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Kathy Marshack News

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.

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.

The 42nd Autism Society National Conference and Exposition,

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


According to the Autism Society, 1 to 1.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder. If that includes you or a family member you may want to consider attending the upcoming 42nd Autism Society National Conference and Exposition. This is the largest autism conference in the nation and it will be held on July 6-9, 2011, at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

According to The Autism Society - Conference website, "The Autism Society recognizes that families and individuals living with an autism spectrum disorder have a range of issues and needs. Our National Conference addresses the range of issues affecting people with autism including early intervention, education, employment, behavior, communication, social skills, biomedical interventions and others, across the entire lifespan. Bringing together the expertise and experiences of family members, professionals and individuals on the spectrum, attendees are able to learn how to more effectively advocate and obtain supports for the individual with ASD. The ultimate goal is to empower family members, individuals on the spectrum and professionals to make informed decisions."

Attendees will gain knowledge of the latest research in the field, connect with parents and professionals, and learn about local and national resources. Autism Asperger Publishing Company (AAPC) will have a booth at the conference with many of their highly-respected authors presenting more information and offering book signings. (AAPC published my book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge?.) Click here for more information about the conference.

TV Series “Exploring Critical Issues” Delves into Autism and Asperger Syndrome

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


"A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle." - Khalil Gibran

Dr. Robert A. Scott, Adelphi University President, the host of the television series "Exploring Critical Issues" will soon be discussing the topic, "Autism and Asperger Syndrome." The purpose of the segment is to discuss the newest autism research and policies with the goal of bring awareness to this fast growing disorder.

Asperger Syndrome (AS) is much more common than previously realized and many adults are undiagnosed. Studies suggest that AS is considerably more common than "classic" Autism. Whereas Autism has traditionally been thought to occur in about 4 out of every 10,000 children, estimates of Asperger Syndrome have ranged as high as 20-25 per 10,000. A study carried out in Sweden , concluded that nearly 0.7% of the children studied had symptoms suggestive of AS to some degree. Time Magazine notes in its May 6, 2002 issue cover story, “ASD is five times as common as Down syndrome and three times as common as juvenile diabetes." Click here to learn more about Asperger Syndrome.

Along with Dr. Robert Scott is a panel of four autism experts including Dr. Stephen Shore, Assistant Professor of Education at Adelphi University. Dr. Shore wrote the forward to my book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge?. He teaches courses in special education and autism at Adelphi University. In addition to working with children and talking about life on the autism spectrum, Dr. Shore addresses adult issues pertinent to education, relationships, employment, advocacy, and disclosure as discussed in his many books.

This one hour broadcast will air:
Sunday, May 8th
Sunday, May 15th
Tuesday, May 10th
Tuesday, May 17th
Thursday, May 12th
Thursday, May 19th

"Autism and Asperger Syndrome" can be viewed online at www.telecaretv.org.

Do Women have Asperger Syndrome?

Monday, April 04, 2011


Yes, women do have Asperger Syndrome (AS). It is true that the bulk of those diagnosed are men, there are many girls and women with AS. Women with Asperger's may lead more complex lives than men with Asperger's. To some extent, males with Asperger’s are more accepted because their behavior is viewed as "extreme male thinking." But women with Asperger Syndrome are viewed as cold, uncaring, and selfish because the cultural expectation is for women to be more aware of the needs of the relationship, something which is extremely difficult for most Aspies.

Men around the world are in relationships with women who have Asperger's. Even though the disorder is the same, there are unique differences between a relationship with an AS woman and an AS man. Just like NT women, NT men need to be able to learn about Asperger Syndrome and be able to talk about their experiences.

In order to fill the need that NT men have, I have created two message boards on the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD webpage specifically for male member. Of course, men do not need to be confined to male only sites, but their experiences are specific and so are their needs. If you are a man in a relationship with a women with ASD or have a family member, please feel free to join our message boards whether it is male only or any others that fit your circumstances.

My book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going over the Edge? can be a valuable resource for both men and women in Asperger relationships. Click here to download a free sample chapter.

Are You a Survivor of Survivors?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


How do you describe a person who has been traumatized by another person's trauma? I would describe them as a "survivor of survivors." Whether it is from PTSD, alcoholism, Asperger Syndrome, or something else, the actions of that person will affect their loved ones, sparking a cycle of re-traumatization. This type of cycle is vicious and harmful to say the least.

It's hard to explain why a person will feel traumatized by the behavior of another person, but those feelings are very real and should not be minimized. If those feelings are not addressed, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem will set in.

The key is to try and stop the cycle so no one else turns into a survivor of survivors. For the cycle to stop, both parties must seek professional help. There are a variety of effective therapies now available. In addition to therapy, joining a support group is an excellent way to gain comfort and strength from those in a similar situation.

If you have a family member with Asperger Syndrome and live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, I invite you to join Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD. On March 19, 2011, we will be discussing "Are You a Survivor of Survivors?" and exploring this topic in detail.

If your loved one is suffering from another type of trauma or disorder, please contact my office for more information. Do not delay in stopping the cycle!

How to Find the Right Support Group

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Joining a support group can feel intimidating. The idea of sharing intimate stories with people you don’t know can make even the most outgoing person anxious. A lot of times, fear of joining can be dispelled by doing your research to see if the group fits you and your needs.
 
Here are a few thing to keep in mind when searching for a support group:
 
Join Online
Many support groups have websites that include the members, message boards, and meeting information. Joining online before going to the group in person will give you some time to get to know the members and their personalities. You can also get a clue as to what they are discussing and see if it will suit your needs. Don't feel bad if it is not a fit. Remember, this is about you and it's okay to be picky!
 
Ask Questions
Contact the group facilitator and ask questions about the group. Think of the questions ahead of time and be specific about what you are looking for. Ask about location, price, meeting format, and confidentiality.  
 
Avoid Negativity
Look for a support group that is solution-oriented. Having a safe place to “vent” is important but beware of groups that turn into a pity party or a place to constantly spew negative emotions. The goal of a support group is to walk away feeling refreshed. A sign of a healthy group is when there are regular members attending and you see friendships budding. If arguments are a regular feature, then walk away.
 
I have been facilitating a support group for the last couple of years –  Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD. This group has continued to grow because members realize that in order to cope effectively with their unique situation, they need love and support from others who can completely relate. I have been receiving many messages from our members sharing their feeling about our group. Here are some of the latest comments:
 
"Thank you for this site and your ongoing support. I have only been a member here for exactly one month, but it has meant more to me than all the counseling I've attempted over a 30-year marriage. I just can't emphasize enough what a relief from profound confusion, invalidation, and loneliness this experience of being heard and guided here has been. I think I'm finally making some real progress in regaining myself."
 
"In starting this discussion group, you are truly creating something big. Out of your pain and life lessons, you are giving others life through awareness and the chance to express and feel. . .normal again. Further, your continued presence on this site is amazing since you already have a business to run yourself."
 

Thank you to all who have shown your support to our group. If you are interested in joining, please take the leap! We would love to meet you. Click here for more information about Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD.

New Features and Feedback from Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD

Friday, January 07, 2011


Thank you to all who are making the Meetup support group, Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD, a place of support and understanding. You have exceeded my wildest expectations.

 

I wanted to share with you what some of our members are saying about our group:

"This site is a God send. NT spouses reaching out to kindred spirits for understanding and support. AS is difficult to diagnosis and only those of us who live with it truly understand how emotionally devastating it can be. Thank you Kathy for starting this Meetup group."

"Every non Asperger spouse or family member would find valuable support in sharing their real life experiences living with a spouse or family member with AS.
"

"Genuine support group, extremely helpful to understanding ASD."

For those of you who do not live in the Portland/Vancouver area, there is new feature on our  Meetup site just for you. I have created message board space for members to post on the same subject we’re addressing in our face-to-face Meetups. I recognize that this is not the same, but I hope that this will help you to connect with us on the topic at hand.

I also wanted to mention that you can email other members via the Meetup site. If you want to connect personally with any of our members feel free to do so. It is all anonymous, so no personal information is given out.

On January 8, 2011 at 1:00 pm, the Beaverton Group will
be meeting to discuss "What did the holidays look like in your household? How did you take care of yourself?"

On January 15, 2011 at 1:00 pm, the Portland Group will be discussing, "Are you invisible? How do you cope with Aspies?"

We hope that you will be able to attend or share your thoughts on our message board. I look forward to hearing from you.


For more information, visit the Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup website. In order to access information on the Meetup site, please register as a member. All members are approved on the basis that they have adult family or loved ones on the Autism Spectrum.  



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