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Kathy Marshack News

Lessons I Learned about Helicopter Parenting from My ASD Daughter

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


I was a classic helicopter mom to my daughter with Asperger’s Syndrome, and these are some of the lessons I learned and wish I’d done differently.When you discover that your child has Asperger’s Syndrome, it makes you feel utterly helpless. I know, because I’m a trained psychologist, with a master’s degree in social work and a doctoral degree in psychology and I still felt that way about my own daughter who, by the age of 14, was officially diagnosed with ASD.

Recently I wrote an article for PsychCentral about my experience, hoping that it would let others know they’re not alone. (You can read the full article here.) One aspect that I wish I’d done differently is that I became a classic helicopter mother.

I found all kinds of ways to work around the school system. I hired tutors to coach her. I negotiated high school credit from outside activities. I tried Brownies, soccer, piano lessons, and summer camps. I forced her to audition for a prestigious private choir because of her marvelous singing ability—even though she was frightened of the other choir members. I tried everything I could think of to make my autistic child smile.


Being a helicopter parent is a natural outcome of the crazy-making AS/NT world. Our natural instincts are to protectively hover over our children when they have such a serious disability.

However, there are serious drawbacks to helicopter parenting. It leaves you very little time to relax and enjoy your children. As the super-responsible parent, you circle your child with help while not leaving enough time for hugs and play.

Lessons I learned from my ASD daughter:

Helicopter parenting is a natural by-product of loving your very dependent child. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are over-reacting. Your strongest asset is your heart.
  • Channel your helicoptering into finding a good psychologist or Asperger Syndrome specialist.
  • Join a support group like Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD
  • Read everything you can about Asperger Syndrome.
  • Join your local Autism Society affiliate. It’s important that you socialize with other parents and spouses who share your experience.
  • Don’t blame yourself for your mistakes. Love yourself enough to keep on creating a meaningful life in spite of them.
  • Take time to relax and play.

Yes, there have been tremendous improvements in understanding Asperger’s Syndrome. But we have a long way to go to help our AS/NT families. I’ve made it my mission to be a source of knowledge and support. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an in-person appointment. If you live elsewhere and are seeking information on ASD, please take advantage of my online education.

What to Do When Your Asperger Mate Makes You Feel Invisible

Monday, October 31, 2016


What to Do When Your Asperger Mate Makes You Feel InvisibleYou fell in love with your husband because he was kind, attentive and very intelligent. He wasn’t like the other guys you dated. He made you feel special. Now the specialness has worn off, and you feel as if you are living with a robot that has no feelings for you. (This can also apply to a man married to a woman with AS.)

But it is not true! He still loves you, but Asperger's or AS makes it hard for him to convey what is in his mind and heart. Because he can’t read faces or body language well, and because he can’t show you with his eyes or his gestures, a huge chunk of interpersonal communication is lost between the two of you.

You’re holding your breath, waiting for him to come alive with you and share the pleasures of life, but instead you see the years disappear as you getting older. This lack of nonverbal connection that means so much to most of us feels like a rose trying to stay alive on the desert.

You long for the type of bond between lovers that evolves over time from all of those small touches, glances, and whispers that we expect between couples. But it’s not there. Instead you feel invisible.

With their lack of empathy, Aspies fail to send us signals that we are recognized, heard, affirmed, and loved. But after years or even a few short months with an Aspie, the sense of invisibility is hard to shake, isn't it?

Even when we are with friends who do affirm us, or even when we have accolades for our community or career accomplishments, we still feel invisible. We long to belong . . . to be understood . . . to be cared for . . . without doing anything except to BE.

This phenomenon of invisibility is about as hard to shake as other symptoms of PTSD. Remember that PTSD or OTRS (Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Syndrome) is a normal reaction to abnormal stressors. This is why our sense of invisibility is so hard to shake. It’s our reaction to living with a lack of empathy for our very existence.

Our next video conference, How to Shake Your Invisibility will be held on Thursday, November 10th at 9AM PT. 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 can get a lot of your questions answered. Knowledge is power, so with a deeper understanding of how we became invisible, we should be able to come back out into the Light and Love, where we are meant to be.

How Do You Deal with Conflict - Capitulate, Compromise or Detach?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


When dealing with conflict do you compromise, capitulate or detachIt’s inevitable in any relationship that there will be conflict. No two people are going to always see eye-to-eye on everything. That’s why communication is called the lifeblood of a relationship. The sooner you talk out the problem, the better.

But what if you’re married to someone with Asperger’s Syndrome? It’s not their fault that they have trouble communicating their thoughts and feelings and can’t understand yours. They try their best within the framework that we built with them.

But to build a framework that supports you and your Aspie partner takes work and a special understanding of your own needs and that of your partner. At times, the lack of empathy demonstrated by Aspie loved ones may lead you to lose sight of your own reality so that you collapse into agonizing despair. This type of mental and emotional confusion needs powerful therapy to break through the faulty reasoning that is a result of using NT logic to make sense of the Asperger world.

Oftentimes, it just feels easier to capitulate, compromise or detach. Yet, none of these options sound good do they? I mean when you just want to be heard and understood and maybe even get your way once in awhile. . . why does it have to be soooo hard? But Asperger/NT relationships are very hard. That’s why we need to support one another and share our success and challenges.

If you’re a member of the Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, please join our next Free TELECONFERENCE: Capitulate, Compromise or Detach Thursday, March 31, 2016 at 2:00 PM. We’ll explore the options to navigating a conversation with our Aspies. Yes, we still have to use a lot of capitulating, compromising and detaching to get anything accomplished, but there might be a few other tricks to move the conversation along toward a mutually satisfying agreement. Come prepared with questions and solutions. I don't have all of the answers either. I do know, however, that when the mood is right, and I am very centered, it does go better.

Please note: This call is for NT members only. Do not invite your Aspies. Please find a private place to listen away from others, so everyone's privacy is respected.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and would like some in-person help with your NT/AS relationship issues, please contact my office and schedule an appointment so we can find the strategies that help you and your family thrive.

Read more on my website: Asperger and Marriage.

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.

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.

If it Feels Like Abuse…It is Abuse!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014


broken hearted because it feels like abusive asperger behaviorWhat a dilemma! Is it abuse when your loved one with Autism Spectrum Disorder says the meanest things to you, your children or others? If they have an empathy disorder, do you excuse this behavior? Is it less abusive because there’s a reason behind the behavior? How much abuse should you tolerate because you’re trying to help?

You know that there are some things that your Aspie partner can’t change. But what about the things he or she could change but just doesn’t want to put the effort into doing so? Are you required to overlook it? What is that doing to your self-esteem… your health?

My opinion is that if it feels like abuse, it is abuse, and it should not be tolerated. But then what do you do about it? How do you confront your Aspie loved one? How do you stand up for yourself when they will never understand? This is a conundrum. And when passive aggressive behavior turns to life threatening actions, you must keep your children and yourself safe, but will you have enough strength to do so?

Patricia Evans quotes an important aphorism in her book, The Verbally Abusive Relationship:

"Sticks and stone can break my bones, but words can break my heart."

I know I’ve raised a lot of questions in this blog post. Now let’s get together and discuss some solutions. Join me Saturday, October 18, 2014 at 1:00pm PST at our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup in Vancouver, Washington as we explore the topic, If It Feels Like Abuse…It Is Abuse! We’ll discuss how to manage the abuse, how to stand up for yourself, and how to put the responsibility squarely on the abuser. This is the first step for taking back your life, which is your real mission. Sign up to learn more about this group and find the details for the location.

If you’re unable to attend in person, you can also join our teleconference Meetup on the same topic on Friday, October 24, 2014 at 2:30pm PST. I’m so excited that we have members from every continent around the world, so you’ll be able to connect with callers from Canada, USA, New Zealand, Great Britain, Germany, India, Dubai, South Africa, South America and so on.

One member recently wrote me and said this:

“Really sorry to have missed the last teleconference, I knew it would be illuminating. NOTHING will stop me from attending Friday's meeting on another great topic! After exploring the subject of NT/AS marriage since 2009, this website has become more valuable than ever.”

Let me just take a moment and thank you for allowing me this summer break. It’s certainly renewed me and I’m anxious to meet with you again. While you wait for this next Meetup, let me ask you…Have you grabbed your copy of Out of Mind - Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) yet? It continues where “Going Over the Edge?” left off. It’s not just a parenting book but also another look at this life, when children, even grown children are involved.

Caring for Someone with Autism? Make Time for Yourself

Friday, September 05, 2014


Out of Mind Out of Sight Parenting with a Partner with Asperger ASDHow do you blunt the stress of parenting a child with disabilities? Do you feel like you can’t take time for yourself? A recent NY Times article, When the Caregivers Need Healing, reminds us all that it’s vital for caregivers to make time for themselves so they have enough emotional and physical strength to continue to care for others.

All parents experience stress-filled moments when raising their children. However, parents of children with autism often experience more stress, depression and anxiety. That’s in part because the care for their autistic child is relentless – day in and day out for the rest of their lives. Plus there are the worries over how to pay for the necessary therapies.

Dr. Fred R. Volkmar, the director of Child Study Center at Yale University School of Medicine sums the situation up, “Having a child that has a disability is all-encompassing. You can see how people would lose themselves.” The article reports that researchers at Vanderbilt University tested the effectiveness of mindfulness training and positive adult development as solutions for the stress of being a caregiver.

The study did not focus on sharpening parental skills, but rather on teaching parents to tackle their stress in positive ways that helped them accept life as it is. Both methods resulted in significant reductions in stress, depression, insomnia and anxiety. Which method worked best?

The ones in the mindfulness treatment group who practiced meditation, breathing exercises, and qigong saw greater improvement than those who received positive adult development training on curbing negative thoughts, practicing gratitude and reclaiming life as an adult.

What solution is best for your specific circumstances? Enlist the help of a trained psychologist to help you create a strategy for managing the stress you deal with daily. I also share in both of my books invaluable, practical tips that I’ve drawn from years of experience helping families to thrive despite the affects of Asperger’s. If you haven’t grabbed your copies yet, now would be a very good time to do so.

Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge? is available on Amazon and AAPC Publishing.

Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) is available in Kindle edition and paperback.

Read more on my website: Depression and Stress.

Asperger MicroAggression – What Is It and What Can You Do About It?

Friday, June 20, 2014


asperger microaggressionEver heard of MicroAggression? Maybe you’ve heard of it in connection with racism and sexism. It’s a phrase that was coined by psychiatrist, Chester M Pierce, MD, in the 1970’s and it refers to the intentional or unintentional ways of invalidating, degrading or insulting an individual based on a bias.
 
At last a word that describes perfectly those crazy making moments with your Aspie! What are some of these moments?
 
  • When your Aspie denies your reality with a deft chess move to a totally unrelated topic.
  • When they accuse you of always yelling when, in fact, you only exploded after great provocation.
  • When your Aspie gives you the blank look.
 
What damage does Asperger MicroAgression do to a Neuro Typical partner?
 
  • It destroys a person’s self-esteem.
  • There is a growing body of science that shows MicroAggression causes physiological stress, which can lead to chronic inflammation in the body. Chronic low-grade inflammation leads to a whole host of illnesses.
  • There’s even evidence of brain damage due to prolonged MicroAggression that looks like PTSD on brain scans. Buts it’s not Post Traumatic is it? Not when you live daily with these micro-assaults on your sense of self. We NTs refer to it as Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Disorder (or Syndrome).

This can leave you feeling tired, achy, depressed, and forgetful. There are healthy ways to confront and sidestep these debilitating MicroAggressions. When you create rules of engagement that satisfy your needs and that your Asperger’s partner can use to create systems that compensate for his or her lack of empathy, you can begin to reclaim your personal freedom and help your family to thrive.

Join us Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 1:00pm PST at our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup. Its topic is Brain Scans, PTSD and MicroAggression. We’ll discuss the best ways to cope with these debilitating MicroAggressions. Sign up to learn more about this group and find the details for the location. If unable to attend in person, you can also join our teleconference Meetup on the same topic on Friday, June 27, 2014 at 2:30pm PST and connect with our international group of supporters.
 
If you’ve been putting off getting a copy of Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) because you thought it was just for parents with young children, don’t wait another moment. The above information is just a sampling of the science behind Asperger that is explored in the book. If you want to understand your Aspie better, this is a must read.

Tips on Finding the Right Support Group For You

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Finding the Best Support Group for YouWe all need someone to talk with that understands our unique situation and non-judgmentally supports us as we travel through our journey of life. A good Support Group will provide you with needed emotional support and often give you information on the latest treatment or research on your particular concern. In today’s technological world, you can either attend a local Support Group in person or you can join an online Support Group.

But you may have some questions before joining … How can you be sure the group you’re joining is going to be a healthy environment for you? What are some ways of identifying a good Support Group? I found an informative article written by John Grohol Psy.D, founder of PsychCentral.com that can help you identify characteristics of a good Support Group. Some of these are listed below:

A good Support Group has a community that is stable. You can determine this by how well it’s moderated and how long it’s been functioning. A group that has a moderator AND an administrative team will be able to continually bring new resources to you without the group leader burning out and shutting the group down.

Find a Support Group with members who are welcoming, non-judgmental and open to sharing. You want to be encouraged, not discouraged, in your chosen group.

The best Support Group has a non-techy, user-friendly site. If you’re stressing out over the tech stuff, you won’t be reaping any benefits from the group.

A reasonable Support Group clearly posts its guidelines and rules of conduct so everyone knows the boundaries of what’s acceptable and what’s not.

A secure Support Group guards your privacy so nothing you say is splashed across the worldwide web inadvertently.

Look for a Support Group that offers you the features that are important to you. Are you interested in just reading what people have posted or do you desire more, such as mood tracking tools, treatment or product reviews, or a live chat room?

I facilitate two very supportive and secure Meetups. One is for Entrepreneurial Couples and Families. The other is for Partners & Family of Adults with Asperger Syndrome. Both of these Groups have local Meetups and International Teleconferences that are uniting members around the world.

I’m very excited about my newest Support Group – a Meetup for ENTREPRENEURS-Making It Work for Couples and Families. We focus on learning to balance Work and Love, the two things entrepreneurial families cherish most. The local Meetup is held once a month in Vancouver, Washington.

The Meetup for Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with AS has been supporting Neuro-Typicals who care for adult Aspie family since 2009. At our last call our international AS Group included people from around the globe. The local Meetup is held once a month in Portland, Oregon.

I am passionate about providing ongoing education for these two diverse topics. My team and I are working hard to provide you with a secure environment the gives the support you crave and deserve. If you have any questions about either one of these Meetup Support Groups, please feel free to contact us.

Coping With Asperger Eccentric Mannerisms and Behavior

Friday, April 11, 2014


Asperger Syndrome MeetupPeople with Asperger’s Syndrome often develop mannerisms and behaviors that can be very distracting and even annoying to Neuro-Typical family members. There are a number of reasons why they display this behavior. One reason is that their senses are overly stimulated. Another reason is that these Asperger mannerisms are a way of creating order in their disrupted world.

For example, their over-sensitivity to touch may make them picky about what clothes they wear – it needs to be soft with the tags removed. They don’t like strong smells, bright lights, loud noises, and most foods. Aspies rigidly crave routine so any variations in their schedule upset them. The same plate has to be used for dinner, objects must be lined up in a repetitive manner, certain items must never be moved, and the list of Asperger eccentricities goes on and on.

What’s up with these eccentricities? Why does one person eat an orange by peeling the membrane off of each segment and then eats one kernel at a time? Why does another collect lint and roll it into a ball to keep in a jar? And still others hoard everything that comes into the house? Nothing can be thrown away, even shoes that are holey and beyond the point of wearing.

What can family members do to deal with these Asperger mannerisms so that it doesn’t drive you crazy? You can find ways to accept these eccentricities if you understand the reason behind this Asperger behavior. Sharing information about “What’s Up with these Aspie Eccentricities” is the topic for our next Portland, Oregon Meetup on Saturday, April 19, 2014.

The same topic will be discussed on our Teleconference Meetup – Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with AS on Friday, April 25, 2014. If you are a Neuro-Typical family member who needs someone to talk with that truly understands what you’re going through, please join us in this discussion. We’re here to support you. These calls are uniting our members from around the world from Canada, New Zealand, India, South Africa, Great Britain, South America and more!

For greater understanding of your relationship with your Asperger’s Syndrome family member, check out my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD). It picks up where my first book, Going Over the Edge? left off and goes into more depth about the science behind Asperger’s.



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