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Kathy Marshack News

Is Stress on the Rise for Parents with Autistic Children?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Raising children today is extremely challenging, but how does it compare to raising a child with autism? The New York Times recently interviewed, Annette Estes, about this very subject. Annette Estes is the assistant director of the University of Washington Autism Center. Their recent study focused in on the stress levels of mothers with autistic children verses mothers with children who have developmental disabilities. Of course, both groups of mothers are dealing with very stressful situations and that can't be underestimated. The study did show that mothers with autistic children showed higher stress levels and psychological distress than the other group. As a psychologist and as a parent, I recognize the incredible amounts of stress that are on these parents. Finding solutions for managing this kind of stress is a continual process, but there are useful tools available. If you are a parent with an autistic child, visit my website for more information about managing stress. I also recommend my new book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Sydrome: Going Over the Edge? Even though I didn't specifically write it with these parents in mind, there are many basic principles that still apply. If you have found any useful tools to help deal with stress as a parent with an ASD child, I would love to hear what you have learned.

Update from the Autism Society of America Conference in Chicago

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


My recent trip to Chicago to attend the Autism Society of America Conference was incredibly rewarding. It appears that the medical community has finally started listening to parents and other family members as we describe what is really going on in our homes, living with loved ones with Autism. As a result the research is demonstrating that there is a genetic, biological, immunological and environmental interaction that produces Autism Spectrum Disorders. I was happy to hear that there is interest in doing research about living the stress of this life, but it is still in its infancy stages. My publisher, AAPC, has expressed an interest in having me write another book. I truly feel that this is the time for us to be heard and do what we can to get as much information out there as possible. There was some good news and some bad news that was shared with us at the conference. The bad news is that CDC will soon be announcing that the incidence of ASDs has increased to one child in 100 in 2009. That is a 1200% increase over 20 years. The good news is that there are very good treatments and even evidence of recovery in some individuals. In fact a new website was unveiled at the conference; www.autismsolutions.org. It is not yet operational but will soon be. The website will house data and resources from all directions, including a database of parents who would like to submit information on their own families. It's free to access and all confidential. Amazing! I still have much to share, so please continue to read my blog for more updates. If you live in the Portland/Vancouver area and are living with a family member that has Asperger Syndrome, I invite you to join our next Meetup on August 1st at the Old Wives Tale. We will be discussing the conference in full detail.

Speaking about Asperger Syndrome for AAPC

Friday, July 24, 2009


My book publisher AAPC, Autism Asperger Publishing Company, has set in motion a new program entitled Professional Development. This program was created with the intent to connect school districts with qualified professionals who present information on all things related to autism. I was recently asked to be a speaker and presenter for AAPC. In my presentations, I will be focusing on the topics Transition to Adulthood and Family/Home. I am looking forward to being part of this new program. Through these speaking engagements, I hope to share the knowledge I have learned about the challenges of loving and caring for someone with Asperger's. For more information, visit my profile for AAPC Professional Development. Other organizations interested in a presentation related to Asperger Syndrome can contact me directly.

New Study Links 27 Genes to Asperger Syndrome, Autism, and Empathy

Monday, July 20, 2009


Scientists from the Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge have identified 27 genes that are associated with either Asperger Syndrome, autistic traits, and/or empathy. The research is published July 16, 2009 issue of the Journal Autism Research. Asperger Syndrome (AS) is considered a subgroup on the autistic spectrum. Autism Spectrum Conditions occur in about 1% of the population. They are diagnosed on the basis of difficulties in social relationships, communication, and adjusting to change, alongside unusually narrow interests. The team looked at these genes in 349 adults in the general population, all of whom had filled in the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) as a measure of autistic traits, and the Empathy Quotient (EQ) as a measure of empathy. Then, they looked at 174 adults with a formal diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome only and compared them to controls. The resulting research found that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 27 out of the 68 genes were nominally associated with either AS and/or with autistic traits/empathy. According to the researchers, 5 of the genes found have been previously reported in autism, but the other 22 have never before been reported in association with AS, autistic traits or empathy. Click here to learn more about this fascinating research.

Autism SuperConference July 23-24, 2009 in Portland, Oregon

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Future Horizons, an autism publishing company, has put together a series of two day nationwide SuperConferences on autism and Asperger Syndrome. I was excited to see that Tony Attwood, Temple Grandin, and Maria Wheeler will be leading the discussion on a variety of topics at the Portland, Oregon SuperConference. EVENT DETAILS: Date: July 23-24, 2009 Conference Location: Crowne Plaza Portland Downtown Convention Center Registration Number: 1.800.489.0727 Website: http://www.fhautism.com/Conferences/OregonSuperConference/tabid/166/Default.aspx During this event, I will be in St. Charles, Illinois attending the Autism Society of America's National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders. However, if you live in the Portland/Vancouver area, I recommend registering if you're interested in learning more about autism and Asperger Syndrome. I would also love to hear your thoughts about the information presented.

Help in Career Planning for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Finding a job in today's economy is hard enough, but it is even harder if you have Autism Spectrum Disorders, including Asperger Syndrome. For example, you may feel uncomfortable filling out a job application. Or you may feel confused because it's important for you to answer everything as honestly as possible, but you end up frustrated that you can’t fully explain your situation. Or you don't work well with people, but the only entry level jobs are in customer service. With the majority of Aspie's unemployed or underemployed, help is finally available! I recently heard of a new conference put together by Spectrum Training Systems. The conference is entitled, Career Planning for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This two day conference held October 21-22, 2009 in Seattle, WA is designed to help students, parents, caregivers, and young adults with ASD to become successful career-oriented individuals. It is also available for career coaches, therapists, special education administrators, and teachers so that they can better assist those with ASD in this important area. Some of the specific topics that will be discussed are Career Planning, Workplace Support, and Social Communication in the Workplace. This type of training is sorely needed. More information is available at www.SpectrumTrainingSystemsInc.com/Conferences.html.

Hollywood's Interest in Asperger Syndrome

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


In an earlier blog, I wrote about a new movie, ADAM, a love story with a twist. Adam, the main character has Asperger Syndrome. ADAM premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and took home the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan award. Searchlight Films has picked up the film and will have a limited release on July 29, 2009. Since more and more adults are being diagnosed with Asperger's, I'm happy to see that Hollywood has taken an interest in AS. I remember a few years back when I went to see the film, The Aviator, I immediately recognized that Howard Hughes displayed characteristics of Asperger Syndrome. He exhibited all the classic symptoms of Asperger's. He was clearly obsessive, extremely attentive to the smallest details, unable to connect with the women he loved, and suffered from intense paranoia. I look forward to seeing the portrayal of Asperger Syndrome in the movie ADAM and will share my "review" - from the perspective of a therapist that works with Asperger Syndrome relationships - in an upcoming blog.

Scheduled Television Appearance on June 16, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009


Exciting news! I will be appearing on Portland’s KATU morning show, AM Northwest. I will be discussing my new book, Life with a Partner for Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: GOING OVER THE EDGE? Here are the details: When: Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 Show:  KATU AM Northwest Local Channel: Channel 2 Scheduled Time: 9-10 am Link for viewing online: http://www.katu.com/amnw I hope you can tune in!

More Recommended Books on Asperger Syndrome

Friday, June 12, 2009


Here are a few more books on Asperger Syndrome that I highly recommend reading. Enjoy!

The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspectives of Autism - Temple Grandin
Temple Grandin is credited with bringing the tough subject of autism out in the open. She is a strong advocate for autistic adults and children in securing the type of education and emotional support they need. Her first book, Emergence: Labeled Autistic, is a seminal work that makes you rethink your notions of what it means to be autistic. In this book on social skills, Temple and her coauthor Barron break down the mystery of social relationships so that they make more sense to the autistic mind.

 The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome - Tony Attwood Attwood has led the field when it comes to opening our minds to another way to look at this developmental disorder. Filled with scientific research this book is not without heart. Books on Asperger's Syndrome need to help the reader learn more but it is important to recognize that we are all part of the human condition. Attwood does a marvelous job in weaving together a useful guidebook to this complex disorder.

The Other Half of Asperger Syndrome: A guide to an Intimate Relationship with a Partner who has Asperger Syndrome - Maxine Aston
Aston was the first person to nail it on the head. In this slim little book she exposes the mystery of living with a spouse with Asperger's Syndrome. Her research unlocked the puzzle box for many people. No you are not crazy, but it is true that you and your Asperger mate live on different planets. Read this book summarizing Aston's research and learn more about your Asperger's mate.

Asperger's Syndrome and Adults... Is Anyone Listening? Essays and Poems by Partners, Parents and Family Members... - Karen Rodman
I was reading Karen Rodman’s book a few years ago when the pieces fell into place for me and I realized that my mother suffered from Asperger Syndrome.  The poignant stories in her book are written by Neuro-typical family members who have struggled with similar relationships with AS adults.  It is this personal awakening that spurred me to write my own book, Life with a partner or spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge? Practical Steps to Saving You and Your Relationship.  If you aren’t sure that your loved one suffers from Asperger Syndrome, or if you need emotional support for your often confusing, chaotic and heart breaking life, read Rodman’s book for a breath of fresh air.

Should Asperger Syndrome be used as a defense?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


There are those in the Asperger Community who suggest that Asperger Syndrome should not be considered a psychiatric diagnosis at all.  Using the term “neurodiversity” they assert that Asperger Syndrome, although atypical, is a normal human difference.  Individuals with Asperger Syndrome should be respected for their differences according to these advocates. So where does that leave Gary McKinnon and his obsession?  I wrote about McKinnon who has Asperger Syndrome in an earlier post – he was indicted in a U.S. District Court in Virginia for hacking into NASA and US Military computer systems in search of information on extraterrestrials. According to the neurodiversity model, Mr. McKinnon should be treated as any other cyber-terrorist. (I presume the other side of being respected for being different, is also being responsible for one’s actions.) Under the extradition treaty between the US and the UK, he should be extradited to the US and stand trial for the crimes he committed.  And if found guilty, I presume the judge and jury would determine a punishment that suits the severity of the crime, even prison. However, even if Asperger Syndrome is used as a mitigating factor, what are those mitigating circumstances.  If he was obsessed and didn’t fully comprehend the social consequences of his actions, didn’t he still commit a crime?  Didn’t he still harm people? Another question that comes to mind is whether or not prison will rehabilitate Mr. McKinnon.  Whether he has a developmental disorder or is just a little different than the norm group, won’t he be the same computer hacker he was before he went to prison, still unable to fathom the social world? The tragedy of allowing the justice system to make judgments about a mental disorder really came home to me when I recently treated a young man with Asperger Syndrome for a brief time, before he was arrested, tried and imprisoned. His life has been a series of unimaginable bad luck as a result of living on the edge of society.  He has never been able to secure fulltime employment because of his poor interpersonal skills and “mind blindness.”  He was alienated from his family years before he was arrested.  He lived alone in a small dingy apartment, friendless and trying to survive on a very limited income.  His only crime was befriending a young teenage boy who complained of abuse by his parents. The teen’s parents retaliated by accusing the man of molesting the boy.  Although this man passed the polygraph and tests for pedophilia, he was convicted and sent to prison anyway because the Court psychologist reported he had “no remorse.”  First of all it is hard to have remorse for a crime you didn’t commit.  Secondly, a classic characteristic of Asperger Syndrome is the inability to convey one’s feelings to others.  No doubt this man was depressed and frightened, but all he could do was sit motionless in the examining psychologist’s office.  Now he sits in prison. Does McKinnon need a doctor or prison? I wish I could tell you that I had the answers to this dilemma. I do believe that Asperger Syndrome is a developmental disorder, worthy of diagnosis and treatment.  There is a lot of suffering among those in this population, including their loved ones.  And there are psychological treatments that alleviate some of this suffering, with inspiring new research breaking ground daily.  So I would hate to see people continue to suffer simply because this diagnosis is part of a political debate. Likewise it is just too simple to turn over to the justice system an individual who is disabled by the peculiarities of Asperger Syndrome. Gary McKinnon did commit a crime.  He has publicly admitted to everything, though he didn’t come forward until he was caught. He engaged in subterfuge to hide his identity, so he was capable of comprehending that what he was doing was wrong, or at the very least could get him caught.  Yet he persisted to engage in those actions because he was obsessed beyond common sense . . .  a classic characteristic of Asperger Syndrome.  Like Howard Hughes (who some suggest had Asperger Syndrome) in his obsessive search for ever more efficient airplanes, McKinnon was determined to uncover the truth . . . that the US military is holding out evidence of anti-gravity propulsion systems.  Would an ordinary person risk going to prison over UFOs? The bottom line is intention.  If the news stories are accurate McKinnon did not set out to harm anyone.  Neither did my unfortunate client, and he is hardly a threat to anyone.  So the legal experts need to determine how to protect the citizenry from people who commit crimes, whether intended or not, and whether people like Gary McKinnon are really a threat to society.  And the mental health experts need to determine how to successfully treat those with Asperger Syndrome.  But what do you do when these two worlds collide? Thomas Szasz, a psychiatrist in the “antipsychiatry” movement, wrote an article in 1960 entitled, “The Myth of Mental Illness,” wherein he proposes that it is dangerous to make mental health care a political issue.  You can only imagine the ramifications if the government controls who is mentally fit.  According to Szasz’ controversial view, Gary McKinnon needs a doctor and he should be held accountable for his actions, regardless of whether he fully understood the outcome or was obsessed with his mission. And at the other end of this continuum, if mental health care and the justice system were separate as they should be, my young client would not be in prison for the non-crime of having poor interpersonal skills. You can read more about McKinnon’s story at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1189651/Can-harmless-UFO-obsessive-stricken-autism-saved-70-years-brutal-American-jail.html.


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