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Kathy Marshack News

Coping With Asperger Eccentric Mannerisms and Behavior

Friday, April 11, 2014


Asperger Syndrome MeetupPeople with Asperger’s Syndrome often develop mannerisms and behaviors that can be very distracting and even annoying to Neuro-Typical family members. There are a number of reasons why they display this behavior. One reason is that their senses are overly stimulated. Another reason is that these Asperger mannerisms are a way of creating order in their disrupted world.

For example, their over-sensitivity to touch may make them picky about what clothes they wear – it needs to be soft with the tags removed. They don’t like strong smells, bright lights, loud noises, and most foods. Aspies rigidly crave routine so any variations in their schedule upset them. The same plate has to be used for dinner, objects must be lined up in a repetitive manner, certain items must never be moved, and the list of Asperger eccentricities goes on and on.

What’s up with these eccentricities? Why does one person eat an orange by peeling the membrane off of each segment and then eats one kernel at a time? Why does another collect lint and roll it into a ball to keep in a jar? And still others hoard everything that comes into the house? Nothing can be thrown away, even shoes that are holey and beyond the point of wearing.

What can family members do to deal with these Asperger mannerisms so that it doesn’t drive you crazy? You can find ways to accept these eccentricities if you understand the reason behind this Asperger behavior. Sharing information about “What’s Up with these Aspie Eccentricities” is the topic for our next Portland, Oregon Meetup on Saturday, April 19, 2014.

The same topic will be discussed on our Teleconference Meetup – Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with AS on Friday, April 25, 2014. If you are a Neuro-Typical family member who needs someone to talk with that truly understands what you’re going through, please join us in this discussion. We’re here to support you. These calls are uniting our members from around the world from Canada, New Zealand, India, South Africa, Great Britain, South America and more!

For greater understanding of your relationship with your Asperger’s Syndrome family member, check out my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD). It picks up where my first book, Going Over the Edge? left off and goes into more depth about the science behind Asperger’s.

Is There “Shame” in being Married to Someone with Asperger’s?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Asperger Syndrome Parnters and Family of Adults with ASDLet me say this right up front…No, I don’t think it’s shameful to acknowledge that your spouse suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, a highly functioning form of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Nor is it shameful that your spouse has Asperger’s. But, the shame associated with living with Aspies can be extreme for some.

There’s such a stigma against being “labeled” Asperger or Autistic, that Aspies may fear losing their standing in the community or their business relationships, so they don’t want anyone to know of the diagnosis, if indeed they consent to being diagnosed at all. This puts pressure on the Neuro-typical family members to hide what their lives are really like. In fact, Neuro-typicals are terrified to come out of the closet and talk about their lives.

NT family members work so hard to please the person on the spectrum that they aren’t able to live their authentic selves. The Aspie thinks everything is fine and normal, but you can see your friends having loving relationships and you know that’s not what you have. Yet, you may start doubting yourself, thinking that maybe it is your fault, blaming yourself that you’re unlovable and unreasonable in your expectations. The pressure of keeping it secret and not having anyone who understands to talk to can make you question your own sanity.

This situation is so similar to the cycle of abuse. The victim is terrified to confront the abuser. They fear retaliation. But even worse, they fear that they are wrong about the abuse . . . and the abuser.

Sadly the nature of living in these relationships is that they cause confusion and defensiveness and shame. If we are to restore our lives to sanity, we need to be honest about our feelings and our situation. This doesn't mean blame and it doesn't mean shame. It means facing the problem squarely and developing a solution that works.

If you are a member of our Meetup group, Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Families of Adults with ASD, please join us for “The Skeleton in the Closet”. We’ll be discussing questions such as…why are we afraid to discuss our feelings or complain about our Aspie family members…and why are we afraid to admit we have failed in our relationships? Our Local Meetup will be on March 15th at 1:00pm PST.

The International Teleconference will be on March 28th at 2:30pm PST. Our first Teleconference was greeted with heartfelt thanks. One member wrote, “It is a small world when we all share the same difficulties, whether we're in London or LA. I think the teleconference was fantastic and absolutely historic. Look forward to talking to you all again in March!”

To be a member of Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Families of Adults with ASD Meetup you must be a Neuro-typical family member who loves and cares for an adult with Asperger Syndrome because we meet to openly discuss issues and concerns without hindrance of saving someone’s feelings. After joining the group you will receive an email with all the details. Join me on Facebook and let me know your thoughts on this.

More than 35 States Have Enacted Autism Insurance Reform Laws – Has Yours?

Monday, February 24, 2014


enacted autism insurance reform lawsThis month, Mississippi joins the line up of progressive states that are recognizing the need for enacting autism insurance reform laws as reported on by Emily LeCoz of the ClarionLedger. Their House of Representatives passed it 120-0. As a mental health care provider in Oregon and Washington it’s of interest that Oregon became the 34th state to enact insurance mandated laws. However, Washington at the time of this writing has not yet done so.

The cost of treatment for Autism is a huge financial burden for families. The Harvard School of Public Health estimates conservatively that the dollar cost of an autism diagnosis is more than $17,000 a year through age 17. Medical costs make up less than 20% of that amount.

Are the benefits of these laws being rolled over into the Obama Affordable Care Act?

The rules passed by individual states do not automatically extend to new health insurance Marketplaces. Each state must specifically require it. The Affordable Care Act says that all insurance plans within state Marketplaces must cover 10 essential benefits, including “behavioral health treatment” and “rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices.” However, the Department of Health and Human Services declined to specify treatment of autism as an essential health benefit and is leaving it up to each state to decide.

Many insurance companies in the past have refused to cover behavioral therapy because they consider it experimental or educational. This short-term thinking is failing to take into consideration the fact that early behavioral intervention is essential in a child’s life to make the greatest difference in the health and quality of life as an adult. Rather than treating symptoms, it teaches skills that help children with autism to cope and flourish.

According to a report by The PEW Charitable Trusts, “…Only 24 States and D.C. have applied the same requirements to policies that will be sold on their insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.”

To learn more about your state, check out Autism Speaks State Initiatives. They provide a clickable map plus a list of states so you can see where your state stands on this issue at present. They also list whom you can contact if you wish to show your support.

I’m passionate about providing education that will lead to the betterment of lives. Recently I’ve made myself available for providing Remote Education so many more people can be reached with this important information. Please, check out my Remote Education on Asperger Relationships to learn more about this service.

Spice Up Romance with your Asperger Partner this Valentine’s Day

Tuesday, February 04, 2014


spice up romance with your asperger partner this Valentine's DayAre you looking forward to Valentine’s Day this year? For many, it brings to mind sweet, romantic gestures. But for someone who has a partner with Asperger Syndrome, you may actually be dreading the day knowing your feelings are going to be hurt.

That’s because Aspies’ – a term coined and freely used by many with Asperger Syndrome – brains are wired in a way that skirts the ability to know, feel or demonstrate empathy and love.

Empathy is about reciprocal connecting; the ability to step into another’s shoes. The non-Aspie is wired to achieve a mutually satisfying solution. Aspies are not, and they can’t read their partner’s signals, or as I like to say, they have mind-blindness. Therein lies the rub. Aspies are unable to comprehend the meaning of the traditional gestures of love and romance. They don’t set out to hurt their love by withholding a Valentine, candy or flowers.

What are some things you can do to smooth the way to romance?

1. Non-Aspie partners – do not take your Aspie partner’s actions (or lack of actions) as a slight or personal affront, and your life will be sweeter.

Aspies simply don’t ‘get’ why a show of affection is important to their non-Aspie, or neurotypical, partner. They’re out of sync. Expressing love escapes Aspies, because empathizing is foreign to them. 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 list that tells the Aspie what to do and when -- never mind the “why.”

Aspies need to learn ways to engage with their neurotypical spouse. 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.

The Asperger Romance rules might include:

  • Kiss spouse goodbye each morning
  • Call spouse at lunchtime each day
  • Buy “For My Wife” card and flowers for Feb. 14
  • Hold spouse’s hand and say, “Thank you,” when receiving a gift or card from him/her.

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 build more romance into your ASP/NT marriage so that everyone feels loved, therapy is available. Please, contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office and set up an appointment.

If you haven’t done so yet, grab your free chapter from each of my Asperger Relationship books:

Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome,”

and

“Going Over the Edge? Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome.”

Is It Codependency if You’re just Trying to Survive your Autism Spectrum Relationship?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


meetup is it codependency if you're just trying to survive your autism spectrum relationshipWhen we love someone, we like to do nice things for that person even if it means sacrificing something that we want at times. But the operative words to indicate a healthy relationship are “at times”. There’s a balance of give and take. If on the other hand, you find that you are doing it all of the time, then you’re dealing with codependency.

Codependence is defined as “a state of mind where you put your needs and dreams aside in order to help the other person have a life. In a codependent relationship, no matter how much you give, the other person does not return the favor. Yet you keep on giving and getting more fatigued, frustrated and resentful.”

You make a lot of sacrifices for your family member who is on the Autism Spectrum. You become an expert at reading labels so your pantry is gluten free. You relearn how to cook and bake your family favorites with gluten free flours. You snip all of the labels from your AS husband's shirts. You pay for a laundry delivery service because your AS wife can’t handle it. You soundproof the "den" so your Aspie preteen can scream. You graciously sidestep every confrontation. You drink an extra glass of wine to calm your nerves.

At what point is it codependency? Is it really codependency if you are just trying to survive?

More to the point is the question: Who is there for you? If you are always giving and never getting what you need, you will eventually experience burnout. You need to explore self-care. See that your needs are met. Since your AS spouse or child loves you but has no idea how you tick, it’s important to make your beliefs and needs known in concrete ways.

This ongoing issue of dancing around the needs of your family members on the Autism Spectrum will be discussed at our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Families of Adults with ASD Meetup, “Is It Codependency if You’re just Trying to Survive?” Make plans now to join us on Saturday, February 15, 2014.

Learn more about Asperger Syndrome and Relationships on my website.

The Hot Buttons of an Asperger/NT Marriage – Sex, Socializing, and Parenting

Friday, January 24, 2014


Sex Socializing and Parenting are three problems that can challenge a marriage between an Asperger and non-Asperger marriageIt would be nice if marriage was easy, but it’s not. Even with a lot of work, commitment and love, marriages will have ups and downs. If you are married to someone who has Asperger’s Syndrome, you especially face challenges that most people can’t even imagine.

Because of the lack of empathy in your Aspie partner, you will often feel misunderstood and unloved, and this may cause you to think that your marriage cannot survive, let alone thrive. So I wanted to share with an article by columnist, Regina Boyle Wheeler that I really appreciated. She centered on the hope-filled message that you CAN DEVELOP SKILLS THAT WORK in your NT/ASD relationship.

In writing this article, she sought my advice since I’ve written books on the topic of marriage and Asperger’s Syndrome; Going Over the Edge? And Out of Mind – Out of Sight. I was able to share with her insight into three specific areas of life that are critical for a marriage to go beyond merely surviving to actually thriving: Sex, Socializing, and Parenting.

Sex becomes a problem for two reasons. Generally we desire physical contact, yet those with Asperger’s Syndrome may have difficulty with being hugged, kissed or caressed. Shyness can cause a Neuro-Typical partner to be unable to speak about what is pleasurable sexually - you just want your partner to intuitively know what you want. However, those with Asperger’s can’t read your signals. It can quickly kill the mood when you have to talk your way through sex, saying what you like or don’t like.

Socializing becomes a minefield of potentially embarrassing situations. The NT partner is always on the alert to head off potentially embarrassing social blunders or topics, so the social event quickly become an exhausting and stress-filled occasion. Rather than endure this, some choose to avoid social settings, or they turn to misusing alcohol or pharmaceuticals to “cope” so it doesn’t matter so much. Either option is destructive for the individual and the marriage.

Parenting becomes a battle of conflicting views even though both parents love the child. It can tear your heart to pieces when your Asperger mate fails to recognize when your child needs comfort, reassurance, praise, or even loving correction.

There are ways that you can learn to cope and thrive as an individual and in your marriage. A mental health professional who has specialized training in Asperger Syndrome can help you develop the skills you need. Life is too short to be merely enduring a relationship, especially when you can learn skills that will turn things around for your family. Please contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office and make an appointment today to find out what they are.

Read more about Therapy for Marriages Impacted by Asperger Syndrome on my website.

Use Intuition when Co-Parenting with an ASD Partner

Thursday, January 23, 2014


parenting with a partner with asperger's syndrome asdParenting is a tough assignment under ordinary circumstances, but when Autism Spectrum Disorder or Aspergers Syndrome enters the picture, especially when one of the parenting partners has it, parenting becomes much more difficult.

For the ASD parent so many of the interactions within the family circle that require empathy to see, are literally out of mind – out of sight. He or she doesn’t fully understand the partner or the children. This leaves the Neuro-Typical (NT) partner feeling desperately alone, because the ASD spouse, the one person you should be able to confide in, can’t read your mind or fathom your feelings. Even worse is the disappointment that comes when you reach out to friends and professionals who do not comprehend the ongoing traumatic relationship disorder that is the center of your life.

When you’re dealing with the challenge of being an ASD/NT couple, it’s important to think about how you interact in marriage because it greatly influences your child’s well-being. Although it can be difficult, it’s essential to find ways to communicate as best you can. Intuition can go a long way toward helping NTs comprehend the AS environment in which you live and love. Couple that with increasing your knowledge of Asperger Sydrome and you’ll be empowered to thrive within your ASD/NT family.

Oren Shtayermman, Ph.D., M.S.W. Department of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences and NYIT School of Health Professions says it so well in the introduction to my book: “Dr. Marshack makes a huge contribution in her new book: She urges the NTs among us to meet our Aspies in the context of their lives instead of trying to change them. Many of us do not always Stop, Think and Reflect on what it may feel like to be on the “other side.” Yet the way we interpret the context of a situation impacts the way we respond to events in our environment, our live.”

To illustrate this point about intuition, one of the vignettes I share in my book is about a teenage boy. His mother wants him to clean his bathroom. She knows he loves his laptop so she withholds it until he finishes his chore. She hopes he will connect that she cares about the bathroom’s cleanliness as much as he cares about his laptop. What parent hasn’t used that approach? But it doesn’t work with someone with ASD. Yes, this boy sees the need to clean the bathroom and the need to get his laptop back, but he doesn’t see how they are connected or why he should act. Because he lacks empathy, he isn’t motivated by his mom’s displeasure. The solution came when I approached the situation with intuition and I gave him a clear call to action. You can read the whole account when you download the free chapter of Out of Mind – Out of Sight here.

Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) is the NT/ASD parenting manual you’ve been waiting for. It’s available in paperback and as a Kindle edition.

Married to Someone with Asperger’s? You Are Not Alone

Tuesday, January 07, 2014


You Are Not AloneMuch has been learned about Asperger’s Syndrome since Viennese pediatrician Hans Asperger first described it in the early 1940’s. As more becomes known of this Autism Spectrum Disorder, those who live with it will be treated with more dignity and respect. More programs will be created so they can function in the world they have trouble relating to.

On the other hand, not enough is said about people who feel alone because a family member has Asperger’s Syndrome. That’s why I wrote my book, “Out of Mind – Out of Sight, Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome.” I know the emotional pain you’re going through. And I have a comforting message for you – “YOU ARE NOT ALONE”.

I was thrilled that the Kirkus Indie Review of my book focused on that message. Let me share the review with you.

It calls Out of Mind – Out of Sight “A useful and enlightening guidebook offering new insights and practical advice for dealing effectively with a spouse or child diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.” It goes on to say…

“In Part 1, she discusses common behaviors of people suffering from Asperger’s and of “neurotypical” family members who are not impaired but trying to cope. She offers a poignant account of her own bewildering experience raising her eldest daughter, whose Asperger’s presented itself well before the diagnosis was generally understood by the medical community. Readers will empathize with the author’s “helicopter mom” behavior with her socially impaired child and will feel her pain as she’s ultimately forced to let her daughter go.

In Part 2, Marshack reveals the condition as essentially an empathy disorder and discusses the works of experts such as Simon Baron-Cohen (who studied neuroscience and empathy disorders), Adam Smith (who advanced the Empathy Imbalance Hypothesis) and Peter Vermuelen (who examined the concept of “context blindness”). She also introduces the idea of “Rules of Engagement,” which sufferers can use as a way to relate to people without feeling true empathy.

Parts 3 and 4 offer additional insights into the lives of neurotypicals, who often feel invisible and ignored, and elaborate on coping strategies introduced in earlier chapters. The author mercifully keeps the clinical jargon to a minimum, and the prose is cogent and well-organized throughout. At the end, she provides links to online support groups, websites, phone numbers and other helpful resources. Her personal accounts of her family life and clinical practice should resonate with readers seeking to understand Asperger’s and may help to assure them that they are not alone.”

Please, if you have Aspie family members, know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I’m here to support you and give you the benefit of my years of experience so you can cope and thrive in your family. If you know someone who would benefit from this information, please share it with them, so they too can receive this comforting message. You can read more about my book, “Out of Mind – Out of Sight’ here.

Out of Mind – Out of Sight is available at Amazon.com in a paperback or Kindle edition edition. Check it out today and begin the healing process.

Does What You Read Affect Your Social Skills?

Thursday, October 24, 2013


reading literary fiction is good for your social skillsDo you enjoy reading? Many families like to read together as a way of connecting and spending time with each other. That helps the social skills within the family. Did you know that reading can improve how you interact with others in general? According to a recent study, the benefits depend on what kind of literature you chose to read. It found that social skills are improved by reading literary fiction.

Why does literary fiction work this way? Unlike popular fiction that focuses on the plot, literary fiction explores complex personalities and relationships that cause the reader to put him or herself into that person’s shoes and to think, “What would I do in this situation?”

The New York Times recently spoke about this study in their article, For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov. They reported, “Reading literary fiction enables people to do better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence.” One of the tests asked the participants to see if they could accurately “read” the expression in the eyes of the people in the photographs. Those who read literary fiction first scored better than the groups who didn’t read anything or who read popular fiction.

The researchers say, “The reason is that literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity.” This promotes more empathy. When we are better able to read body language, then our social skills improve.

Could this help someone on the spectrum? Perhaps. Those with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome don’t always respond appropriately in social situations. However, it has been proven that parents can train their children on the spectrum to recognize emotions in pictures and then in people’s faces so they learn how to respond to someone when they see that same expression in real life situations.

There are inseparable connections and complicated interactions that take place between the mind, body and our environment that impact the kind of people we are. If you would like to improve your social skills, therapy can help. Make an appointment in either my Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington office.

Read more about the connection between your mind and body on my website – Mind and Body Health.

What People Are Already Saying About My New Book “Out of Mind – Out of Sight"

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Out of Mind Out of Sight Since I first published on the subject of Asperger Syndrome in 2009, there have been many exciting discoveries. This is especially true in the areas of genetics and neuroscience and how they interact with psychology and social learning. I use these discoveries to help make sense of the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of the parents and children described in my new book, Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD): Out of Mind – Out of Sight. Knowledge is power. The more you know about Asperger Syndrome, the better able you are to parent, coparent, co-exist and even thrive within your AS/NT family.

I’ve received numerous comments from people anticipating this book. I ’d like to share a few of them with you. Out of respect, I’ve withheld their names to maintain their privacy.

“I was wondering when the book Parenting with a Spouse or Partner with Asperger Syndrome: Out of Mind –Out of Sight was going to become available to purchase? I have read the sample chapter, and I need more. It is brilliant, just like the other book Going Over the Edge? - A sanity saver. I am desperate to get my hands on it as soon as it is available.”

“Thank you so much for your books. I ordered Going Over the Edge? today and am eager to get the book on parenting with an AS spouse, Out of Mind – Out of Sight. My husband is a wonderful man, but after we had children his mood deteriorated rapidly. It has been hard on all of us. Since I realized that the reason is AS, my reality has been altered in a way I have had trouble articulating. Your book did it immediately. It gave words to my life, and I am profoundly grateful to feel understood. I have a relief valve, at least for now.”

“What is your update on release timing for the book Out of Mind – Out of Sight about AS parents? I’m looking forward to reading more. It helps me think through and prioritize my issues as I go through custody battle issues – what will be a big deal, and what won’t be.”

“I just learned of your new book about parenting when your partner is on the autism spectrum. Thank you for writing on this subject. My wife and I are on the spectrum as are our children, and we are rare in our ability to work collaboratively. I train parents in how to more effectively collaborate and raise their children on the spectrum. I’m repeatedly asked if there is any books on the very subject you’ve written on, and yours is the first I’ve heard about. I’ll gladly let my clients know about it. Thanks for writing this book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight.”

Out of Mind – Out of Sight is now available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle edition.


You can download your free chapter of Out of Mind – Out of Sight here to get started reading it today.




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