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Kathy Marshack News

Asperger Syndrome Parenting and Middle Childhood

Friday, February 03, 2012


Think back to when you were 6 or 7 years old. You may not have realized it at the time, but your body was undergoing a profound hormonal change. Scientists refer this time period as the Theory of the Mind. The brain is reaching its adult size while tens of billions of synapses connections are being made. Loads of information is being "downloaded" and organized. Impulses are being controlled, plans for the future are being made as well as intense reasoning ability.

Children at this age also beginning to comprehend deep subjects such as death, justice, social rules, and relationships. In the area of relationships, children in middle childhood start to learn the value of love reciprocity. The selfishness that a toddler once displayed with no longer work. In order to get love and attention from parents, you must give in order to receive. What a valuable lesson to learn at such a young age.

Stop to consider what middle childhood would be like with an Asperger parent(s). Asperger Syndrome is a high functioning form of autism. They have trouble reading non verbal cues, lack empathy, and struggle with communication. Imagine what it would be like to not learn loving reciprocity because of the AS parent’s mind blindness. When that child begins to reach out for love and attention they are often rejected, even if it’s unwittingly. The results of this can have a damaging effect on the child.

In many cases, a child who is raised with an Asperger parent marries someone with Asperger's. This is because your childhood modeled your ideals of marriage. The question then becomes, can you change the pattern after all of these years? Can you learn to allow true love into your life even if you learned that love is one sided?

The answers to those questions will be discussed at the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adult with ASD Support Group Meetup on February 18, 2012 in Portland, Oregon. If you do not live in the local area, please become a member of our online community and join in on our discussion groups. I would also encourage one-on-one therapy with a therapist specialized in Asperger relationships. Contact my office for more information.

If you would to learn more about middle childhood, I recommend the New York Times article - Now We Are Six - The Hormone Surge of Middle Childhood.

A Word of Encouragement to Neuro-Typical's With Aspie Partners

Saturday, December 17, 2011


When Asperger Syndrome is part of a couple’s relationship the challenges easily mount. The neurotypical (NT) partner often ends up feeling misunderstood, frustrated, isolated and unloved. These negative emotions can create a perfect recipe for guilt. Which is why it’s critical that NTs erase the guilt!

The reason I say this is because many NTs that I’ve worked with report feelings of guilt. Guilt can come in different forms. Some say they have an excruciatingly difficult time staying or leaving their Aspie partner. Even more amazingly, many NTs report that years after their divorce, they are still grieving even though they don't really miss their former partner . . . exactly. What is this about? Behind unremitting grief is often guilt regarding the unresolved marital problems.

You must learn to give yourself the gift of forgiveness and acceptance. If you learn anything from the experts around the world, they all agree that living and loving a partner with Asperger Syndrome is extremely challenging and often times exhausting. At times the NT partner becomes so distraught that they engage in all kinds of irrational behavior. Instead of guilt or any other negative emotion, give yourself the gift of love, forgiveness, and acceptance and possibly even a huge Badge of Courage.

What are some practical ways to do this? Join a support group, spend some quality time with a friend, exercise, or do whatever you like to do to recharge. Just do me a favor, try it! I guarantee that you will feel much better. For more information about how to cope with an Aspie partner, download a free sample chapter of my book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge?

Research Study to Find Connection Between ASD and Birth Defects

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I recently received a message through the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup page from Marni Pasch, Executive Assistant of Birth Defects Research for Children Inc. After reading the message, I felt inclined to write about the effort that is being made to find out if there is a connection between Autism Spectrum Disorders and congenital defects.

Birth Defects Research for Children has sponsored the National Birth Defect Registry which is a program designed to look for connections between prenatal factors and birth defects both structural and functional. A study about ASD was released in 2009. Because of interesting trends in the study, BDRC plans to revisit the previous findings in 2012.

Here are some of the interesting findings taken directly from the 2009 BDRC Report:

• Over 60% of registry cases with ASDs also had structural birth defects. These were primarily Central Nervous System of Craniofacial Defects.
• Seven cases of ASDs reported chromosomal disorders. There were also two cases of Goldenhar Syndrome – Goldenhar Syndrome has been previously linked with Autism.
• 40% of ASD cases reported were associated developmental problems but not structural birth defects.
• 21 families who reported one child with an ASD had other children with birth defects. Seven families had two children with ASD (including one set of twins).
• In 12 cases, one parent served in the first Gulf War. In 13 cases, one parent was a Vietnam veteran.

Click here to read the entire study.

Only 137 cases were used in the 2009 research. With the upcoming study, researchers are looking for more participants. If you are a parent with an ASD child, I encourage you to investigate this research. The more case studies there are, the closer we may be to discovering meaningful research. Visit www.birthdefects.org for more information and to learn how you can participate.

Summer Program for Teens with Learning Disabilities

Thursday, December 08, 2011


To parents with high school students who have Asperger's, High-Functioning Autism, PDD-NOS, ADD, NLD, Dyslexia, and other learning differences, College Internship Program (CIP) has an exciting offer for you. CIP is offering a program to help your teen transition from high school to college with a 2012 summer program.

Making that transition for a teen with learning disabilities can be incredibly challenging. To assist with this challenge, CIP has specifically designed this program. The curriculum includes:


• Roommate Rules: Written and Unwritten
• Navigating a college campus
• Social dining, chit chat and eating rules
• Self-advocacy and disclosure
• Self-initiation
• Making plans with friends and planning leisure activities
• College 101

• Dealing with being away from home

In addition to the above, every day will begin with using ice breakers, idioms, and a discussion of expected versus unexpected behaviors. Six different dates and locations are being offered. This is a wonderful opportunity. I highly recommend looking into it for your teen. They are now accepting applications. Click here for more information.

Parents - How to Teach Your Asperger Child Social Skills

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I like to remind parents with Asperger children, you are the most valuable instructor your child has. Granted, teachers and therapists play a vital role in assisting your child, but as a parent, your relationship with your child is unique. For one thing, your child loves you which also means they trust you. You also spend the most amount of time with them. You may feel that you are inadequate as an instructor, but that is not the case. You do not have to be a professional to assist your child to develop and grow.

Asperger Syndrome (AS) is usually demonstrated by deficits in communication, social skills and reciprocity of feelings. The Aspie knows what they think and feel but are often unaware of what their loved ones think or feel. Therefore, one of the most important areas a parent should work on is to helping their child to develop socials skills.

Here are a few easy ideas to help develop stronger social skills in Aspie children:

Practice eye contact. Teach your child why they should make eye contact. Then practice. When you and your child are speaking, make sure they are looking you in the eye. If they become more comfortable making eye contact at home, they will be more likely to try it with others.

Use pictures. Reading emotions in others can be very difficult for Aspies. One of my favorite tips in this regard is to use pictures to help your child identify different emotions. Have a picture of someone who is angry, sad, afraid, happy etc. Once they have mastered how to identify these emotions, you can then progress to teaching them how to respond to when they see someone with that expression.

Role play. Think of different socials situations your child may be in. Role play with them those situations. Practice with them what they should say and how they should act. It is important for them to repeat the words and the actions. It will make a deeper impression on them.

Encourage observation. When you are in a situation with other children, encourage your child to look around to see what the other children are doing. Then tell them what you see and what is good about the observed action. The goal is to help them to imitate that good behavior.

Positive reinforcement. Look for the good behavior and good qualities that they are exhibiting and be quick to commend them. When giving commendation, be specific. Explain what they did that you liked and why you liked it. Click here for more information about the benefits of positive reinforcement.

Parents, take the time to help your child develop the necessary social skills. If you need assistance or more advice in this area, seek out a therapist who specializes in Asperger Syndrome. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, contact my office to set up an appointment.

Click here to read Asperger Syndrome Frequently Asked Questions.

Divorce and Asperger Syndrome

Monday, August 08, 2011


Sadly, divorce is common in Asperger marriages. It has been described that being in a marriage with someone with Asperger Syndrome (AS) is like walking on eggshells. What does that mean? For example, men with undiagnosed AS often feel as if their spouse is being ungrateful when she complains he is uncaring or never listens to her. He knows what he thinks and how he feels, so should she. He has no motive to understand her interior world so her complaints are bothersome to him. He can come to be quite defensive when she asks for clarification or a little sympathy because he knows that he has good intentions so he resents the pressure. The defensiveness can turn into verbal abuse (and sometimes physical abuse) as the husband attempts to control the communication to suit his view of the world.

So, what can you expect if you divorce an Asperger man? Unfortunately he will probably not understand why the woman wants a divorce and he is likely to be quite angry about it. Not knowing how to handle his distress he may turn the energy into revenge. It is believed that many high conflict divorces are the result of the negativity and obsessing of the AS partner regarding the wrongdoing he perceives of his NT spouse. It is likely to be a long, painful and expensive divorce where all suffer, including the children. Some Aspies however, just leave quietly and never remarry because they cannot quite figure out how to rebuild a life separately from their former spouse. Some NT former wives report that their former husband even still refers to her as his “wife” years after the divorce.

If you are struggling in your Asperger marriage, seeking counseling. Click here for my therapy recommendations for this type of situation. With husband and wife working hard, the marriage may be salvageable. I also recommend reading Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge? This book specifically addresses the touchy issues of sex, rage, divorce and shame and gives a glimpse of the “inner workings” of these relationships. It offers new ways to look at the situations presented, as well as tips on how to handle similar situations in one’s own life. Click here to download a FREE sample chapter.

How to Pick a Therapist for Your Child

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


Most parents would love to create an ideal world for their child to live in. But the reality is that more and more children are in need of mental health care. There are many reasons why a child might need therapy – divorce, abuse, loss of a loved one, learning disabilities, bullying just to name a few.

When a parent recognizes that their child needs help, the parent has two options. Sweep it under the rug like it doesn't exist or take action. The correct choice is option two. Many parents choose option one and live in denial which will only lead to more problems in the future. Because these issues will reappear – often later in life when it’s not only more difficult to address but more damage has been done. If your child needs help you may need to relinquish control and accept some professional help!

If you do decide to seek professional help for your child, then the next step is to find the right therapist for your child. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when making that choice:

- Gather information. Take note of why you feel like your child needs help. What are his/her symptoms? How long have these symptoms been in existence? When gathering this information, talk to your child's teachers, school counselor, pediatrician, and any other caregiver who can give you insight into what is going on in your child's life. The more you know, the more you will be able to communicate to the professional you choose.

- Ask for referrals. The pediatrician, school counselor, or any other close friend/confidant might be able to point you in a good direction.

- Research licenses and credentials. Once you have list of therapists, research them. Make sure they are licensed to practice! I cannot stress that enough. There are people who call themselves child therapists without the proper credentials. So, do your homework before making an appointment.

- Approach and experience. Before sending your child off to therapy, find out the style and approach of the therapist. How long have they been working with children? What type of methodology do they use? What type of treatments do they offer? What do they specialize in? What is their availability? What can be expected relationship between parent and therapist?

- Insurance, price, & fees. Check with your insurance to see what options they provide for child therapy. When making an appointment with the therapist ask about prices, fees, payments plans, and cancellation policy.

- Communicate. It is very important for the parent to be involved with the therapist and the treatments. So work to build a good rapport and be available to assist them in any way necessary. Also, communicate with your child. Do they feel comfortable with the therapist? If you sense that the relationship is not working, then don't be afraid to make a change.

Taking care of your child's emotional needs are just as important as taking care of their physical needs. You are not a failure of parent if you enlist the help of a mental health care professional. It is actually a sign of true love and concern for the welfare of your child.

If you live in Vancouver, Washington or Portland, Oregon and are looking for a therapist to work with your child visit Therapy FAQ.

A New Method for Teaching the Art of Conversation to Aspies

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


For many years now, I have been working with clients with Asperger Syndrome. A major challenge that those with Asperger's face is the lack of social or emotional reciprocity. I am continually looking for new and improved ways to break down these barriers with my clients and help them communicate more effectively. One method that I have found particularly effective is to have Aspies enlist in acting classes so they can better understand the reciprocal interaction in a relationship. I have recently stumbled across another method that I think is brilliant and want to share with you.

The Temple Grandin School and the University of Colorado's Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences have joined forces to develop a program called "The Perspectives." This three week course is designed to teach interview skills to Aspies. They teach how to come up with topics for conversation, how to ask appropriate questions, and how to adapt to the shifts in conversation. The interviews are recorded and then played back to the student. This gives them an opportunity to see how they did and what work they need to do to improve. What a clever idea! This may be something that more therapists will want to implement with their Aspie clients. Click here for more information on this program.

If you would like more information on Asperger Syndrome, visit Asperger Syndrome Frequently Asked Questions.

Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Update

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Good news! The word is spreading quickly about our Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Support Group. I recently received an email from a member of another Asperger Support Group - Aspergers and Other Half: The Other Half of Asperger Syndrome. She had heard about us through another member in her group and decided to become an online member of our group.

I wanted to express my appreciation to all who are spreading the word. The response has been overwhelming! It is a reminder of how many people are out there who are in need of support. This is a great start, but there’s much more work to be done.

Thank you to all our members who continually add a level of love and honesty that makes our group so special. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, join us Saturday July 16, 2011 as we discuss the topic "Equality or Freedom." So often we NTs (neurotypicals) get stuck on the lack of empathy or reciprocity in our relationships with adults on the Autism Spectrum. While it is true that the "mind blindness" prevents many with ASDs from recognizing our feelings, thoughts and needs, there may be another way to survive this lack of reciprocity.

I think we have to stop thinking in terms of "Equality" and instead think of "Freedom." We are much better able to detach from our feelings of anger and hurt, when we step back and accept "Freedom" as our guide. We seldom win equality, but we can get to a place where we have Freedom . . . at least to us.

What is Freedom to each individual just depends, doesn't it? One person may find Freedom in his or her life by leaving the relationship. Another may devote his or her energy to more reciprocal relationships in the family. And still another may relish the few moments that his or her Aspie makes you laugh. It all just depends what each of us thinks is freeing.

Let's use this summer meetup to expand our concept of how to cope with these difficult relationships . . . without giving up who you are.

Is There a Disconnect between Cognitive and Emotional Empathy for People with Asperger’s?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Does the subject of "empathy" confuse you, especially with regard to your Aspie loved ones? They seem so sensitive at times and yet clueless about your feelings. Could it be a disconnect between what is in their hearts and what is in their heads?

Simon Baron-Cohen, a British researcher, tells us that a defining quality of Autism is a deficiency in empathy. But in practical terms just what does that mean? A deeper look into the research tells us that those with Asperger's may have a disconnect between the two major types of empathy, Emotional Empathy (EE) and Cognitive Empathy (CE). If you have Emotional Empathy (EE), you can feel the emotions of others (or animals, a noted Autistic strength).

But there is a huge problem with having only EE. Can you tell if what you are feeling is yourself or the other person? And even if you can figure out that these feelings are coming from another person, can you talk about it? You need Cognitive Empathy(CE) in order to recognize the bigger picture of who is feeling what and how to talk to the other person "empathetically."

As a neurotypical with a Asperger loved one in your life, have you pondered this dilemma? If so, you are not the only one. Join us on June 18, 2011 in Portland, Oregon for the Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup. We will be discussing this topic in detail and would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. We will be taking this research a step further into our personal experience and discuss how we live with it and what to do about it.

If you are unable to attend, please become a member online and jump into our online discussions.


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