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Kathy Marshack News

An Asperger Relationship Success Story

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Communicating, connecting, and loving is an integral part to any relationship. What happens, though, to the relationship if one member suffers from Asperger Syndrome? If the person with AS cannot comprehend the interior life of their Neuro-typical partner, then connection is very difficult. Especially since the interior life of an NT consists of how he or she views him or herself in relationship to another. An individual with Asperger Syndrome has a much more difficult time knowing him or herself in relationship to another. Thus the Aspie partner does not realize that a loving relationship requires more than just facts. It requires connecting to the interior life of their loved one and sharing their interior life too. This is what is meant by a reciprocal relationship. An Aspie/Neuro-typical (NT) couple are often described as like two insulated wires wrapped around each other, touching but not connecting. Is that it then? Does the relationship have to end based on the fact that the connection will be extremely difficult? The answer is NO. I recently read a fantastic article entitled, Modern Love - Somewhere Inside - a Path to Empathy, that gives hope to anyone in an AS/NT relationship. The article is written by David Finch, a marketing engineer for a semiconductor manufacturer. David has Asperger Syndrome. David went undiagnosed until his wife, Kristen, made the discovery. Kristen is a speech pathologist who works with autistic children. Through her work, she became more familiar with the milder forms of autism and began to recognize that David has the symptoms. She chose the right time and administered an online Asperger questionnaire to David and the answer was immediately clear to them both. David writes about their struggles and learning to cope with their newfound discovery. In the midst of trials, they have found one another and have reached a gigantic milestone. Not to say that their relationship is perfect now, but it is a work in progress. In my new book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge?, I seek to help NT individuals learn how to arrive at a new understanding of themselves and their significant other. It is my hope that many more will reach out and educate themselves, like David and Kristen, and take the steps to repair a relationship hurt by Asperger Syndrome. It would be a joy to read more success stories like this one.

Whether You Have Asperger Syndrome or Not – Trust Your Instincts When Finding a Therapist

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Why are some Aspies so hostile to psychologists and psychotherapy?  Among those adults with Asperger Syndrome, there is a growing movement toward acceptance instead of diagnosis.  These folks say they don’t want to be “fixed” but accepted for the unique human beings they are.  The problem is there are times when they could really benefit from professional help for anxiety or severe depression that comes from struggling with interpersonal problems, but they resist treatment. Is there an underlying reason for this resistance? Yes, unfortunately too many mental health professionals are woefully unprepared to treat the symptoms of Asperger Syndrome. I should know since I sought professional guidance for my daughter.  I went from professional to professional for years seeking help for my daughter’s suicidal depression and severe anxiety.  It was a school psychologist who finally turned me in the right direction and I will be forever grateful for her help.  As a result of my trials and tribulations, I was able to write my book on the subject, “Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: GOING OVER THE EDGE? The majority of therapists are well-intentioned; they’re not the biggest part of this problem. At least they are open to learning.  You can hand them a book and ask them to consider another possibility, and they will learn.  It is the clueless and narcissistic ones that do the most damage.  Unfortunately I was annihilated by one of these clueless and self-righteous therapists not long ago and I’m still recovering from her unkind and ignorant words. Karin is an interior decorator, turned psychotherapist, without much in the way of credentials, but a gift for marketing.  She is attractive and personable, but absolutely clueless about Asperger Syndrome.  One day she witnessed one of my daughter’s meltdowns and was stunned.  Later she criticized me for not handling the situation well. Furthermore, she told me that she would never have the problems I do because she is so much more balanced when it comes to handling these situations. Coming from a therapist, these words hurt. But I needed to consider the source. Karin has never parented any children of her own, much less a child with special needs. How on Earth could I possibly consider her opinion seriously, when she is clueless?  When someone with Asperger Syndrome (or their family)  is seeking professional help, they are apt to run into a therapist or two or three like Karin.  No wonder they’re angry or depressed by the therapy experience. So how does one choose a therapist when the odds are great that you will run into more than one Karin?  Whether you have Asperger Syndrome or want help with any other of the myriad problems that plague humanity, always trust your instinct.  Never give up but do trust your instinct.  Don’t waste your time and your heart with a therapist you cannot trust.  I love this quote from Buddha, because he sums up the situation in that inscrutable way that only the Buddha can. “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason, and your own common sense.”

New Support Group in Portland Focuses on Helping Partners and Spouses of Adults with Asperger Syndrome

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I'm excited to announce that I'm launching a new support group, "Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD," in Portland, Oregon. This is not a therapy group, rather a place for people to learn from others and to share their story about the often frustrating and isolating life of loving an adult with Asperger Syndrome Disorder (ASD). I was motivated to start the support group after posting the first chapter of my new book on my website. I was completely overwhelmed by the huge response from people around the world looking for guidance and support on how to navigate a relationship with a partner with Asperger Syndrome. In addition to providing a safe, supportive place to share their experiences, I see this group as a forum to learn more, through books, films and guest speakers. For example, films such as "Mozart and the Whale" will stimulate important discussions about life as a partner of an ASD adult. I'll also invite experts in the field of Asperger Syndrome to speak, thereby creating a counterpoint to personal experience. The group is being organized through Meetup.com. Those interested in joining the group in Portland, Oregon can go to www.meetup.com/Asperger-Syndrome-Partners-Family-of-Adults-with-ASD/. There is no charge for participating in this group. This group is exclusively for Neuro-typicals, for those who love and care for adults with Asperger Syndrome. The first meeting will be held on Saturday, May 23rd at 1:00 p.m. The location is found at the group web page. We will be discussing my new book, "Going over the Edge?" Please sign up at www.meetup.com/Asperger-Syndrome-Partners-Family-of-Adults-with-ASD/. I look forward to meeting you and hearing your stories.

Should a computer hacker with Asperger Syndrome go to prison?

Friday, May 08, 2009


Gary McKinnon, a UK citizen, 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. McKinnon believed that information on UFO technology was being suppressed by the US government.  Furthermore he claims to have found proof. What makes this case so interesting is that he suffers from the development disorder, Asperger Syndrome. Recently rights activist Terry Waite spoke in support of Gary McKinnon. Waite told the press that the US should thank McKinnon for “exposing the fragility” of the Pentagon’s computer system. While Waite does not condone McKinnon's illegal activity, he does believe that McKinnon should not be held to the same standards as other international criminals because he suffers from Asperger Syndrome. Other celebrities and legal experts have also announced their backing of McKinnon. McKinnon was diagnosed by Cambridge Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, a well known expert on adult Asperger Syndrome.  Along with Terry Waite, Baron-Cohen believes that McKinnon should not be treated as an ordinary criminal but as someone with a disability. According to Professor Baron-Cohen, McKinnon is obsessed with finding the truth. This obsession with the truth is taken to an extreme by those with Asperger Syndrome because they have a characteristic called “mind blindness” according to Baron-Cohen. “Mind blindness” is a complex theory, but in a nutshell McKinnon’s “mind blindness” prevented him from fully understanding the social consequences of his actions, in spite of his obvious intellectual giftedness. This leads me to ask, should McKinnon be extradited to the US to stand trial for his crimes against the American government? If so, should the US government consider his diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome a mitigating factor? I do believe that the fate of Gary McKinnon could change the way Asperger Syndrome is treated all over the world. I for one am not sure anyone fully grasps the depth of the problems, when a mental disorder becomes a political issue. Gary McKinnon is just one man fighting for his freedom, but in the process thousands of people with Asperger Syndrome and their families will be judged. I will continue to write more on this story and discuss the topic of "Should Asperger Syndrome be used as a defense?"

Why do women with Asperger Syndrome go undiagnosed?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Like so many other examples of the double standard, research on the health issues of women lags behind the health discoveries for men.  Autism Spectrum Disorders are no different.  Many more boys are diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, than are girls.  Does this mean the disorder is more prevalent in males?  Or is it once again an example of the typical research error so common in university labs. For example, not long ago women unnecessarily suffered fatal heart attacks because physicians did not recognize the medical symptoms of heart disease in women.  They studied male symptomatology in medical school, not how heart disease affects women.  As a result more men are diagnosed sooner, and often survive their first heart attack as a result, while women go undiagnosed.  When women have their "first" heart attack it is frequently a killer since no one noticed early enough  the unique way that heart disease is expressed in women. Research is tricky with human subjects so universities typically don't address gender issues at first.  It is a "confounding" variable.  Instead they study a group of males and post their conclusions after the study. Physicians then take this research and apply it to women, often with disastrous results.  If you want to know more about how one woman has dealt with her undiagnosed Asperger Syndrome, read her story at http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2009/04/soaking-in-normalcy-fetishism-or.html Luckily she found a therapist who diagnosed her as having Asperger Syndrome when she was in her early forties, but that was years after a heartbreaking struggle to do a life.  The fact that this one blog post garnered 173 responses from NTs and Aspies alike, demonstrates how important is the subject  of Women and Asperger Syndrome. Since the release of my book Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: GOING OVER THE EDGE? - Practical Steps to Saving You and Your Relationship, I have received emails from mothers and husbands asking for help with their daughters and wives.  I have addressed the issue of AS in girls in women in my book, but it is only a cursory look.  Clearly we desperately need more research and services for women and girls with AS.

Fascinating New Research Highlights Genetic Link to Autism

Friday, May 01, 2009


From Turkey to Ireland, the news of the genetic link to Asperger Syndrome and other Autism Spectrum Disorders took the world by storm.  Within a few hours news agencies all over the world were announcing the discovery first published in Nature – an international weekly journal of science. Scientists have identified a new gene variant (CDH10) that is highly common in autistic children. When researchers scrutinized the activity of the gene in the fetal brain, they discovered that it is most active in key regions that support language, speech and interpreting social behavior. These findings were published April 28 in the advance online edition of the journal Nature. Previously, scientists believed that autism was a developmental disorder resulting from abnormal connections in the brain. However, this new research suggests that CDH10 plays a critical role in shaping the developing brain and may therefore contribute to a prenatal risk of autism. Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) range from severe autism to mild Asperger’s syndrome.  In one of these new studies, of more than 10,000 people including those with ASD and their families, researchers found that genetic factors play a strong role in ASD. I found this research fascinating because it confirms what I’ve observed in families that come to me for therapy. I find that frequently a child who is diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome has an undiagnosed parent with the same disorder. Click here to learn more about adults with Asperger Syndrome.

Journey for Asperger Syndrome Adolescents

Friday, April 24, 2009


The opportunity to travel and explore another culture is a once in a lifetime adventure for many young adults, but it is often off limits for Asperger youth.  Thankfully, more and more universities are establishing programs for Asperger teens. I recently learned that USC University Center For Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) professionals have put together an adventure for students with Asperger Syndrome (AS). Thirteen days will be spent throughout England and Scotland with professionals from CHLA as well as graduate students who are experienced with students with AS. If you have AS and are between the ages of 16-20, this might be something to look into. Apparently the goal of this trip is to boost independence and self-sufficiency. With many group activities, it will provide an opportunity to grow in a group environment as well as receive specific mentoring from staff members. There also lies the potential for making life-long friends with those who understand the personal struggles of Asperger Syndrome. Please contact Beverly Daley, Ph.D. at bdaley@chla.usc.edu or (323) 361-2490 for more information.

Be Involved in April's National Autism Awareness Month

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Since the 1970's, the Autism Society of America, ASA, has recognized April as the National Autism Awareness Month. With autism on the rise, it's encouraging to see so many people taking the time to educate our society on this subject. Visit ASA's website to see eight ways you can celebrate National Autism Awareness Month. In honor of National Autism Awareness Month, the University of Washington Autism Center will be offering FREE autism screenings at their clinics in Tacoma and Seattle. The UW has been dedicated to researching, educating, and providing intervention services for children with autism. Another giant step forward is the new bill that the Washington State Legislature passed to honor individuals with autism. I recommending reading Resolution 8629 to see how the government is determined to provide more support and research for those with autism and their families. The bottom line is, get involved! The more we know, the more we can help.

Raun Kaufman, a Leader in the Field of Autism, Visits Portland

Saturday, April 11, 2009


I saw that Raun K. Kaufman spoke this week at Oregon Health & Science University. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the lecture, but I am very impressed by the work of Mr. Kaufman. His stop in Portland was part of a nationwide tour entitled, "Autism: Recovery Is Possible - 2 Hours that Will Change Your Child's Life - The Autism Hope Action Plan." Raun Kaufman is an autism specialist and CEO of the Autism Treatment Center of America. When Raun was a child, he was diagnosed with autism and was said to be incurable. With the help and guidance from his parents, Samahria and Barry Neil Kaufman, they developed a one of a kind home program to help Raun. Their work is known as The Son-Rise Program®. Today Raun is a successful and outgoing speaker, author, and teacher. Raun graduated from Brown University and is now using his life to help others who suffer from autism. He is a valuable member of The Sun Rise Program® and is now covering the country with his inspiring lectures. I am sure we will be hearing much more about Raun Kaufman and the strides he is making to share principles that could greatly impact the autism community.

A New Study Sheds Light on Asperger Syndrome and Hormone Levels

Thursday, April 09, 2009


A fascinating study at Bath University sheds some light on a possible reason why children with Asperger Syndrome (AS) have difficulties adjusting to change in their routine. Studies showed a low level of cortisol, a stress hormone, in children with AS. Normally, there is a surge in cortisol in the early morning hours, but that peak doesn’t occur for those with AS. Mark Bronson, a psychologist at Bath University, commented, "Although these are early days, we think this difference in stress hormone levels could be really significant in explaining why children with AS are less able to react and cope with unexpected change." Bath and Bristol Universities plan to continue researching why children with AS find more situations stressful than other children. This will help parents and teachers comprehend what is happening and enable them to avoid adding unnecessary stress to the child. For more information on this study, I recommend reading  an article on Psych Central entitled “New Theories of Autism, Asperger Syndrome”. Also visit my Frequently Asked Questions for more information on Asperger Syndrome.


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