U.S., Scotland, Dubai or New Zealand please join us and learn that you are not alone. Regardless of culture or country, I have found that living with an Aspie adult (spouse, child, parent, etc) feels the same. It can be confusing, heartbreaking, crazy making, amusing, stressful, enlightening and more.

5 Ways to Make Back-to-School Anxieties Disappear

Monday, August 17, 2015


It’s only natural for your child to feel anxious about the new school year. And if your children have ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), AS (Asperger's Syndrome), or ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) they need extra help to transition into the new routine. Yes, it might be tempting to put off back-to-school preparations, however the more you prepare your child the easier it will be on you, your child and the teachers. Here are a few reminders to make this process easier…

Be Positive
You can help ease their worries by always speaking positively about returning to school. Get them excited about that they’re going to learn. Help them remember what they enjoyed from previous years.

Make Appointments Early
Does your child need to see his doctor, dentist, or optometrist? How about teachers and administrators you need to talk with before school starts? It relieves a lot of stress to get these appointments taken care of well before the school year starts.

Get into the School Routine
Routine is so important for children with ASD and ADD. A month before school starts, review class materials that your child likes for a scheduled time each day, gradually increasing the time and adding more difficult materials so your child transitions from the carefree summer to the classroom structure. Also gradually shift wake up time and bedtime to match what your child needs to function well at school.

Involve Your Child in Back-to-School Preparation
Let them go school shopping with you so they can pick out things they like. Work together as you assemble their backpacks. Talk about what they’d like to eat for lunch and snacks. And the night before school starts, help them lay out the clothes they want to wear.

Visit the School
Introduce your child to as many people as possible – the teacher, principal, office staff, school nurse, teacher assistants, custodians. Alert them to your child’s special needs and how they can assist you.

I really recommend that you put together a packet about your child for the teacher. Take a look at the article How to Assemble a Teacher Information Packet for some helpful tips.

For additional back to school and safety tips, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics - Back To School Tips. My website also has information about Parenting a Child with ADD.

Dinosaurs, Asperger’s and a Mother’s Love

Wednesday, August 05, 2015


dinosaurs autism and a mother's loveAs parents when we have children who are challenged in some way, we will go to great lengths to take care of them. A New York Times article on excavating dinosaur fossils from the Grand Staircase monument called the Kaiparowits Plateau flooded my mind with memories…


When my autistic daughter was a teen, I took her to three North American Paleontology Conferences so that she could earn science credits for high school. She was terrified in public school because she was tormented by other students. But she loved paleontology and felt comfortable around the scientists because she could converse very knowledgeably on the topic of her "special interest”.

I had called Dr. Jere Lipps, paleontology professor at the University of California at Berkeley and he’d graciously told me that my daughter was more than welcome. She received an award for being the youngest participant. I was very proud of her—even though she’d needed a dose of Klonopin (an anti-anxiety drug) to make it through each day.

Here’s an excerpt from my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD), which tells of the experience:

“In a dimly lit motel room, I sit in front of my laptop, uploading photos from the day’s exploration on the Oklahoma prairie. Next to me, sprawling on her bed is my 15-year-old daughter. She’s reading a novel, her usual pastime. She is re-reading Raptor Red. She loves this book so much, and reads it so often, that she’s literally worn it out. I have bought her more than one copy to keep her happy…

By day we sight dinosaur tracks permanently etched into rock where millions of years ago a mighty river dried up and created mud flats, the perfect medium for storing ancient footprints. On another day, we follow our guides past fences and “No Trespassing” signs to witness evidence of dinosaur nests with bits of fossilized eggshell still scattered on the ground.

Amazingly. I take most of the photos, because my daughter is mesmerized by the experience. She needs the photos to document the field trip for school credit. As usual, I remain the “responsible party,” a trait of helicopter mothers the world over. She’s the youngest member of the expedition and kind of an honorary member since most participants are professional paleontologists, graduate students, or adults with an amateur’s passion. In true helicopter mother fashion, I’d searched high and low for a way to leverage my daughter’s interest in paleontology and art into a high school science credit. I had to be inventive in those days since there were no educational programs for “twice exceptional” kids at the time (i.e. Asperger Syndrome and gifted).

I am uploading pictures from the camera, picking out the best shots and inserting them into a PowerPoint presentation. It is her task to write a description of each photo. That will be a test of her paleontological knowledge as well as a test of her limited patience. She complains that she is tired. She complains that she is hungry. She complains that she can’t remember anything. She complains about me and my helicoptering. With enough coaxing and bribes of snacks from the hotel canteen machines, she finishes the PowerPoint for that day. We celebrate by calling Dad and her sister to say, “Good night.” Then we fall into bed exhausted.”

Perhaps you recognized this scenario in your life. I enjoyed sharing these experiences with my daughter. Yet I wish I had had someone to guide me through these trying times. That’s why I’m so happy to tell you that we’re almost ready to start the new international video conferences for families of those with ASD! It’s going to be wonderful getting to talk with you face-to-face. I’ll give you more details soon.
Out of Mind Out of Sight Parenting with a partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)

Exploring the Link between Cesarean Births and Autism

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


link between autism spectrum disorder ASD and cesarean birth C-SectionsMuch research is being done on the long-term affect of cesarean section deliveries. They’ve discovered that children born by C-section have fewer good gut bacteria, which makes them more prone to asthma, allergies, Celiac Disease, or Crohn Disease.

Researchers once again link C-sections with autism in a way that might surprise you. According to Autism Speaks, “the largest-ever study of a suspected link between cesarean delivery and autism confirms an association but suggests that it’s due to a shared trigger. In other words, the C-section procedure itself does not appear to increase the risk that a child will develop autism. Rather, one or more common, underlying factors may increase the likelihood for both.”

A recent study reported on in the JAMA Psychiatry confirms previous findings that “children born by C-section are approximately 20% more likely to be diagnosed as having ASD. However, the association did not persist when using sibling controls, implying that this association is due to familial confounding by genetic and/or environmental factors. “

They conclude that C-section doesn’t cause autism. Rather some unknown genetic or environment factor is responsible for increasing the risk for both autism and C-section.

The hope is that with continued research scientists will find out why autism is so prevalent. According to the latest estimates from CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, about 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

While this research is fascinating, if you have a loved one that has been diagnosed with ASD you will also benefit from learning how science is unlocking the key to understanding Asperger behavior. My book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD), explores the science behind Asperger’s. If you want to understand your Aspie better, this is a must read.



Is Misplaced Guilt in Your Relationship Ruining Your Happiness?

Monday, July 20, 2015


misplaced guilt in your asperger ASD relationship ruining your happinessGuilt is a powerful and useful emotion when it moves us to right a wrong. For example, we apologize when we make a mistake or fail to follow through on a promise, because we realize we’ve hurt someone and want to restore good relations. Most of the time, guilt is a moral compass that tells us when an action is right or wrong.

However, feelings of guilt can become one of the biggest saboteurs to our happiness. I’ve seen this to be especially true for those in a relationship with an Aspie partner. Since those with ASD struggle with empathy they probably don’t realize their actions foster extreme guilt that makes their partner feel unworthy of being happy. Yet sadly this is often the case in an Asperger/Neuro-Typical relationship. Why?

It's a common theme for many dealing with stressful relationships to feel guilty for even the smallest of mistakes. They become hypersensitive, feeling as if these mistakes actually contributed to the major problems they’re having with their spouse. But it's just not reasonable, especially when you know that friends can forgive you for your faux pas and character defects.

It's a survivor trait to feel excessively guilty. It keeps us searching for solutions. As a form of codependency, guilt insures that you will take more than your share of responsibility for the problem and continue searching for answers long after there’s no point.

Guilt also keeps alive the hope that all is not lost. In others words, if you believe it's your fault, then all you have to do is correct the error and all will be right in the world again.

The problem comes when your Aspie accepts none of the responsibility and you do the opposite. How can that ever work? This hugely important topic will be discussed at our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Teleconference on Friday, July 24th at 2:30pm. We’ll uncover why you feel guilty in your relationship and how you can set yourself free. I hope you can join us.

Should Autistics Drive a Car?

Thursday, July 02, 2015


should those with autism spectrum disorder drive a carThere are so many things that Neuro Typicals (those without Autism Spectrum Disorder) take for granted. For example, it’s usually not a big thing when your spouse takes the wheel, unless he or she is a really bad driver. And even when your teen first gets behind the wheel of the car and starts driving, you may be only a little apprehensive.


But when you’re dealing with someone who has Autism Spectrum Disorder, this situation can become filled with anxiety. And when you add to the mix a divorce and your ASD ex is allowed free reign to drive your children, it can become a nightmare.

Drexel University has published its first study on the driving behaviors in adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. They asked those with ASD how they felt about driving. They found that many regulate their own driving. For instance, some won’t drive on the freeway while others won’t drive at night.

The A.J. Drexel Autism Institute is funding further research. In the next phase, the team is using driving simulation in Dr. Maria Schultheis’ lab to examine actual driving performance of adults on the autism spectrum. If you’re interested in enrolling in these studies, contact schultheis@drexel.edu.

Interactive Autism Network points out the many with higher functioning autism can drive safely if they’re given extensive training. Processing the big picture of multiple events rather than focusing on one detail at a time is one challenge they must overcome. As well as staying calm and not getting overwhelmed and shutting down in stressful circumstances.

New York Times also reports on the challenges of driving with Asperger's. Parent of ASD teens are concerned about “their ability to concentrate, to understand nonverbal communication and to handle the unexpected.” Their rigidity in obeying the rules may cause them to lack flexibility in emergency situations. Some autistic adults have terrible road rage when other drivers violate the rules.

All of these articles stress the importance of personalized training so those with ASD can drive safely if they choose to do so. Is this an issue in your home? Would you like an objective professional to give you feedback on your concerns? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office so we can schedule an appointment and assess your situation.

For further information: Remote Education on Asperger Relationships.

How will Your Divorce Affect Your Children with ASD

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


how does divorce affect my child who has AutismSo many marriages end in divorce. This is especially true when there’s a daily strain from the special needs of autistic children. While I can’t determine how many special needs children have been affected by divorce in Oregon and Washington, I did find the following statistics:

During the first six months in 2015, Oregon has processed 3,098 divorces involving children 18 years of age or younger. Current Washington State statistics are not yet available. We do know that during 2013, Washington State processed 25,395 divorces and annulments.

This means that the potential is high for these extremely vulnerable children to be exposed to Divorce Court or child custody hearings. And while the judge and attorneys try to make decisions in the best interests of these children, they often apply rulings to autistic children that actually may harm them.

Take for example a Psychology Today article by Chantal Sicile-Kira. She discusses an example where custody of a child is usually split 50/50 with each parent. People knowledgeable about Autism and Asperger's Syndrome have shown that breaking an ASD child’s routine and structure is detrimental to him or her. Of course, the Family Court System knows that all children need structure and routine, and they have a set of standards that meet the basic needs. Yet they are often unaware that this basic structure is not nearly sufficient to meet the needs of autistic children.

The court system has found it helpful to enlist the expertise of psychologists specializing in Autism and Asperger's Syndrome to give testimony as to the best interests for these children. These trained professionals help the judges and attorneys understand the critical importance of the special needs and practical ways these special needs can be met.

The Psychology Today article also provided three vital questions to ask a prospective attorney if you’re faced with a divorce or child custody hearing:

  • “Do you have any experience with divorce involving special needs children, in particular autism and Asperger’s Syndrome?”
  • “In past cases, have you been able to convince the Judge to take the child’s special needs into account when considering ‘the best interest of the child’?”
  • “Are you aware of the complex needs of a child with autism as they grow older, and how these complex needs should be considered in the Matrimonial Settlement Agreement?”

Are you facing a Divorce Court or custody battle in the near future? Please seek the assistance of a mental health professional who can help your children adjust to their new circumstances, as well as help the Court understand your child’s special needs.

I’m licensed in psychology and social work, so I can provide this service for families in Oregon and Washington. I’m eager to educate and consult with those in the legal profession so they can make the best decisions for children with ASD. Please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Also check out my Remote Education on Asperger's Syndrome.



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