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Kathy Marshack News

New Autism Research: Repetition May Not Be the Best Method of Teaching New Concepts

Monday, November 09, 2015


repitition may not be the best method for teaching children with autism“Repetition is the mother of retention” or so the saying goes. Yet recent studies are showing that this adage doesn’t apply to those on the autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Why? Because people with ASD have difficulty transferring information from one context to another.

In fact, a study conducted by the Weizmann Institute shows that this repetitive training may make it harder for those with ASD to apply learned knowledge to new situations. After running a series of test on high-functioning ASD adults and a control group, the researchers discovered that the ASD adults could learn the first bit of information, but they couldn’t apply it to the next situation presented to them. All subsequent attempts at teaching them the second piece of information failed. They were unable to learn it.

It’s like they showed ‘hyperspecificity’ of learning – their learning became fixed and inflexible – since learning the first location adversely influenced their ability to learn the second instance,” said Hila Harris, the study’s lead author from the Weizmann Institute.

They then ran a test on a new group of ASD adults and control individuals without the repetitive teaching. “Our conclusion is that breaks in repetition allow the visual system some time to rest and allow autistic individuals to learn efficiently and to then generalize. Repeated stimulation leads to sensory adaptation which interferes with learning and makes learning specific to the adapted conditions. Without adaptation, learning is more efficient and can be generalized,” said New York University’s David Heeger.

The research team believes this has important implications for educating those with autism. They concluded that “incorporates variability from the beginning and promotes learning a broad concept rather than a specific example” works best with the ASD community. They gave the illustration of teaching what a dog is. When they used only one picture of one breed, those with ASD were unable to identify that other breeds were dogs because they were taught initially with a very narrow and specific focus. When they used many pictures of various types of dogs to teach what a dog, then the ASD students were able to understand what a dog is.

Are you having difficulty interacting your ASD family member? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment and we’ll explore all options that are available to help you.

If you’d like to learn more about the science behind Asperger’s Syndrome (a high-functioning form of ASD) and learn why they do what they do, you’ll find answers in my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD), click on the image below to download a free chapter.

Dashed! Crashed! Trashed! Is That How Your Aspie Relationship Has You Feeling?

Wednesday, November 04, 2015


support group for families with adults with asperger syndromeMost of you who live with a family member with Asperger’s Syndrome can instantly relate to these feelings. Living with the Aspie Mind means that your hopes are frequently dashed. It means that your spirit/mind/body crashes from time to time too. And in spite of your best intentions, your Aspie trashes you and your efforts to repair the relationship. Rather than ignoring these feelings, it’s time to address this problem head on. If you’re to repair your relationship you absolutely must take care of yourself instead of fall victim.

Furthermore, relationship repairs are required daily in these Asperger/Neuro-typical marriages and families. The communication problems are intense as you well know. But before you can be successful at managing your life, you really must understand the phenomena of dashing, crashing and trashing.

Have you been looking for a supportive group that “gets” what you’re going through in dealing with your Aspie family member? Learn more about the November paid Video Call on the topic: Dashed! Crashed! Trashed! It will help you parse the system that may lead to dashing, crashing, and trashing by your Aspie. We’ll discuss how to keep yourself safe, how to rebuild your inner life . . . and how to hold people accountable for their behavior. Each Video Call is held twice a month so you can choose the most convenient time for you. Register early, because these calls fill up quickly.

If you want to understand those with Asperger’s better and how to make your family thrive, please make the time to read my books, Going Over the Edge? and Out of Mind – Out of Sight.

Do Alternative Treatments Hold the Cure for Autism and More?

Monday, October 26, 2015


alternative treatments for autism spectrum disorderPeople are desperately trying to find a cure for their loved ones with Autism Spectrum Disorder. A great deal of research is being done on alternative treatments based on recent findings that good gut bacteria can change the way the brain works. A New York Times article reports on many of these studies and I’d recommend reading it. It’s fascinating to learn about their findings.

Science has shown for a long time that an estimated 50 percent of the dopamine and a majority of the serotonin we need originates in the intestine, where these chemical signals regulate appetite, feelings of fullness and digestion.

In 2007, scientists started the Human Microbiome Project to catalog the micro-organisms living in our body. Gut bacteria does break down our food and contributes to our digestive health. Biologists now believe that much of what makes us human depends on microbial activity. Many scientists are researching how microbiota can improve or cure physical diseases, Autism, depression anxiety and more.

One alternate treatment is called “psychobiotics”, which is a term coined by neuroscientist John Cryan to describe the process of introducing potentially mind-altering microbes. So far they’ve been experimenting on mice and have been achieving promising results.

Another alternate treatment that some people are trying is fecal transplants. (Yes, people are taking fecal matter from a donor and implanting it in another person.). They base this practice on the theory that introducing the bacteria from a healthy donor will establish good gut bacteria in the patient who’s lacking it because they didn’t receive it at birth because of a cesarean delivery. I can’t in good conscience recommend this treatment because of the health risks associated with it. Will scientists in time be able to isolate individual strains of bacteria that can cure Autism? Time will tell.

While this ongoing research is fascinating, if you have a loved one that has been diagnosed with ASD, you want a proven effective treatment. A holistic health approach, which may include medications and therapy benefit those with Autism. Consult with a mental health care professional who specializes in ASD to determine the best treatment for your loved one. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

You will also benefit from learning how science is unlocking the key to understanding Asperger behavior. My book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD), explores the science behind Asperger’s. If you want to understand your Aspie better, this is a must read.

Understanding the Aspie Mind – Our Next Video Call Topic

Monday, October 19, 2015


Understanding the aspie mindIt is often said that "Once you have met one Aspie, you have met only one Aspie."

While it’s true that those with Asperger’s Syndrome (Aspies) are as individualistic and idiosyncratic as Neuro Typicals (NT), there are patterns that define them that are distinctively autistic. It’s important to be alert to these patterns and to develop strategies to communicate and cope.

The major defining pattern in Autism Spectrum Disorders is their lack of empathy or the inability to connect and reciprocate in their relationships. The Aspie may care, may want to connect, but their lack of empathy prevents it. On the other hand NTs use empathy as a major organizing principle for how we think and plan and relate to everyone and everything. Obviously these are two very different mindsets.

Instead of bemoaning what they lack, let's take a look at how they construct meaning. In other words, if you are to relate to an Aspie and to teach them to relate to you, you need to understand how they think.

We had our first monthly Video Call on this subject already. Will you be joining us on October 29th at 2PM PT where we’ll discuss the same topic: Understand the Aspie Mind? The goal of this Video Call is to bring these two worlds together; the world of empathy inspired relating and the world of Aspie relating. We’ll examine this phenomenon of empathy disorders and then we’ll take it a step further by looking at the mind of the Aspie.

Here’s what one of our participants said about a recent Video Call:

“This group has been a lifeline to me and I can see it is for so many others as well. Even though we were not in the same room, and even though we didn't have time to say very much; seeing each other's faces and expressions and interest level – on top of the fact that we "get" each other – was a monumentally positive experience. Very encouraging and uplifting, and the information learned was vital.”

Have you been looking for a supportive group that “gets” what you’re going through in dealing with your Aspie husband or wife? Learn more about the paid Video Call or the free International Conference for families that deal with Asperger Syndrome.

If you want to understand those with Asperger’s better and how to make your family thrive, please make the time to read my books, Going Over the Edge? and Out of Mind – Out of Sight.

Hapa Aspie – How Can We Help Children Caught in Between the Asperger-Neurotypical Worlds?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Hapa Aspie refers to children raised in a family where one parent is neurotypical and one has Asperger’s, and they need help to cope with the mixed signals.Hapa is the Hawaiian slang word meaning half. Hapa Aspie is a term I coined for the children who are born and raised in a family where one of the parents is neurotypical (NT) and one has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a high functioning form of ASD.

Throughout mankind’s history there have been those who have been torn between two worlds because they’re the half – the half sister, the half brother, or even the derogatory term for mixed races.

Parenting children in a home with an Aspie parent is very complex, particularly if you have Aspie and neurotypical (NT) children. The NT spouse has to switch back and forth between the worlds of Aspie partner, Aspie children and NT children. This is also true for NT children (those who don’t have AS). Their world is a very confusing mix. At school or with friends, they can engage in the NT interactions that reinforce their perception of reality. At home, they get mixed signals. It’s hard for adults to maneuver the unusual world of Aspie/NT family life. Imagine how hard it is for NT children.

During crucial developmental stages, NT children who get different signals from their parents and their siblings learn to cope in unique ways that last a lifetime. Very often, NT children are lonely, depressed and feel invisible to others. They frequently develop a variety of Aspie-like traits, too. That’s not surprising, given that’s what is modeled for them. Whether by genetic inheritance or behavioral learning, NT children from these families acquire a unique perspective that can best be explained as Hapa Aspie. (Read more about how to help Hapa Aspie children in my book, Out of Mind-Out of Sight chapter 7.)

In order to free yourself from the confusing childhood of being raised by an Aspie parent…and in order to help your children keep their self-esteem in tact, we really need to look at this phenomenon very carefully. The usual parenting tips do not work. Nor does the usual divorce advice work.

The next free international teleconference will be held on Friday, October 23, 2015 at 2:30 PM PT and we’ll discuss this topic: What about the kids? Were you one? Please join us and bring your questions and share your strategies for parenting with a partner who has no empathy for his or her children (love maybe, but no empathy). Plus if you grew up with an Aspie parent as I did, this is your chance to clear the air for yourself and to give tips to those NTs still raising these Hapa Aspies.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and need personalized counsel on helping your family come to grips with the conflicting Aspie/NT worlds, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

 

Can a Child Have Both Autism and ADHD?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


a child can have both ADHD and autism

Yes! And this can cause a real problem when the very young are being diagnosed. A doctor may stop looking when he or she sees ADHD symptoms and then they miss that the child is also suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder. Dr. Amir Miodovnik, a developmental pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital authored a recent study, which shows that symptoms of ADHD may, in fact, conceal ASD in very young children.


Why is this significant? Because a delayed diagnosis of autism delays vital treatment. Dr. Miodovnik found, “It took an average of three years longer to diagnose autism in children initially thought to have just ADHD. It's been shown the earlier that you implement these therapies for autism, the better children do in terms of outcome." He found that some cases the ASD diagnosis didn’t occur until six or more years later. (Look for more information on this study in the October print issue of Pediatrics.)

ASD and ADHD are different neurological disorders, however they do have some symptoms in common. What similar symptoms do Autism and ADHD have?

  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity
  • Inattentive
  • Social awkwardness
  • Difficulty in interactions with others

What are some differences between ADHD and ASD?

Asperger’s Syndrome
  • All-absorbing interest in specialized topics, like sports statistics or dinosaurs
  • Lack of nonverbal communication - eye contact, facial expressions, body gestures
  • Lack of empathy or understanding others’ feelings
  • Monotone pitch or lack of rhythm when speaking
  • >Missed motor skill development mile markers, such as catching a ball

ADHD
  • Easily distracted and forgetful
  • Problems processing information accurately and quickly
  • Touching or playing with everything especially in a new environment
  • Very impatient and can’t wait their turn
  • Over-reacting when upset or bothered, without consideration for others

Can you see why there might be confusion? Dr Miodovnik recommends that parents who believe that a child younger than 5 has ADHD should take their child to a developmental pediatrician, rather than a family physician, to make sure that possible autism will not be overlooked. He also recommends this because managing a child with ADHD can be complicated.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and you’re concerned that your child has been thoroughly diagnosed and is receiving optimal treatment, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

If you have a loved one that has been diagnosed with ASD, you will also benefit from learning how science is unlocking the key to understanding Asperger behavior. My book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD), explores the science behind Asperger’s. If you want to understand your Aspie better, this is a must read.

Why Women with Asperger’s Syndrome Don’t Fit In

Friday, September 18, 2015


women with aspergers don't fit inIt’s a harsh fact that women are valued for who they are, whereas men are valued for what they do. While we may make allowances for the eccentricities of men with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), such as the stereotypical absent-minded professor or geeky software engineer, there are no acceptable and endearing stereotypes for women with AS. This is because women – all women, whether they have careers or work in the home – are val­ued for how well they fit in. Most women sense they need to be pleasant, supportive and caring, or they’re labeled “bossy”, “pushy”, or worse.

 In mapping out the “theory-of-mind network” of the brain, neuroscientists have found that women without Asperger’s score the highest in showing empathy – being able to read a person’s feeling by looking at them. Men without Asperger’s score the next highest. However, studies are showing that women with Asperger’s score a lot worse. In fact they are on the extreme male side of the spectrum. This is called the “extreme male brain” theory of autism. You can read more about this study led by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the ARC at Cambridge University here.

For the woman with Asperger Syndrome this gender impera­tive can be a nightmare. Fitting in is almost the antithesis of Asperger’s Syndrome. How can you fit in when you don’t have “social radar”?

The most important first step for an AS woman is self-accep­tance, which doesn’t come from trying to fit in. Once you and your family can accept that this is the way it is, you can finally move on to develop a structure that you can live with. Here are some ways to achieve self-acceptance:

  • Stop expecting to fit in, but reach out to others who accept your uniqueness.
  • Laugh at your foibles.
  • Explore the little-known world of Asperger’s Syndrome and teach your daughters to navigate the world from the lessons you’ve learned.
  • Believe you have gifts to offer.
  • Develop housekeeping routines and mothering techniques that work for you.
  • Hire as much help as you can afford.

What matters is preserving your self-esteem so that you have time to enjoy your loved ones and they you. Seek the support and guidance of a psychologist who is well versed in the double whammy of dealing with being a woman and having Asperger Syndrome. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

New Video Conference Connects People Who Have Family Members with ASD

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


worldwide asperger syndrome video conference"Know that you are not alone."

This is the underlying message of all of the Asperger Syndrome Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetups since the group was organized over six years ago. Now it’s even more profound since members are talking together from around the world. To my surprise we have grown from a handful of people in Portland, Oregon to an international membership from ever continent.

Are you interested in knowing more about the new format for the worldwide video conference? Here are some frequently asked questions that will help you get acquainted with this new process:

Who may join the calls? Only NT (neuro-typical) members of the Asperger Syndrome Partners & Family of Adults with ASD will be approved to join the video call, as we will be discussing what it’s like to live with an adult on the Autism Spectrum or with Asperger's Syndrome.

How many will be attending at one time? Each video call is limited to Dr. Kathy Marshack plus 10 so the conversation can be more intimate.

Can I attend anonymously? Instead of using your real name, you can use a pseudonym.

Can I attend even if I don’t have a webcam or video capability? The purpose of this small group is to get real, to be seen, heard and understood like you would in an in-person support group. If you don't have video capability or are uncomfortable with this format please join us for one of our teleconferences that can be accessed through your phone.

Will these calls be confidential? Absolutely yes! Dr. Marshack is using a very secure software called Scopia to ensure your confidentiality.

Will I be able to talk with individual parties privately while the call is in progress? Yes, you can have a private text chat with another meetup member or you can talk to the entire group.

Can I use my Smart Phone to access this call? Yes! Check out this page to learn what browser and devices will work.

Will this call be translated into my language? The call will be in English only.

How much does it cost? At the time of this writing, the price is $15 USD per person. This fee is non-refundable.

How do I pay? If you are not able to pay by credit card or PayPal, please call 503-222-6678 to make alternate arrangements.

When should I login to the call? **IMPORTANT** If you have RSVP’d “yes” to the video conference please download the software one or two days ahead of time. This will ensure you’re ready to go when the video conference takes place and can maximize your time.

Depending on when you RSVP, you will receive an email invitation approximately 5-10 business days prior to the video conference date. SAVE THIS EMAIL. It contains a link to join the meeting along with a PIN number. This PIN gives you access into the meeting. Login at least 10 minutes before the conference starts.

Choose the instructions corresponding to your device/internet browser here.

How often will these video conference calls be scheduled? Two calls are scheduled per month to accommodate as many time zones as possible. They are posted for Pacific Time. Check the schedule often to make sure you get in on the topics that interest you. You can use this world clock converter to see how USA – Oregon – Portland time converts to your time.

September Video Conference Calls

Thursday, September 10, 2015 8am PDT Topic: You are not alone.

Friday, September 11, 2015 1:30pm PDT Topic: You are not alone.


Whether you live in the U.S., Scotland, Dubai or New Zealand please join us and learn that you are not alone. Regardless of culture or country, I have found that living with an Aspie adult (spouse, child, parent, etc) feels the same. It can be confusing, heartbreaking, crazy making, amusing, stressful, enlightening and more.

5 Ways to Make Back-to-School Anxieties Disappear

Monday, August 17, 2015


It’s only natural for your child to feel anxious about the new school year. And if your children have ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), AS (Asperger's Syndrome), or ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) they need extra help to transition into the new routine. Yes, it might be tempting to put off back-to-school preparations, however the more you prepare your child the easier it will be on you, your child and the teachers. Here are a few reminders to make this process easier…

Be Positive
You can help ease their worries by always speaking positively about returning to school. Get them excited about that they’re going to learn. Help them remember what they enjoyed from previous years.

Make Appointments Early
Does your child need to see his doctor, dentist, or optometrist? How about teachers and administrators you need to talk with before school starts? It relieves a lot of stress to get these appointments taken care of well before the school year starts.

Get into the School Routine
Routine is so important for children with ASD and ADD. A month before school starts, review class materials that your child likes for a scheduled time each day, gradually increasing the time and adding more difficult materials so your child transitions from the carefree summer to the classroom structure. Also gradually shift wake up time and bedtime to match what your child needs to function well at school.

Involve Your Child in Back-to-School Preparation
Let them go school shopping with you so they can pick out things they like. Work together as you assemble their backpacks. Talk about what they’d like to eat for lunch and snacks. And the night before school starts, help them lay out the clothes they want to wear.

Visit the School
Introduce your child to as many people as possible – the teacher, principal, office staff, school nurse, teacher assistants, custodians. Alert them to your child’s special needs and how they can assist you.

I really recommend that you put together a packet about your child for the teacher. Take a look at the article How to Assemble a Teacher Information Packet for some helpful tips.

For additional back to school and safety tips, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics - Back To School Tips. My website also has information about Parenting a Child with ADD.

Dinosaurs, Asperger’s and a Mother’s Love

Wednesday, August 05, 2015


dinosaurs autism and a mother's loveAs parents when we have children who are challenged in some way, we will go to great lengths to take care of them. A New York Times article on excavating dinosaur fossils from the Grand Staircase monument called the Kaiparowits Plateau flooded my mind with memories…


When my autistic daughter was a teen, I took her to three North American Paleontology Conferences so that she could earn science credits for high school. She was terrified in public school because she was tormented by other students. But she loved paleontology and felt comfortable around the scientists because she could converse very knowledgeably on the topic of her "special interest”.

I had called Dr. Jere Lipps, paleontology professor at the University of California at Berkeley and he’d graciously told me that my daughter was more than welcome. She received an award for being the youngest participant. I was very proud of her—even though she’d needed a dose of Klonopin (an anti-anxiety drug) to make it through each day.

Here’s an excerpt from my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD), which tells of the experience:

“In a dimly lit motel room, I sit in front of my laptop, uploading photos from the day’s exploration on the Oklahoma prairie. Next to me, sprawling on her bed is my 15-year-old daughter. She’s reading a novel, her usual pastime. She is re-reading Raptor Red. She loves this book so much, and reads it so often, that she’s literally worn it out. I have bought her more than one copy to keep her happy…

By day we sight dinosaur tracks permanently etched into rock where millions of years ago a mighty river dried up and created mud flats, the perfect medium for storing ancient footprints. On another day, we follow our guides past fences and “No Trespassing” signs to witness evidence of dinosaur nests with bits of fossilized eggshell still scattered on the ground.

Amazingly. I take most of the photos, because my daughter is mesmerized by the experience. She needs the photos to document the field trip for school credit. As usual, I remain the “responsible party,” a trait of helicopter mothers the world over. She’s the youngest member of the expedition and kind of an honorary member since most participants are professional paleontologists, graduate students, or adults with an amateur’s passion. In true helicopter mother fashion, I’d searched high and low for a way to leverage my daughter’s interest in paleontology and art into a high school science credit. I had to be inventive in those days since there were no educational programs for “twice exceptional” kids at the time (i.e. Asperger Syndrome and gifted).

I am uploading pictures from the camera, picking out the best shots and inserting them into a PowerPoint presentation. It is her task to write a description of each photo. That will be a test of her paleontological knowledge as well as a test of her limited patience. She complains that she is tired. She complains that she is hungry. She complains that she can’t remember anything. She complains about me and my helicoptering. With enough coaxing and bribes of snacks from the hotel canteen machines, she finishes the PowerPoint for that day. We celebrate by calling Dad and her sister to say, “Good night.” Then we fall into bed exhausted.”

Perhaps you recognized this scenario in your life. I enjoyed sharing these experiences with my daughter. Yet I wish I had had someone to guide me through these trying times. That’s why I’m so happy to tell you that we’re almost ready to start the new international video conferences for families of those with ASD! It’s going to be wonderful getting to talk with you face-to-face. I’ll give you more details soon.
Out of Mind Out of Sight Parenting with a partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)


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