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Kathy Marshack News

Three Surprising Scientific Findings about Autism You Might Not Know…

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Every study on autism spectrum disorder is bringing us closer to understanding it, so here are some recent findings that you may not have heard of yet…There is a lot we don’t know about autism, but every study is bringing us closer to understanding its cause and the why it affects people so differently. In an effort to keep you up-to-date, here are some recent findings that you may not have heard of yet:

1. Scientific American reports that “autism and schizophrenia may be independent outcomes of the same genetic syndrome.”

Both conditions are associated with the deletion of a stretch of DNA on chromosome 22. Carrie Bearden, professor of psychiatry, biobehavioral sciences and psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles found, “Up to 30 percent of individuals missing this region, called 22q11.2, develop a psychotic disorder (schizophrenia). Up to 50 percent are diagnosed with autism.” (Does that mean someone with autism will develop schizophrenia later in life? Not at all.) What researches are now concentrating on is finding the biological causes of the features of these two conditions and discovering why they trigger the behaviors they do.

2. Generally, the earliest parents notice the first signs of autism is age 1, however MRI scans can see it in the brain much earlier than that.

According to Heather Hazlett, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina’s Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities (CIDD), enlargement of the brain seems to correlate with the arrival of autistic symptoms.

3. 50% of those with autism also have alexithymia, a condition defined by a difficulty understanding and identifying one’s own emotions.

Recognizing emotion depends in part on reading peoples’ faces. Those with autism often avoid looking into other people’s eyes, which contributes to their difficulty detecting emotions. Interestingly, if they don’t have alexithymia, they scan the eyes and mouth in a pattern similar to those without autism.
By contrast, people with alexithymia (with our without autism) look at faces for a typical amount of time, but scan the eyes and mouth in altered patterns.

Ongoing research is vital. The more we understand autism, the better our treatments will be. If you’d like to learn more, I provide online education specifically for how families with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can apply neuroscience and psychology to improve their relationships. And if you have specific issues you need help with, you might qualify for online therapy as well. Contact my office and schedule a session.

Keep that ‘Summer Vacation Feeling’ Going with your Aspie Loved Ones

Wednesday, July 05, 2017


Summertime is the time for vacations, fun in the sun, and getting away from it all to relax. You should definitely make time for it this year. I know I’m really looking forward to my time off in August!   But I do remember the crazy-making times I spent getting my family ready for vacation, when the kids were young. It’s a real struggle getting our Aspies (loved ones with Asperger’s) out the door.   They obsess about packing and where you’re going to stay. Yet once you're seated on the plane and your Aspie can sleep or read, they begin to participate and maybe even enjoy the vacation. (To help you prepare for your trip, you can read some stress free travel tips here.)   Our Aspies seem to have fun on vacation. And what’s really surprising is that your communications go well – better than they have in years. You actually start believing in your relationship again. You begin to let your guard down…   And then wham! Reality hits you in the face. As soon as you get home, the stress and confusion begins all over again, maybe even worse than it was before. What's up?   Vacations do take us away from the demands of ordinary life and that's why they’re relaxing. But for the Aspie the return to the "real world" is even more stressful than before they left.   You’re not alone in experiencing this. In my practice, I’m often asked: “Why do we communicate well on vacation but not otherwise?” It makes sense if you think about it. You’re not being distracted by day-to-day demands.   Do you have some good ideas for easing back after vacations? Or perhaps you’ve figured out how to get out the door without all of the fighting. Please share your strategies with our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD meetup. Join the free teleconference on Thursday, July 20th at 3:00 PM PST. It’s entitled: “Why do we communicate well on Vacation but not otherwise?” It will help you enjoy your re-entry into life after vacation.   If you’re seeking specific information on ASD, please consider my online education or online therapy. It’s convenient and cost effective.Summertime is the time for vacations, fun in the sun, and getting away from it all to relax. You should definitely make time for it this year. I know I’m really looking forward to my time off in August!

But I do remember the crazy-making times I spent getting my family ready for vacation, when the kids were young. It’s a real struggle getting our Aspies (loved ones with Asperger’s) out the door.

They obsess about packing and where you’re going to stay. Yet once you're seated on the plane and your Aspie can sleep or read, they begin to participate and maybe even enjoy the vacation. (To help you prepare for your trip, you can read some stress free travel tips here.)

Our Aspies seem to have fun on vacation. And what’s really surprising is that your communications go well – better than they have in years. You actually start believing in your relationship again. You begin to let your guard down…

And then wham! Reality hits you in the face. As soon as you get home, the stress and confusion begins all over again, maybe even worse than it was before. What's up?

Vacations do take us away from the demands of ordinary life and that's why they’re relaxing. But for the Aspie the return to the "real world" is even more stressful than before they left.

You’re not alone in experiencing this. In my practice, I’m often asked: “Why do we communicate well on vacation but not otherwise?” It makes sense if you think about it. You’re not being distracted by day-to-day demands.

Do you have some good ideas for easing back after vacations? Or perhaps you’ve figured out how to get out the door without all of the fighting. Please share your strategies with our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD meetup. Join the free teleconference on Thursday, July 20th at 3:00 PM PST. It’s entitled: “Why do we communicate well on Vacation but not otherwise?” It will help you enjoy your re-entry into life after vacation.

If you’re seeking specific information on ASD, please consider my online education or online therapy. It’s convenient and cost effective.

What Question Would YOU Like to Ask Me about Asperger’s?

Monday, June 26, 2017


What question would you like to ask Dr Kathy about aspergersIf you could ask me anything about Aspergers and your AS/NT relationship, what would you ask?

Coming up in July you’ll have three opportunities to actually do just that. Each one of my low cost video conferences will be dedicated to answering your nagging questions. Because that’s what it's like living with Aspies, isn't it? There are these confusing moments, loose connections and vague gut feelings.

What might some of your questions be about?

  • How do I parent my Aspie children with an Aspie partner?
  • How can I help my NT child deal with his/her Aspie parent?
  • How can I find a measure of romance in my AS/NT relationship?
  • What are some ways to keep my sanity in a trying situation?
  • What specific rules of engagement will help my Aspie and I connect?
  • How can I help my Aspie to at least acknowledge my feelings?
  • How can I feel whole despite the craziness and loneliness?

Do any of these questions strike a cord with you? Perhaps they at least get you thinking about a topic that’s important to you. Please write your ideas down, so you don’t forget between now and the conference.

Let's gather to share our collective wisdom. I don't have all of the answers, but beneath the surface of our perplexing lives is a pattern. I believe this pattern is discoverable. These low cost conferences will be held on Thursday, July 6th at 9AM, Wednesday, July 12th at 2PM, and Thursday, July 27th at 4PM. The spots are filling up quickly, so, if you’re a member of our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup be sure to register very soon. (Not a member yet? If you are the neuro typical partner in a NT/AS relationship, request an invitation.)

If you prefer to consult with me one-on-one and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Otherwise, you might qualify for either online therapy or online education. Check out the services I provide and choose the one that’s the right fit for you.

Does Contempt Signal the End of a Marriage or Committed Relationship?

Monday, June 05, 2017


Does Contempt Signal the End of a Marriage or Committed Relationship Do you agree with John Gottman, Ph.D. and author of "Seven Principles that Make Marriage Work"? He tells us that once a couple has descended to the level of contempt for each other, the marriage is irretrievable. I don’t totally agree with his assessment, especially since I’ve been working with so many couples who are dealing with Asperger’s in their marriage or committed relationships.

Contempt is a very strong emotion – the feeling that a person is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn. Generally, one doesn’t get to that emotion over night. It usually takes a gradually erosion of respect. (Unless there has been one particularly horrific act that destroys all respect and love. Certainly when the love is gone it probably makes no sense to try anymore.) Yet, there are ways to reverse the erosion and rebuild your relationship.

As awful as is contempt, it actually comes fairly quickly in ASD/NT relationships. Why is that? My theory is that the Aspie doesn’t have empathy, so they may resort to saying pretty awful things to their partner, but contempt is not on their mind. NTs on the other hand take these unkind comments as contemptuous. Sometimes we build up resentment, too, and then our Aspies are puzzled by our anger. Such a crazy, painful, mixed up situation.

If you’re feeling contempt, or you believe your Aspie does, we need to talk. This is no way to live. Contempt, like passive-aggressive behavior is a counter-productive solution. We need ways to be open about our feelings, respectful of our differences, forgiving of others, and expecting forgiveness from our loved ones.

This last one is important isn't it? I sure would like forgiveness if I get frustrated with my Aspie loved ones, or really lose my cool and yell or withdraw. We’re only human and contemptuous comments are hurtful.

If you’re a member of the Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, I invite you to please join us for our free teleconference: Cleaning Up Contempt on Thursday, June 15th at 3:00 PM PT. Let’s get these feelings out in the open and figure out how our words and actions can help us cope.

Also, if you haven’t read my book, “Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)”, you can get your first chapter free by clicking here. This book has become an important resource for those who want to understand their Aspie partners better.

How Spirituality Can Help You Survive the Autism Disconnect

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Discover how to survive spiritually with an Aspergers partner who wants to know who you are…but just doesn't get your whole body-mind-spirit connection.Spirituality defines us and connects us with others. It’s an essential third element of the body/mind/spirit connection that makes us truly balanced. It involves a self-awareness and internal dialog that, over time, identifies who we are as individuals, where we fit into the world, why we’re here, what gives purposeful meaning to life. These are deeply introspective questions we all must struggle with at some point in our lives.

Spirit is that singular life force that directs and shapes our attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. At the best of times, a person may take a lifetime to come to grips with their spirituality. However, concepts such as these are difficult for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder to grasp.

The author of "Spirituality and the Autism Spectrum," Abe Isanon presents us with a dilemma when it comes to sharing our inner life with a loved one on the Autism Spectrum. He discusses how difficult it is for our Aspies to come to terms with their humanity and their spiritual nature, when they can neither reflect upon, nor express their own life experiences. (To get a glimpse into the Autistic mind, Mary Hynes, on CBC Radio Tapestry, delivers an interesting interview about spirituality with Temple Grandin and Anthony Easton who are both on the spectrum. It’s entitled: “Through a Different Lens: Autism and the Divine.”)

Because of this disconnect, Aspies lack insight and empathy into who we are, which can leave their caregivers and loved ones bereft. Just because someone in your family isn’t spiritual, doesn’t mean you can’t survive spiritually. In fact, we must never give up on love, faith and hope. It’s what keeps us going.

At our next free teleconference we’ll talk about how to survive spiritually with a partner who may want to know who we are. . .but they just don't get the whole picture. And the missing piece isn't small is it? One Aspie husband said of his wife, that she had dreams for her life, "But I don't have dreams; I am not sure what dreams really are."

If you’re a member of the Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, please join us for our free teleconference Aspergers and Spiritual Survival on Thursday, June 1, 2017 at 9:00 AM PT. The focus of this call will explore this difficult subject and how to survive the loss.

Also, if you haven’t read my book, “Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)”, you can get your first chapter free by clicking here. This book has become an important resource for those who want to understand their Aspie partners better.

Muffled Love – Why Aspie Love Is Different

Monday, May 08, 2017


I’ve often been criticized for saying Aspies lack empathy; perhaps another way to consider Aspie love is that it’s muffled – they feel but can’t express it.One morning I was trying to fathom how Aspies love. I’ve often been criticized that I’m wrong to say that those with ASD lack empathy. Perhaps another way to consider Aspie love is that it’s "muffled;" filtered through a system of fits and starts and blind alleys and occasionally smooth sailing.

Empathy is far more than a collection of sensitivities. For example, the human body is 90% water with some chemicals mixed in, but I doubt that anyone would think this concoction of water and chemicals constitutes a human being. The same is true of empathy. Empathy is much more than the sum of its parts. Empathy is a marvelous symphony of instruments, musicians, composer, conductor and audience. It’s an interaction that creates the thrill of the concert. Just the same with love; it’s the interaction that makes it the art of loving.

I suspect what is so confusing about an Aspie's love is that it’s not complete. They may feel love in their heart, but never express it to you. They may melt into tears when they see an animal in distress, but have no compassion for your suffering. They may bristle with defensiveness if criticized but feel no compunction when criticizing you. The occasional offering of love stalled by a moment of disconnect is not loving, is it?

I’ve known enough Aspies to realize that they do feel love, of a sort, but it isn’t the reciprocal love we expect and have with others. The love is there inside them but it’s hidden by those blind alleys, so we have to assume it’s there. How confusing.

If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, please join us as we discuss this topic during our next free teleconference entitled: Muffled Love. It will be on Thursday, May 18th at 3PM PT. If you’re a NT in an Aspie/NT relationship and haven’t joined yet, please feel free to do so. Not only will you learn a lot, but you’ll find a group of very supportive members who understand what you’re going through.

If you’d prefer a one-on-one with me to ask questions, please take advantage of my Asperger Syndrome Remote Education. It’s not therapy, but it will help you have a deeper understanding of how Autism impacts your life. Not sure what we can talk about? Reading a free chapter from my book, “Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)”, will give you a place to start. Click on the image below to download your complimentary copy.

Walk in the Shoes of Someone with Asperger’s Syndrome

Wednesday, May 03, 2017


Here are some resources – videos, articles, and more to help you understand what it’s like to live with Asperger’s Syndrome as you walk in their shoes.From time to time I come across information that helps my readers “put themselves in the shoes” of those with Asperger’s Syndrome. When you don’t have it, you can’t fully understand what they’re dealing with. This empathy is so vital. It makes it possible for you to help but also to regulate your own emotional responses toward your autistic friend or loved one.


So I was excited to find a wonderful resource recently in a New York Times article that features a video by Joris Debeij called Perfectly Normal: Autism Through a Lens. It shows what it’s like to be a high-functioning autistic man. Jordan is able to drive a car, hold a job, and have a stable relationship with his girl friend, Toni. Yet it’s easy for him to become overwhelmed as he balances reality with his imaginary world.

At the 6:45 minute mark of the documentary, it swirls into a chaotic experience of sound and visual imagery that lets you experience the sensory overload that people with autism experience. After you see it, you’re going to understand why they choose to be off by themselves in their own world.

Toward the end, Jordan does make a profound observation: Because he feels that no one is completely normal, he says it’s important to see everyone as a person with a disability, not as a disabled person.

The author of this excellent piece, Eli Gottlieb, has a brother who is severely autistic and has been institutionalized most of his life. He describes his experience here. There is also an Autism Speaks YouTube video on their story - click here to view it. Your heart will go out to them as they reveal the struggle their family has gone through to come to terms with living with Autism


Perhaps you see similarities to your own experience. If you suspect someone you care for has Asperger’s, a high-functioning form of 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.

More Asperger’s Syndrome resources: Many people view my newsletter, books, Meetup Group, and Remote Education as lifesaving resources. It’s so important for you to know that you’re not alone. If you’re new to my website, please click on the image below to download a free chapter from my book, "Out of Mind - Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)". It helps you see the science behind ASD.

Criticism – Why This is a Big Issue for Those With Asperger’s

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Since people with Aspergers Syndrome are sensitive to receiving criticism, yet they’re very good at giving it, you and your family need to learn how to copeHave you noticed that those with Asperger’s Syndrome are very sensitive to receiving criticism? Often they hear criticism where none is implied. AS men in particular interpret a difference of opinion or a different perspective as a criticism of whom they are as a person. And they hear criticism of a family member as a criticism of themselves, so they may respond by refusing to communicate or end up lashing out in a very hurtful manner.

Doesn’t it boggle your mind that you’re accused of criticizing when all you do is ask one little question? Why does this happen? Questions and the criticism come from very different perspectives. While we ask questions to clarify and to open up discussions, the Aspie takes a different tack. Aspies rarely ask questions for clarification because that would require a Theory of Mind. Instead, their focus is to answer (or ignore) our questions as they attempt to close down the discussion and focus on a black and white solution. They rarely pick up that we’re trying to work toward collaboration. Thus our questions are confusing to them and bring the accusations that we’re criticizing them.

Ironically, while those with Asperger’s Syndrome are hypersensitive to receiving criticism, they are unaware that they often give criticism. This can be very exasperating and can even break your spirit if you’re constantly on the receiving end this abusive behavior.

Are you exasperated and with all of the criticism leveled at you by your Aspie? On Wednesday May 3rd we’re going to address this problem during our free teleconference entitled: What's with all the criticism? It will help you finally understand this convoluted interchange and develop strategies to deal with it. You’ll learn how to keep your sanity despite this double talk. And more importantly you’ll discover how to avoid the blame associated with collaborative efforts.

If you’re not a member of the Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, be assured it’s a safe place for you – the neurotypical partner to someone with ASD. Why not join us today?

Also, if you haven’t read my book, “Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)”, you can get your first chapter free by clicking here. This book has become the go-to resource for many men and women who want to understand their Aspie partners better.

3 Tools to Help Psychotherapists Understand the Impact Asperger’s Has on the Whole Family

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


If you’ve tried psychotherapy for your ASD/NT relationship and it didn’t work, don’t despair, because with further education and the right approach it can.It was a relief to Mandy (not a real person, but her story illustrates the life many of you live) to have finally found the reason for her husband’s puzzling and hurtful behavior during their 23 years of marriage. She knew he loved her in his own way, and he didn’t intentionally want to distress her. He just didn’t seem to know how to show love like he ought to. His diagnosis of a high functioning form of ASD, called Asperger’s Syndrome, explained a lot.

But over the last year, she’s discovered that there is a big gap between understanding why he does something and finding ways to cope with it. She and Brian had tried couples counseling. And while she and the therapist quickly connected, Brian sat there staring out the window.

Mandy had found a very good therapist, (I wasn’t so lucky when I was searching for help with my daughter!) but the therapist hasn’t specialized in how ASD impacts a marriage, family dynamics or parenting children. Psychotherapy that works for neuro-typicals doesn’t work for those who have the mind blindness of Asperger’s. While there are many caring, intelligent, trustworthy psychologists and social workers who want to help, they need education. And often for families with ASD as part of the mix, it rests on you to educate your therapist.

Remember you’re forming a working partnership with your therapist. You’re on the same side, so don’t feel intimidated. When you keep your appointment with your therapist, provide him or her with the following tools:

First, be brave and don't let them talk you out of what you know to be true about your relationship.

Secondly, encourage them to read books on Asperger/Neuro-Typical Relationships. I have two books on this topic, plus there are others available. A good therapist is open to learning more. They want to expand their consciousness; so help them do that.

Third, suggest they get consultation from an expert. Invite them to join my new Meetup group, Asperger Syndrome: Continuing Education for Psychotherapists.

Aspies can benefit from psychotherapy. However, they need coaching more than therapy because of their lack of empathy, theory of mind and insight. But there are ways to get our Aspies on board for therapy! We’ll be talking about the how to do it at our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD video conference. It’s entitled: “Why psychotherapy doesn't work and what to do about it”. It will be held on Thursday, March 9th at 9:00 AM. There are only limited spaces on this call, so register your spot soon.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and you need some 1-on-1 with me to discuss your situation privately, please feel free to contact my office and we’ll schedule an appointment to discuss ways to improve your situation.


Autism or Narcissism – How Can You Tell?

Wednesday, February 01, 2017


Autism or Narcissism – How Can You Tell?Autism and Narcissism have something in common. They are both empathy disorders, the result of the individual not having a Theory of Mind. What this means is that they don’t recognize that another person has beliefs, desires, intentions, feelings and perspectives that differ from their own. Empathy is a complex system that requires the brain to connect Emotional Empathy and Cognitive Empathy.

Since Narcissism and Autism display similar traits, how can you tell the difference between Narcissism and Asperger’s?


  • First, Autism is a diagnosis and narcissism is only a trait of many disorders. 
  • Second, not all Autistics are the same since it is a spectrum disorder. 
  • Third, all Autistics are narcissistic since a defining characteristic of Autism is lack of empathy.

It’s important to know that it isn't narcissism per se that defines the Autistic. It is how the Autistic works with their tendency toward narcissism, self-absorption and lack of empathy. If the Autistic takes responsibility for their narcissism and truly wants to repair the rifts that their unempathic behavior creates, then there’s hope for the relationship.

On the other hand, if the Autistic believes that their singular narcissistic worldview is all that matters, then it’s probably irrelevant that they’re diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). This person tips toward narcissism and that's how they need to be treated.

If you’ve wasted too much of your precious life trying to accommodate an ASD narcissist, whether it’s a family member, coworker or neighbor, then I invite you to join our Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup. We have monthly discussions that will help you deal with this crazy making life.


Our next free international teleconference: How is Autism different than Narcissim? will be held on Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 2:30 PM. You’ll find out how to distinguish whether it’s narcissism or Autism that you’re dealing with. That makes all the difference in how you’ll respond.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and you need some 1-on-1 with me to discuss your situation privately, please feel free to contact my office and we’ll schedule an appointment to discuss ways to improve your situation.



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