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Kathy Marshack News

Do You Feel Oppressed in Your Asperger Relationship?

Monday, May 11, 2015


"de Oppresso Liber." This motto comes from the elite US Army special forces unit, the Green Beret. It means Free the Oppressed or Freedom from Oppression. I think it could also be the motto for our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD group.

Meetup after Meetup I hear our members comment how relieved they are to find us and to know they are not alone. I’ve also received dozens of grateful emails from people who have read my two books, stating that they had no idea anyone understood the oppression they live with.

This group is not about complaining, but about setting ourselves free. It's about acknowledging that we have become tangled in the web of Aspie reasoning. . .so tangled that we have become sick, drained, confused, depressed, lost, enraged, you name it. After acknowledging the truth about what we have become and why, the next step is to free ourselves.

In addition to the Portland location, members are setting up local groups around the country. If you’re a Meetup member and want to start a group in your own location, let me know and I can post it to the Meetup calendar. As of now, there are Meetups in the SF Bay Area and Virginia. The best thing to do is to join the Meetup group so you can find out if there’s one near you plus, it gives you access to the teleconference. You can enjoy that from anywhere on the globe.

A number of the members have spoken about not having a safe, undisturbed place to listen at the time of the live call. Did you realize that there are recorded episodes that you can listen and learn from too?

The next local Meetup in Portland, Oregon for the Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD group is on Saturday, May 16th at 1:00pm. Or you can catch the same topic on the international teleconference on Friday, May 22nd at 2:30pm. Let's meet to discuss the steps you’re taking to win back your life.
De Oppresso Liber!

Two Keys to Unlocking More Romance in Your NT-AS Marriage

Tuesday, May 05, 2015


helping your asperger husband be more romanticLove and romance are basic human needs yet they are so very complex. Movies, TV and books raise our expectations to “happy ever after”. But no relationship thrives without both parties working at it. Especially is this so when one partner has Asperger Syndrome.

Recently, I wrote an article for PsychCentral that discussed the challenges that NT-AS partners face and what can be done to create a greater sense of connection. (NT refers to the partner without Asperger’s Syndrome. It stands for neurotypical.) Let me share some highlights…

Firstly, it’s important to remember that Aspies do love. They just love in a different way. What are some things you can do to increase romance in your AS-NT marriage?

1. Non-Aspie partners – don’t take your Aspie partner’s actions (or lack of actions) as a slight or personal affront. See it as an area for further communication. Not being romantic isn’t a hurtful decision they make. When the neurotypical more accurately understands the actions, or inactions, of their Aspie loved one, feelings get hurt less often.

2. Help your Aspie create his/her own rules of engagement in order to act in ways that really matter to you. This personalized list tells the Aspie what to do and when – without them needing to understand the incomprehensible “why.”

Does this really work? One Aspie husband explained it to me like this, “I just can’t say or do the first thing that pops into my mind. It might be all wrong. It’s like I need a ‘politeness checker’ running in the back of my mind to remind me to be a gentleman.” This marriage was strengthened when he and his wife wrote down rules about appropriate engagement in a notebook. He keeps it with him and refers to it frequently for guidance. Without that tool, he says he’d be lost.

Aspies may not understand why something is important to their loved one, but learning to make the effort, the gesture, represents good intention and love, just a different kind.

If you want to make sure your ASP/NT marriage fills the needs of each spouse, you have to frankly talk about what those needs are. Many have found that consulting with a mental health care professional can facilitate this conversation. Are you ready to take that step? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Even if your Aspie mate doesn’t want to come with you, we can still find ways to improve your situation.

What Happens to Autistic Children Aging Out of School?

Monday, April 20, 2015


what programs are there for aging out autisticsAccording to experts, within the next 10 years, an estimated 500,000 autistic children will become too old for education through the local school districts. At the age of 21, these children graduate and have to find their own way in the world that is ill prepared for them.

Autistics (the term they prefer to be called) don’t grow out of their disability. So losing their structured routine is terrifying to them. It can undo the progress they’ve made and send them spiraling back into self destructive or isolating behavior. Many parents who have already experienced this describe it as falling off of a cliff or even being pushed off of a cliff.

Recently on a must-see Dateline Show, On the Brink, they followed the stories of two autistic boys for three years, chronicling their experiences as they aged out of the school system. The struggle these families go through in order to find specialized care for their sons is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

It’s required that each school district has a transition plan, a set of measurable goals to prepare autistics for adulthood. The reality falls far short of what is needed.

Let’s raise awareness of this issue and give continuing support to those we know personally in addition to everyone across the nation who struggles with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It’s a growing problem that we cannot afford to ignore.

I realize the caregivers of those with ASD need extra support and comfort as they carry a heavy load. I’ve formed a supportive network through international teleconferences and local meetups called Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Familiy of Adults with ASD. And I’m happy to now let you know that there are groups forming around the country so you may soon be able to meet in your own local area. Check here for the currently scheduled meetups. Please come and join us. You’re not alone.

Listen to the full Dateline Show here.

Check out Autism Speaks Transition Tools here.

The Spring Day is so Beautiful…Why Do I Feel so Depressed?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Now that the days are longer and the sun is shining more do you feel energized and happier? Surprisingly, many will answer, “No!” Why is that? This may really surprise you…did you know that the largest number of suicides each year generally occur in May?

Why, if the weather is better and everything looks so hopeful and renewed, do some people react so miserably? While many are feeling more energetic and hopeful, those with depression feel a mounting pressure that they should be feeling happy too. And if they don’t they can plummet into a deeper black hole of hopelessness.

Springtime depression is also connected with change. And highly sensitive people struggle with change. This is especially true for those on the Autism Spectrum. They also suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), seasonal allergies, circadian rhythm disorders, etc. Hence, they are more prone to depression in the spring. There are lots of changes in the air as spring arrives. It is hard enough for us to respond to all of these changes, let alone our Aspies, who are much less adaptable.

Join our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD local Meetup on Saturday, April 25, 2015 at 1:00pm PST or our international teleconference Meetup on Friday, April 17, 2015 at 2:30pm PST. We’ll discuss this topic: Do you or your loved ones get springtime depression? Learn how to manage your own emotional flux during this time of year while, at the same time, helping the rest of our family members.

In fact, this emotional roller coaster occurs not only now, but is at play during the full moon and other times of the year, so this information is going to be invaluable for you and your family. If you have soothing tips and cognitive reframes that help you during the springtime, share your stories. We can all use a boost to help us ride the wave into summer.

Read more on my website: Depression and Stress.

President Obama Proclaims April 2 World Autism Awareness Day

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


On April 2nd, President Barack Obama issued a White House Proclamation recognizing April 2, 2015 as World Autism Awareness Day. Here, in part, is what he said:

“We celebrate the countless ways they (those on the autism spectrum) strengthen our communities and enrich our world…individuals with autism live independent and productive lives, and our Nation is better because of their unique talents and perspectives. Their example reminds us that all people have inherent dignity and worth, and that everyone deserves a fair shot at opportunity.

My Administration is committed to helping Americans with autism fulfill their potential by ensuring access to the resources and programs they need. The Affordable Care Act prohibits companies from denying health insurance because of pre-existing conditions such as autism, and the law also requires most insurance plans to cover preventive services -- including autism and developmental screenings for young children -- without copays. Last year, I was proud to sign the Autism CARES Act of 2014, which bolstered training and educational opportunities for professionals serving children or adults on the autism spectrum. And as part of the BRAIN Initiative, we continue to invest in innovative research that aims to revolutionize our understanding of conditions like autism and improve the lives of all who live with them.

Today, let us honor advocates, professionals, family members, and all who work to build brighter tomorrows alongside those with autism. Together, we can create a world free of barriers to inclusion and full of understanding and acceptance of the differences that make us strong. I encourage all Americans to learn more about autism and what they can do to support individuals on the autism spectrum and their families.”

I truly believe that as we learn to make better lives for our loved ones with ASD, we make better lives for everyone on the planet. Education and research into how the brain works are vital for understanding how best to help them. I’m committed to sharing with you the latest information and tools for furthering these endeavors.

Teachers and Parents – Check out Autism Speaks’ Puzzle Piece Project Tool Kit, a K-12 grade educational tool for creating greater awareness among students. If the children of today develop greater awareness, as adults of tomorrow they can continue making a real difference in the lives of those with ASD.

Read the entire White House Proclamation here.

Please, come over to my Facebook Page and share what you’re doing in support of Autism this month.

Are You Feeling like a Misfit in your NT-AS Marriage?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


asperger husband makes the wife feel lonely and like she doesn't fit in anywhereAny marriage is subject to ups and downs due to human nature in general and the individual partners, in particular. When Asperger Syndrome is part of the mix, the challenges easily mount. This is not to say that the Aspie partner is to blame or is at “fault.” However, given that the core characteristics of Asperger Syndrome relate to communication, emotions, perspective taking and sensory issues, the very components upon which relationships are built, it is no wonder that misunderstanding and frustration often crop up in these relationships.

After years of adapting to your Aspie loved ones, many Neuro-Typicals feel "Aspergated" or as if they have one foot in the NT world and one foot in the ASD world. . . not quite fitting into either. Do you relate to this following scenario?

Little by little you lose contact with your friends as you retreat into your spouse’s Asperger comfort zone. You quit going out to dinner and you quit inviting people over, because you’re Aspie partner complains, so it’s just easier to disappear. And because your social needs aren’t being met, the only way you know how to cope is to “shut down”, pretending that it doesn’t matter. Sure you don’t give up without a fight, but the efforts to fix the situation seem to be pointless.

As a result, your evenings find you in one room watching TV or playing with the children, while your husband is glued to the TV in the den watching his programs. If you don’t start connecting with someone soon, you’re going to go crazy with resentment. But it’s been so long since you put yourself out there that it feels awkward, clumsy and so lonely. You feel like you just don’t fit in anywhere. Does this sound all too familiar?

Are you feeling like a misfit? Fortunately we have the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with AS group, whose members provide the deepest of understanding and caring. But where else can you go for this kind of support? Join us on March 21, 2015 1:00pm for our next local meetup in Portland, OR. Can’t be there? Then join the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with AS international teleconference on Friday, March 27, 2015 at 2:30pm PDT. Let's talk about how we can find this support or at the very least how to protect ourselves from the ravages of loneliness.

And if you haven’t purchased your copy of my books on how to nurture Asperger Relationships so that they thrive, here are links with more information:

Out of Mind - Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome

Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going over the Edge?

Read more on my website: Asperger Relationships.

Does Your Asperger Parent or Partner Make You Feel Invisible?

Thursday, February 05, 2015


asperger partner makes you feel invisibleHave you ever felt like your Aspie family member doesn’t see you? Like your thoughts and feelings aren’t acknowledged and don’t matter? This can especially become a pattern of life for those who grow up with one Asperger parent and one Neuro-typical (NT) parent.

What does psychological invisibility mean?

Recently I wrote an article for PsychCentral discussing this topic and shared an example of how one young woman, Rose Marie, grew up feeling invisible. I’d encourage you to click here to read the entire PsychCentral article. (And while you’re there, will you share this information from your favorite social media platform, too?)

In brief, because those with Asperger lack empathy, they cause others to feel ignored, unappreciated and unloved. When people feel invisible, they can come to believe they deserve to be ignored. They develop coping mechanisms similar to “psychic numbing” where your own feelings become invisible to yourself. They develop a “tough cookie, no fear” exterior to get past their feelings of insecurity. The result of this disregard is what I call, “invisibility.”

And this doesn’t just affect children. Even when someone comes into a relationship with a strong sense of self-esteem, it can quickly be shattered by a partner or spouse who has an empathy disorder.

How can those who feel invisible cope?

Many cope by coming up with an explanation of why life has turned out the way it has. But these explanations change nothing. An old fashioned southern euphemism is appropriate for Neuro-Typicals in this situation: “No explaining; no complaining.” Explaining and complaining are defensive maneuvers that we use when we feel trapped. They are attempts to prove to ourselves that we are okay; whereas if we are truly okay, then what is there to defend?

Everyone who wants to cope with these feelings of invisibility must stop explaining or complaining. Everything you talk about should be about what you’re feeling or hearing or seeing or smelling right now. Don’t analyze. Don’t blame others or yourself. Don’t judge either. No complaining. No explaining.

Do you want to experience feeling truly okay, acceptable, fully alive — without an explanation or a complaint? Perhaps it’s time to seek the assistance of a health care professional. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

This information has been excerpted from my book, Out of Mind - Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD). Learn more and grab a free sample chapter by clicking here.

Can Spiritual Support Help You Cope with Asperger Relationships?

Wednesday, February 04, 2015


spiritual support is essential to maintain hope in your asperger relationshipsWhen caring for someone with Asperger’s, do you put self-care at the top of your list? People who travel by air are instructed, “In case of an emergency, put the air mask on yourself first and then your children or others.” Only in caring for yourself first can you truly care for others. Otherwise you have nothing left to give. Families with member who have Asperger’s Syndrome especially need to attend to and take care of their whole person. That means caring for your whole being - your mind, body and spirit.

Does this mean you need to be religious?

Spirit or spirituality is not synonymous with religion or religious. Church has nothing to do with spirituality directly. Rather the spirit is that part of each human that makes us a distinctive personality. It is the part of us that defines us and yet connects us to others. It has long been known that a strong healthy spirit will guide us successfully through adversity, whereas a conquered spirit will succumb to illness and death. It was Mother Theresa's strong spirit that transcended her small stature and seemingly insignificant role as a nun to profoundly affect thousands of people for the better. In other words, spirit is that singular life force that directs and shapes our attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Therefore, keeping spirit or life force healthy is essential to the process of achieving healthy balance in any life.

Does spiritual practice and spiritual guidance help in your life with Asperger’s Syndrome?

Many of our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD members post that their church and/or spiritual discipline helps them stay strong and loving. But not all are finding comfort from their religious organizations. In fact, some report the opposite. . .that they feel even more alone. We don't need platitudes. We need unconditional love and support for this life.

Join our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD local Meetup on Saturday, February 21, 2015 at 1:00pm PST or our international teleconference Meetup on Friday, February 27, 2015 at 2:30pm PST. We’ll discuss this topic: SPIRITUAL SUPPORT: Does It Help? Let's meet to discuss what works for you whether it is a formal religion, another form of spiritual discipline, or even atheism. What really matters is that we connect and know that we are not alone. . . In the material world or beyond.

Read more on my website: Asperger Syndrome Support and Asperger Relationships Remote Education.

Asperger’s Syndrome and Depression – A Deadly Combination

Monday, January 12, 2015


asperger syndrome and depression is often linked with suicideA large number of adults with Asperger’s Syndrome suffer from depression. Scientists don’t know if this is a result of the struggles and rejections they face in life or if it’s because of the way their brains are hard wired. As Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen said in a recently published study on Asperger’s and depression, “Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome often suffer with secondary depression due to social isolation, loneliness, social exclusion, lack of community services, underachievement, and unemployment.”

What we now know, regardless of the causes, when your loved one has Asperger’s Syndrome and shows symptoms of depression, alarm bells to go off. The study mentioned above found that there’s a significant increase in suicidality among adults with Asperger’s. They are ten times more likely to have suicidal thoughts, suicidal plans and suicidal attempts than the general population, which is even more than those who have psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia.

Up until now, studies on Asperger’s Syndrome and depression have been concentrating on preadolescents, and they show a low rate of suicidal behavior. So, even though previous studies have shown that there’s a link between autism and suicidal thoughts, these findings about adults with AS come as a surprise to many. What concerns me is that many adults with Asperger’s have lived their lives undiagnosed, so they haven’t sought help from a mental health professional unless they’ve experienced severe mood or psychotic changes.

Nomi Kaim of Asperger/Autism Newtwork (formerly Asperger’s Association of New England or AANE) describes poignantly how depression affects someone with Asperger’s. She highlights the paradoxical battle that goes on inside in the following areas of life:

  • Those with Asperger’s focus on and gain comfort from their special area(s) of interest. Depression steals any delight in doing such activities. This leaves an immense sense of emptiness.
  • People with Asperger’s Syndrome deal in concrete, black and white thinking. Depression forces them leave the comfort of these thoughts as they have to learn to deal with overwhelming emotions they are unprepared to handle.
  • People with Asperger’s Syndrome find comfort in being alone. Depression makes it essential to seek out others so they don’t spiral into self-destruction, which causes the pain of socializing to become more pronounced and threatens their sense of being self-sufficient.
  • People with Asperger’s Syndrome hate to be touched. Depression creates a need for physical yearning to be held and comforted, which, in turn, may leave them feeling violated.

This study highlights the need for us to be alert and prompt about seeking professional help for our Aspie loved ones who are depressed. If you live near Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington, please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Together we can create new ways for them to cope with this situation before it becomes a tragedy.

We have the Winners!

Friday, January 09, 2015


coping with partner who has asperger syndrome bookcoping with a spouse with asperger syndromeDuring the month of December I ran a "Feedback" Contest on Facebook asking for your heartfelt thoughts about my two books on the topic of Asperger’s Syndrome. I’m happy to say the winners have been posted on my Facebook page.

Yes! There are two winners! When it came down to the final decision, I just couldn’t decide – so both of these people will receive their own 20 minute remote education call with me during the next few months. I’m really looking forward to getting to know them better. I’m hoping they’ll share with me how I can better serve this NT/AS community.

I just wanted to share with you their winning comments. I’m using initials to protect their privacy.

Jules NZ commented: “Out of Mind – Out of Sight. For me, this book has given me permission to follow my instincts and trust myself again after 30 years of invalidation and dwindling self esteem. The chapters about zero empathy from the Aspie spouse, and invisibility of the NT partner were revelations for me, and there are simply too many other topics that are for me, like gold. This book has become my bible and I refer to it frequently to help me understand the craziness that has been my life, parenting with my Asperger husband.

Going over the Edge has been a life saver for me, I have used the knowledge within to understand and learn about Asperger Syndrome in my relationship with my husband. The practical examples are so easy to relate to when you live this life. Dr Kathy must have been talking about me? how did she know?? I have read this book over and over and each time find another gem to support myself and remind myself I am ok, that what I am experiencing is normal for life with a spouse with Aspergers.”

JB commented: “I read Going Over the Edge. I am married to an undiagnosed man who shows many traits described in the book. I was most impacted by the young girl's drawing and discovering the busy brain. Like most challenges we face if we become aware and accept them they become manageable and even tolerable especially when you know there is support available for you. I don't love my situation but the book did give me hope and settled me down. It caused me to sit back and look at things from a new perspective. I have to read parts of it from time to time to wheel me back in when I start to feel crazy. Thank you.”

Their comments really touched my heart as I can see that my work is truly helping them. And yes, I do consider myself to be one of the winners, since I get to connect with wonderful people like you. Please come on over to my Facebook page and congratulate our winners.

Learn more about Asperger’s Syndrome:

  • Schedule a 20 minute educational call with Dr. Marshack for Asperger Relationships Remote Education.
  • Download a free chapter of Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD).
  • Download a free chapter of Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going over the Edge? Practical Steps to Saving You and Your Relationship.



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