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Kathy Marshack News

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.

Empathy 101: Understanding the Neurotypical/Asperger Relationship

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Empathy 101: Understanding the Neurotypical – Asperger RelationshipEmpathy is a complex, multi-faceted skillset that allows a person to clearly recognize the other person, while holding constant their own feelings and thoughts. It’s respecting the boundaries of the other person. You don't confuse their pain or thoughts with your own.

Furthermore, the highest level of empathy is what I call "Radiant Empathy," or the ability to care for the feelings and thoughts of others without any need for reciprocity. It takes a lifetime to develop Radiant Empathy because it’s the combination of a healthy brain and life experience.

Asperger’s Syndrome is an empathy disorder, the result of the person not having a Theory of Mind. Basically, they don’t easily recognize that another person has beliefs, desires, intentions, feelings and perspectives that differ from their own (unless it is specifically pointed out). Empathy is a complex system that requires the brain to connect Emotional Empathy and Cognitive Empathy.

Neurotypical persons in relationships with those with Asperger’s Syndrome expect and need empathy, but they don’t receive it. This makes them feel so alone, depressed, and socially isolated. They suffer from numerous stress-related chronic illnesses, because no one really understands what they’re going through.

Once you understand the quality of empathy that is part of every breath you take… and is totally absent in your Aspie, you can better navigate this life. Furthermore, this understanding also helps you redirect your energy to take better care of yourself and to embrace a more loving reality. This doesn't mean everything works out; it just means that you're more in charge. That can feel good.

If you’re a member of our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, please join us for the next teleconference, Empathy 101 on Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 3:00 PM.

Also, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to read a free chapter of “Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)”. This book discusses the science behind Aspie behavior and how you can initiate the rules of engagement that help your Aspie give you the emotional support that you need.

ASD Emotional Sensitivity is Not the Same as Empathy

Wednesday, March 01, 2017


ASD sensitivity isn’t the same as Radiant Empathy, which is the highest level of empathy where you care for others’ feelings without needing reciprocity.John Elder Robison, whose Asperger’s Syndrome was undiagnosed until he was 40 years old, gets a lot of play for his books on his life with autism. His latest book about undergoing transcranial stimulation, "Switched On" leads readers to believe that for a short period of time he experienced empathy. This is simply not true.

Empathy is so much more than being sensitive. In fact many NTs are stumped by their Aspies because they appear to be very sensitive and they might be. Parents make this mistake often with their ASD children. Because your ASD child loves you or bursts into tears when they see a pet hurting doesn’t mean they have empathy.

Empathy is a complex, multi-faceted skillset that I sum up as Namaste – "the Soul in me recognizes and honors the Soul in you." It’s the ability to clearly recognize the other person, while holding constant your own feelings and thoughts. It’s respecting the boundaries of the other person even if you sympathize. You don't confuse their pain or thoughts with your own. Furthermore, the highest level of empathy is what I call "Radiant Empathy," or the ability to care for the feelings and thoughts of others without any need for reciprocity.

John Robison never experienced the state of empathy, but with transcranial stimulation, he was more aware of his own feelings and he was even more unable to regulate them (typical of an Aspie). If you have Radiant Empathy you can regulate your feelings and not run amok.

It takes a lifetime to develop Radiant Empathy because it’s the combination of a healthy brain and life experience. But science will keep trying to discover the components of life as if the sum total of a human is nothing more than the sum of its parts.

We’ll discuss this very important subject at our next TELECONFERENCE: “Sensitivity is not Empathy” on Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 2:30 PM. Our approach won’t be so much from an intellectual point of view but for two reasons…

1) When you better understand that your Aspie is operating in the relationship without empathy, you can more easily find ways to communicate.

2) You may find that you can be freer to strive for Radiant Empathy, which actually makes your life more joyful.

If you’d like to learn more about the science of Asperger’s Syndrome, click on the image below and download a free chapter of my book. And don’t forget to invite the ASD professionals you know to join the special Meetup I’ve created for them…Asperger Syndrome: Continuing Education for Psychotherapists.

 


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.


How Different Are Men and Women on the Spectrum?

Friday, January 27, 2017


How Different Are Men and Women on the Spectrum? It comes as no surprise that men and women are different. At the best of times, relationships can be challenging just because of the differences in upbringing and background. That’s why there are endless numbers of books written on the subject of relationships and how to figure out the opposite sex. But when you throw Asperger’s or ASD into the mix, it gets really confusing! And even more challenging, are the relationships where the NT (neuro-typical) mate doesn’t even realize that their spouse is on the Spectrum!

Does gender really make that much difference in a NT/AS relationship? Does a wife with Asperger’s cause a NT husband more heartache than an AS husband causes for his NT wife? And will a NT husband be stronger and more able to deal with the emotional neglect than a NT wife?

Truthfully, when it comes right down to it, an Aspie, whether male or female, will make you feel lonely, confused and quite possibly even depressed. It’s how we learn to handle our Aspies that makes a difference in the quality of our lives. This is where we see individual differences.

That’s why I’ve created the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD group to be a safe place for men and women to meet and freely discuss their lives with the Aspies. (If you’re a NT with an AS family member, please feel free to join our Meetup group. There’s no charge.) If you’re a member, please join our free international teleconference on Thursday, February 9, 2017 at 9:00 AM to discuss the topic: How different are men and women on the Spectrum? We’ll be speaking about how gender plays a part in NT/AS relationships AND how your Aspie’s parenting style affects your male and female children.

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.

Psychotherapists and Professionals – A New Meetup that Helps You Serve Families with ASD

Monday, January 09, 2017


Asperger Syndrome: Continuing Education for Psychotherapists is a new Meetup for professionals who serve NT’s in families with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Have you ever Googled, “How to help families with Autism”? If you do, you’ll find that much of the information is about helping the autistic individual NOT the family members who are not on the spectrum. It’s wonderful that we help the ones with ASD. However the caregivers and other family members shouldn’t be forgotten. It’s taking a huge toll on them, too.

Dealing with a child or adult who has Autism Spectrum Disorder is exhausting work. The caregiver’s emotional, mental, and physical health suffers.


When it’s a child who has autism, every aspect of family life is affected - sleep, meals, toileting, play, travel, education, and work. This creates a multitude of interrelated problems, such as overwhelming schedules and parental conflict because of grief and confusion.

When it’s a spouse who has Asperger’s, a high-functioning form of autism, it’s devastating in so many other ways. Not only is the NT parenting the children, he or she is also “parenting” the Asperger spouse. Without the emotional connection and support of the spouse, this NT marriage mate feels so terribly alone.

Let’s give NT’s the support they need. It’s so important for psychotherapists and other professionals to hone their skills, so they can truly understand and support NT (neuro-typical) family members. Therefore, I’m eager to announce my new Meetup for professionals who want to do greater work in this field.

Please help me get the word out! The new Meetup is called Asperger Syndrome: Continuing Education for Psychotherapists. It’s for professionals who serve NT’s in families with Adults with ASD. Psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, MFTs, psychiatric nurses and other professionals who are consulting to caregivers, family and friends of those on the Autism Spectrum will get the guidance needed to reach this important part of the Autism System. Also if you’re coaching autistics, this group will provide a much better understanding of the thinking of those with ASD.

Please click here to join this worldwide group. To find out more, your first meeting is free. If you decide to take advantage of monthly consultation, there is a fee. This is your chance to work directly with me no matter where you live and gather continuing education credits from an internationally well-known expert in the field. I’ll be offering video and teleconferences that discuss timely topics. I’ll alert you when we schedule our first meeting. I’ll be looking for you on the inside!

Theory of Mind - A Necessary Component of Empathy

Monday, December 26, 2016


Theory of Mind, the ability to recognize that a person has beliefs, intentions, desires, and perspective differing from your own, is a component of empathy.In order to have empathy for another person, you must have a Theory Of Mind. That is, you must be able to recognize that another person exists and has beliefs, intentions, desires, imaginations, emotions, etc., to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, intentions, and perspectives that differ from your own. The Theory of Mind perspective kicks in the other aspects of empathy, such as understanding and nurturing.

Recently a New York Times article reported on new research that shows that pregnancy changes the brain in the regions associated with Theory of Mind. They report:

“Only the pregnant women showed gray matter reduction, thinning and changes in the surface area of the cortex in areas related to social cognition. Changes were so clear that imaging results alone could indicate which women had been pregnant. The researchers said they did not yet know what was being reduced in size: neurons, other brain cells, synapses or parts of the circulatory system.”

Researches are hypothesizing that the brain is pruning away portions of gray matter as a process of specialization, thereby increasing the mother's ability to resonate with her baby.

Understanding this may also help us to understand Theory Of Mind when it comes to autism. If development of theory of mind is biologically important for the survival of a newborn, the lack of this vital element surely affect relationships in general.

What feels so natural to us NTs and especially to mothers is not learned, but biological. This means that we have to build "workarounds" with our Aspies if we are to communicate effectively.

If you’re a member of the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD, please join our low cost Video Conference on Thursday, January 12, 2017, at 9:00 AM. We’ll discuss “Theory of Mind is vital for survival”. This video call is an opportunity to learn more about the mind of your Aspie and how to reach them...but also to take better care of your need to connect with others who have a "theory of mind."

Do You Have Trouble Reading Facial Expressions? Take This Test and See

Monday, December 12, 2016


Do You Have Trouble Reading Facial Expressions? Take This Test and SeeEvery day we’re confronted with interactions where we have to figure out what other people are thinking and planning on doing. Will that child dart across the road in front of your car? Will your spouse be receptive to your request? Does the new girl you just met really like you? Is there a way to tell?

While the spoken word gives you some indication of what someone is thinking, it’s not reliable in and of itself. Someone may be pulling your leg by sarcastically complimenting you while keeping a deadpan face. To know what they really mean, you have to learn how to read what their eyes are telling you.

The eyes and the surrounding areas are the most expressive part of a person's face. Once you know how to read a person's emotions through his or her eyes, you're much closer to being able to predict their behavior.

Judging a person’s mental state, also called having a “theory of mind,” is an important skill that most of us develop early in life. However, the brains of people who have Asperger’s, a high functioning form of autism, develop this skill only partially or not at all. This helps us to understand why our Aspies lack empathy and have trouble socializing.

When you can empathize, you feel what the other person feels, and you connect with that person on a deep level of understanding and trust. Empathy comes from being able to reading emotional cues, such as the message being sent through the eyes, the tone of voice and body language, in addition to the actual words spoken and the context in which they’re said.

Would you like to take the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET) that Simon Baron-Cohen developed? It presents a series of 36 pairs of eyes, and you have to pick one emotion out of four possible emotions being communicated. It’s so effective it’s been used as a tool to help point toward a diagnosis of Asperger’s. I’d love for you to come over to my Facebook page and report your results. The good news is that taking the test over and over again can help train your brain to improve in its ability to read the emotions revealed by the eyes. It’s a fantastic way to improve your ability to understand other people.

If your results indicate you may have Asperger’s, don’t despair or feel embarrassed. Take it as the first step toward creating a more rewarding life. If live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment for a proper diagnosis. This may be exactly what you need to put you on the path toward healthier and long lasting relationships.

How to Avoid ASD Meltdowns During the Holidays

Friday, December 09, 2016


If you avoid family Christmas parties because of your Aspies unpredictable behavior, try these ten tips to help your Autistic child cope with holiday stressPlanning is the key to enjoying any special occasion. This is especially true when you have family members on the spectrum. With their normal routine disrupted, it’s important to prepare them well in advance so as to minimize their anxiety and potential meltdowns.

Don’t be afraid to start some new holiday traditions that make the holiday times less stressful for you. Here are 10 simple tips that can help you and your Aspie child enjoy the holiday season more:

1. Invite your Aspie child to help decorate your home, so he or she is actively involved in changing their environment. Sounds, smells, and bustling activity can cause sensory overload, so you may need to limit the type and quantity of holiday cheer. For example, you may want to limit the volume and time you play holiday music. You may want to choose subdued lighting instead of the flashing and twinkling lights.

2. Rehearse the scheduled events with your child (either in written or picture form). If you create a wall chart that counts down the days, post photos of all the people who will attend and help your child get to know them in advance. Talk about what activities will take place, where they will happen, how loud it will be, how many people will attend, and what behavior is expected. Knowing what’s next helps ASD children feel less anxiety.

3. Make treats that your child can eat so he or she doesn’t feel left out. Be sure to make enough to share. When it’s on the table amidst the other goodies, it makes your child feel like they fit in. Don’t give in to the peer pressure of, “But this is the holiday; let him have some of this cake…” You know how eating certain foods contributes to meltdowns. Instead, offer one of your special treats.

4. Make your child’s sleep schedule a priority. If traveling away from home, it may be helpful to bring your child’s normal sheets and pillows so he or she can sleep more peacefully.

5. If you need dress clothes for family pictures, change your child into soft clothes as soon as possible. Avoid the temptation to make your child wear new clothes from grandma, until you’ve washed them several times and removed the tags.

6. If you’re going to travel by plane, bring earplugs so your child can listen to a favorite program or music. It will drown out the noise of the plane and surrounding people, and it’s calming.

7. Take a few of your child’s favorite toys, games or books. When your child needs some downtime or distraction, there will be something familiar to comfort them.

8. Give your child a code word to use if he or she feels overwhelmed. This provides a feeling of control and helps them remain calm. Be sure your child knows that you will respond right away when this code word is used.

9. Briefly explain Asperger’s to supportive family and friends so they know what to expect and how to respond. If you have a few people who will act as a buffer against those who refuse to understand, it gives you some breathing room and you won’t feel so alone.

10. Make sure someone is always committed to watching your child. If you do this in shifts, everyone will have time to have fun. Have a pre-assigned way to tactfully “tag” the next person when their shift begins.

I hope these tips help you experience a happy and enjoyable holiday season!

What if the person with Asperger’s is your spouse? Don’t forget that the holidays can be stressful for them as well. You may want to pick up a copy of my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD). It also explores the science behind Asperger’s. It will help you understand your Aspie better. Get a free chapter by clicking on the image below.

What To Do When Your AS/NT Relationship Makes You Feel Less Than Normal

Monday, November 28, 2016


What To Do When Your AS/NT Relationship Makes You Feel Less Than NormalIt may be slowly dawning on you that you aren't normal. You may have started out that way many years ago, but after life with an Aspie it's clearly not possible to be normal anymore. You’ve been "aspergated!"

What do I mean by “aspergated”? After years of adapting to your Aspie loved ones, many Neuro-Typicals feel as if they have one foot in the NT world and one foot in the ASD world. . . not quite fitting into either. Is that how you feel? Please take heart.

Recognizing that it’s happened to you is the first step to fixing it. It’s not too late to switch gears and create a new identity for yourself. You can even do this while making your NT/AS relationship thrive. Just don’t give up on yourself.

I do believe there is “New Life Ahead” for you. During this season of giving, how about giving yourself the gift of appreciation for all that you do and how wonderful you are? Ironically the wear and tear you have suffered in your life with an Aspie has made you much more aware. Use this consciousness to actively and purposefully build a new life.

Think about all of the gifts you need to give yourself right now! How about that quilting convention you've always wanted to go to? Or perhaps you've wanted to start meditating? What about finishing your degree? Kayaking anyone? Start planning now for a New Year filled with appreciation for “A New Life Ahead”.

Join the next low-cost video conference, A New Life Ahead. It will be held on Thursday, December 8th at 9AM PT. You’ll be inspired by our discussion! If you can’t make it, please check back for future Meetups or book a one-on-one educational session with me. While this is not therapy, you will get a lot of your questions answered.

I want to give you the courage and motivation you need in any way that I can. That’s why I’ve written about my experience and that of others, so you can see that if they did it, so can you. If you haven’t purchased your copy of my books on how to make your NT/AS relationships thrive, here are links with more information:

Out of Mind - Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome

Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going over the Edge?


Read more on my website: Asperger Relationships.



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