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Kathy Marshack News

President Obama Proclaims April 2 World Autism Awareness Day

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


On April 2nd, President Barack Obama issued a White House Proclamation recognizing April 2, 2015 as World Autism Awareness Day. Here, in part, is what he said:

“We celebrate the countless ways they (those on the autism spectrum) strengthen our communities and enrich our world…individuals with autism live independent and productive lives, and our Nation is better because of their unique talents and perspectives. Their example reminds us that all people have inherent dignity and worth, and that everyone deserves a fair shot at opportunity.

My Administration is committed to helping Americans with autism fulfill their potential by ensuring access to the resources and programs they need. The Affordable Care Act prohibits companies from denying health insurance because of pre-existing conditions such as autism, and the law also requires most insurance plans to cover preventive services -- including autism and developmental screenings for young children -- without copays. Last year, I was proud to sign the Autism CARES Act of 2014, which bolstered training and educational opportunities for professionals serving children or adults on the autism spectrum. And as part of the BRAIN Initiative, we continue to invest in innovative research that aims to revolutionize our understanding of conditions like autism and improve the lives of all who live with them.

Today, let us honor advocates, professionals, family members, and all who work to build brighter tomorrows alongside those with autism. Together, we can create a world free of barriers to inclusion and full of understanding and acceptance of the differences that make us strong. I encourage all Americans to learn more about autism and what they can do to support individuals on the autism spectrum and their families.”

I truly believe that as we learn to make better lives for our loved ones with ASD, we make better lives for everyone on the planet. Education and research into how the brain works are vital for understanding how best to help them. I’m committed to sharing with you the latest information and tools for furthering these endeavors.

Teachers and Parents – Check out Autism Speaks’ Puzzle Piece Project Tool Kit, a K-12 grade educational tool for creating greater awareness among students. If the children of today develop greater awareness, as adults of tomorrow they can continue making a real difference in the lives of those with ASD.

Read the entire White House Proclamation here.

Please, come over to my Facebook Page and share what you’re doing in support of Autism this month.

Are You Feeling like a Misfit in your NT-AS Marriage?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


asperger husband makes the wife feel lonely and like she doesn't fit in anywhereAny marriage is subject to ups and downs due to human nature in general and the individual partners, in particular. When Asperger Syndrome is part of the mix, the challenges easily mount. This is not to say that the Aspie partner is to blame or is at “fault.” However, given that the core characteristics of Asperger Syndrome relate to communication, emotions, perspective taking and sensory issues, the very components upon which relationships are built, it is no wonder that misunderstanding and frustration often crop up in these relationships.

After years of adapting to your Aspie loved ones, many Neuro-Typicals feel "Aspergated" or as if they have one foot in the NT world and one foot in the ASD world. . . not quite fitting into either. Do you relate to this following scenario?

Little by little you lose contact with your friends as you retreat into your spouse’s Asperger comfort zone. You quit going out to dinner and you quit inviting people over, because you’re Aspie partner complains, so it’s just easier to disappear. And because your social needs aren’t being met, the only way you know how to cope is to “shut down”, pretending that it doesn’t matter. Sure you don’t give up without a fight, but the efforts to fix the situation seem to be pointless.

As a result, your evenings find you in one room watching TV or playing with the children, while your husband is glued to the TV in the den watching his programs. If you don’t start connecting with someone soon, you’re going to go crazy with resentment. But it’s been so long since you put yourself out there that it feels awkward, clumsy and so lonely. You feel like you just don’t fit in anywhere. Does this sound all too familiar?

Are you feeling like a misfit? Fortunately we have the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with AS group, whose members provide the deepest of understanding and caring. But where else can you go for this kind of support? Join us on March 21, 2015 1:00pm for our next local meetup in Portland, OR. Can’t be there? Then join the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with AS international teleconference on Friday, March 27, 2015 at 2:30pm PDT. Let's talk about how we can find this support or at the very least how to protect ourselves from the ravages of loneliness.

And if you haven’t purchased your copy of my books on how to nurture Asperger Relationships so that they 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.

Does Your Asperger Parent or Partner Make You Feel Invisible?

Thursday, February 05, 2015


asperger partner makes you feel invisibleHave you ever felt like your Aspie family member doesn’t see you? Like your thoughts and feelings aren’t acknowledged and don’t matter? This can especially become a pattern of life for those who grow up with one Asperger parent and one Neuro-typical (NT) parent.

What does psychological invisibility mean?

Recently I wrote an article for PsychCentral discussing this topic and shared an example of how one young woman, Rose Marie, grew up feeling invisible. I’d encourage you to click here to read the entire PsychCentral article. (And while you’re there, will you share this information from your favorite social media platform, too?)

In brief, because those with Asperger lack empathy, they cause others to feel ignored, unappreciated and unloved. When people feel invisible, they can come to believe they deserve to be ignored. They develop coping mechanisms similar to “psychic numbing” where your own feelings become invisible to yourself. They develop a “tough cookie, no fear” exterior to get past their feelings of insecurity. The result of this disregard is what I call, “invisibility.”

And this doesn’t just affect children. Even when someone comes into a relationship with a strong sense of self-esteem, it can quickly be shattered by a partner or spouse who has an empathy disorder.

How can those who feel invisible cope?

Many cope by coming up with an explanation of why life has turned out the way it has. But these explanations change nothing. An old fashioned southern euphemism is appropriate for Neuro-Typicals in this situation: “No explaining; no complaining.” Explaining and complaining are defensive maneuvers that we use when we feel trapped. They are attempts to prove to ourselves that we are okay; whereas if we are truly okay, then what is there to defend?

Everyone who wants to cope with these feelings of invisibility must stop explaining or complaining. Everything you talk about should be about what you’re feeling or hearing or seeing or smelling right now. Don’t analyze. Don’t blame others or yourself. Don’t judge either. No complaining. No explaining.

Do you want to experience feeling truly okay, acceptable, fully alive — without an explanation or a complaint? Perhaps it’s time to seek the assistance of a health care professional. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

This information has been excerpted from my book, Out of Mind - Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD). Learn more and grab a free sample chapter by clicking here.

Can Spiritual Support Help You Cope with Asperger Relationships?

Wednesday, February 04, 2015


spiritual support is essential to maintain hope in your asperger relationshipsWhen caring for someone with Asperger’s, do you put self-care at the top of your list? People who travel by air are instructed, “In case of an emergency, put the air mask on yourself first and then your children or others.” Only in caring for yourself first can you truly care for others. Otherwise you have nothing left to give. Families with member who have Asperger’s Syndrome especially need to attend to and take care of their whole person. That means caring for your whole being - your mind, body and spirit.

Does this mean you need to be religious?

Spirit or spirituality is not synonymous with religion or religious. Church has nothing to do with spirituality directly. Rather the spirit is that part of each human that makes us a distinctive personality. It is the part of us that defines us and yet connects us to others. It has long been known that a strong healthy spirit will guide us successfully through adversity, whereas a conquered spirit will succumb to illness and death. It was Mother Theresa's strong spirit that transcended her small stature and seemingly insignificant role as a nun to profoundly affect thousands of people for the better. In other words, spirit is that singular life force that directs and shapes our attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Therefore, keeping spirit or life force healthy is essential to the process of achieving healthy balance in any life.

Does spiritual practice and spiritual guidance help in your life with Asperger’s Syndrome?

Many of our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD members post that their church and/or spiritual discipline helps them stay strong and loving. But not all are finding comfort from their religious organizations. In fact, some report the opposite. . .that they feel even more alone. We don't need platitudes. We need unconditional love and support for this life.

Join our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD local Meetup on Saturday, February 21, 2015 at 1:00pm PST or our international teleconference Meetup on Friday, February 27, 2015 at 2:30pm PST. We’ll discuss this topic: SPIRITUAL SUPPORT: Does It Help? Let's meet to discuss what works for you whether it is a formal religion, another form of spiritual discipline, or even atheism. What really matters is that we connect and know that we are not alone. . . In the material world or beyond.

Read more on my website: Asperger Syndrome Support and Asperger Relationships Remote Education.

Asperger’s Syndrome and Depression – A Deadly Combination

Monday, January 12, 2015


asperger syndrome and depression is often linked with suicideA large number of adults with Asperger’s Syndrome suffer from depression. Scientists don’t know if this is a result of the struggles and rejections they face in life or if it’s because of the way their brains are hard wired. As Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen said in a recently published study on Asperger’s and depression, “Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome often suffer with secondary depression due to social isolation, loneliness, social exclusion, lack of community services, underachievement, and unemployment.”

What we now know, regardless of the causes, when your loved one has Asperger’s Syndrome and shows symptoms of depression, alarm bells to go off. The study mentioned above found that there’s a significant increase in suicidality among adults with Asperger’s. They are ten times more likely to have suicidal thoughts, suicidal plans and suicidal attempts than the general population, which is even more than those who have psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia.

Up until now, studies on Asperger’s Syndrome and depression have been concentrating on preadolescents, and they show a low rate of suicidal behavior. So, even though previous studies have shown that there’s a link between autism and suicidal thoughts, these findings about adults with AS come as a surprise to many. What concerns me is that many adults with Asperger’s have lived their lives undiagnosed, so they haven’t sought help from a mental health professional unless they’ve experienced severe mood or psychotic changes.

Nomi Kaim of Asperger/Autism Newtwork (formerly Asperger’s Association of New England or AANE) describes poignantly how depression affects someone with Asperger’s. She highlights the paradoxical battle that goes on inside in the following areas of life:

  • Those with Asperger’s focus on and gain comfort from their special area(s) of interest. Depression steals any delight in doing such activities. This leaves an immense sense of emptiness.
  • People with Asperger’s Syndrome deal in concrete, black and white thinking. Depression forces them leave the comfort of these thoughts as they have to learn to deal with overwhelming emotions they are unprepared to handle.
  • People with Asperger’s Syndrome find comfort in being alone. Depression makes it essential to seek out others so they don’t spiral into self-destruction, which causes the pain of socializing to become more pronounced and threatens their sense of being self-sufficient.
  • People with Asperger’s Syndrome hate to be touched. Depression creates a need for physical yearning to be held and comforted, which, in turn, may leave them feeling violated.

This study highlights the need for us to be alert and prompt about seeking professional help for our Aspie loved ones who are depressed. If you live near Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington, please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Together we can create new ways for them to cope with this situation before it becomes a tragedy.

We have the Winners!

Friday, January 09, 2015


coping with partner who has asperger syndrome bookcoping with a spouse with asperger syndromeDuring the month of December I ran a "Feedback" Contest on Facebook asking for your heartfelt thoughts about my two books on the topic of Asperger’s Syndrome. I’m happy to say the winners have been posted on my Facebook page.

Yes! There are two winners! When it came down to the final decision, I just couldn’t decide – so both of these people will receive their own 20 minute remote education call with me during the next few months. I’m really looking forward to getting to know them better. I’m hoping they’ll share with me how I can better serve this NT/AS community.

I just wanted to share with you their winning comments. I’m using initials to protect their privacy.

Jules NZ commented: “Out of Mind – Out of Sight. For me, this book has given me permission to follow my instincts and trust myself again after 30 years of invalidation and dwindling self esteem. The chapters about zero empathy from the Aspie spouse, and invisibility of the NT partner were revelations for me, and there are simply too many other topics that are for me, like gold. This book has become my bible and I refer to it frequently to help me understand the craziness that has been my life, parenting with my Asperger husband.

Going over the Edge has been a life saver for me, I have used the knowledge within to understand and learn about Asperger Syndrome in my relationship with my husband. The practical examples are so easy to relate to when you live this life. Dr Kathy must have been talking about me? how did she know?? I have read this book over and over and each time find another gem to support myself and remind myself I am ok, that what I am experiencing is normal for life with a spouse with Aspergers.”

JB commented: “I read Going Over the Edge. I am married to an undiagnosed man who shows many traits described in the book. I was most impacted by the young girl's drawing and discovering the busy brain. Like most challenges we face if we become aware and accept them they become manageable and even tolerable especially when you know there is support available for you. I don't love my situation but the book did give me hope and settled me down. It caused me to sit back and look at things from a new perspective. I have to read parts of it from time to time to wheel me back in when I start to feel crazy. Thank you.”

Their comments really touched my heart as I can see that my work is truly helping them. And yes, I do consider myself to be one of the winners, since I get to connect with wonderful people like you. Please come on over to my Facebook page and congratulate our winners.

Learn more about Asperger’s Syndrome:

  • Schedule a 20 minute educational call with Dr. Marshack for Asperger Relationships Remote Education.
  • Download a free chapter of Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD).
  • Download a free chapter of Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going over the Edge? Practical Steps to Saving You and Your Relationship.

How to Help Your Asperger Loved One Bridge the Empathy Gap

Thursday, January 01, 2015


help your asperger loved one bridge the empathy gapHave you noticed that your Aspie struggles to understand that someone is “pulling their leg”? Or they’re confused by irony, pretense, metaphor, and deception? Their “mind blindness” and difficulty with empathy cause them to be clueless in social situations such as these and they need help to navigate through them.

Empathy is a complex system of emotional empathy and cognitive empathy and multiple transitions between the two. To help clarify this issue, I wrote an article for PsychCentral discussing the difference between emotional empathy and cognitive empathy and how you can help your loved one bridge the empathy gap. I’d encourage you to click here to read the entire PsychCentral article. (And while you’re there, will you share this information from your favorite social media platform, too?)

Most Neuro-Typicals make the transition between emotional empathy and cognitive empathy very easily, and thereby strike an easy balance between the two. Aspies, on the other hand, find it very difficult to accomplish this. The resulting disconnect between cognitive empathy and emotional empathy really defines Asperger Syndrome.

They struggle to recognize where someone’s distress is coming from (Cognitive Empathy) and they struggle with knowing how awful someone is feeling (Emotional Empathy). And they can’t easily move between the two and they’re unable to put personal needs aside for the moment and reach out to comfort another. Another factor is that true empathy also requires the ability to talk about this integration.

Don’t misunderstand. Those with Asperger’s can be deeply moved by life experiences. Yet they’re unable to speak to those responses through their own mental reasoning. And because those feelings can become so intense without having any way to express them, those with Asperger’s shut down to protect themselves. They avoid eye contact, because it adds to the emotional overload. It’s hard for them to hear your words and change their focus when their feelings are so overwhelming.

Because those with Asperger’s can’t bridge that gap, family member must make a bridge for them with comforting, supportive and loving words. One way to reduce the emotional overload for Aspies and NTs alike is to have a calming and knowledgeable professional to help sort things out.

If you anticipate an emotionally trying time approaching, such as the death of a loved one, a psychologist can help your Aspie reason through what’s happening to himself and to the dying loved one. An objective professional can put words to the emotions that well up. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office and schedule an appointment. With practice in therapy, your family may be able to talk about the events to come and plan a course of action, thereby averting the need for, and the resulting trauma of, any unprepared sudden emotional transition.

New Research: Is the Risk of ASD or ADHD Increased by Taking Depression Medicine during Pregnancy?

Thursday, November 13, 2014


depression and pregnancyResearch shows that genetic factors play a large role in autism spectrum disorder. However, not as much is known about the role of medications prescribed during pregnancy. Do antidepressants and antipsychotics increase the risk of ASD and ADHD? Or is it the mother’s depression a greater contributing factor? That’s what researchers are trying to find out.

New research suggests that increased risk of autism after medication use during pregnancy may actually be reflecting the increased risk associated with severe maternal depression instead. According to SFARI (Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative), “Women who have a history of bipolar disorder or depression are more likely to have a child with Asperger syndrome than classic autism.” They base this statement on a study published in the 2012 issue of Autism Research and Treatment.

PsychCentral reports on a study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital researchers, which discovered, “While a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder was more common in the children of mothers prescribed antidepressants during pregnancy than in those with no prenatal exposure, when the severity of the mother’s depression was accounted for, that increased risk was no longer statistically significant.”  They did, however, discover an increased risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). And antipsychotic drugs sometimes used to treat severe, treatment-resistant depression appeared to increase the risk for autism.

The senior author of the report, Roy Perlis, M.D., M.Sc., M.G.H., made this comment, “Untreated depression can pose serious health risks to both a mother and child, so it’s important that women being treated with antidepressants who become pregnant, or who are thinking about becoming pregnant, know that these medications will not increase their child’s risk of autism.”

Depression is not something you want to ignore because you’re afraid of what medication will do to you or your unborn child. There are a variety of depression treatment options available, with medication and without medication. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and a holistic health approach are beneficial in helping anxious or depressed people lower medication requirements. Please discuss these options with your doctor. You don’t need to stay in the darkness. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and set up an appointment so we can discuss the best treatment for you.

Wondering if you or someone you love has depression? Take the online PsychCentral Depression Quiz. If depression is indicated, please contact your physician or a mental health professional immediately.

Read more on my website: Overcoming Depression.

How to Protect Your Children and Yourself from Parental Alienation Syndrome

Thursday, November 06, 2014


Parental Alienation SyndromeHave you ever seen children who relentlessly belittle and insult one parent without cause? This is so heartbreaking, yet is becoming more common. It can get so bad that they even view that parent as evil. A person is most likely to see this situation during high conflict divorces where children become pawns in the battle between mom and dad.

Psychiatrist, Richard A. Gardner coined the phrase, “Parental Alienation Syndrome” to identify this behavior. He describes it as…

"A disorder that arises primarily in the context of child custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child's campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent's indoctrinations and the child's own contributions to the vilification of the target parent."

How and why does Parental Alienation Syndrome happen?

Many attorneys and marriage counselors suspect that high conflict divorces involve at least one partner with ASD (or another type of empathy disorder). This is because of the Empathy Disorder. Lack of empathy, unregulated emotions and a desire to control the outcome can lead to alienating the children, without regard for the serious damage the children suffer.

What are some alienation techniques that are used? The magazine Psychology Today lists the following behaviors:

  • “Bad-mouthing the other parent, 
  • Limiting contact with that parent, 
  • Erasing the other parent from the life and mind of the child (forbidding discussion and pictures of the other parent), 
  • Forcing the child to reject the other parent, 
  • Creating the impression that the other parent is dangerous, 
  • Forcing the child to choose between the parents by means of threats of withdrawal of affection, and 
  • Belittling and limiting contact with the extended family of the targeted parent.”

This painful issue of “Parental Alienation Syndrome” causes many to fear divorce, so we will be discussing this problem and how to protect yourself and your children at our next local Meetup - Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with AS on Saturday, November 15. If you live in the Vancouver, WA/ Portland area, please join us. If you’re unable to attend in person, please join the international teleconference on November 21, which will cover the same information for our global community. While not all on the Autism Spectrum will engage in Parental Alienation Syndrome, the underlying empathy disorder is still an issue in any divorce.

How Can You Teach Your Aspie Child to Love?

Tuesday, November 04, 2014


mother teaching autistic son to loveLove seems such a natural part of our lives that we tend to take for granted that our children will learn it as they grow. However, for those who parent children with Asperger Syndrome, it’s far from that easy. In their black and white world they need to have everything explained to them, and that becomes difficult, because love is so many things. Yet teaching love to your child is the most profound work a parent can do.

Because I know how heartbreaking it can be, I want to help as many as possible learn valuable strategies that work. To reach more people, I wrote an article for PsychCentral outlining how, in my practice, I’ve found a very effective way to assist children with Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s by defining the many different types of love for them just as the ancient Greeks did. What are the Greek words for love?

  • Agápe refers to true love.
  • Éros is passionate and romantic love.
  • Philia means friendship.
  • Storge means affection.

In the full article, I show how to explain each one to your child; therefore I really encourage you to click here to read the entire PsychCentral article. (And while you’re there, will you share this information from your favorite social media platform, too?)

Does information like this help you? I’ll let you in on a secret…this article is based on my book: Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD). If you haven’t grabbed your copy yet, you can purchase it as either a kindle edition or paperback. Not only does it have true-life experiences, tips and strategies, it also contains the science behind why they do what they do. If your family member has ASD, this resource will enhance your ability to understand and to cope.

If you’re a neuro-typical person who has an adult family member with Asperger’s Syndrome, think seriously about joining our Asperger Syndrome – Partners and Family of Adults with AS group. If you live in the Vancouver, WA area, join our local meetup. Otherwise, please join our international teleconference, which, I’m excited to announce, now has members from all the continents on this globe except for Antarctica.



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