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Kathy Marshack News

Autism's Context Blindness

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Mind blindness has become a common phrased used to explain the lack of empathy exhibited by individuals with autism. It has been used to explain the disconnect between social and emotional cognition. The facts are clear to an individual with autism, but non verbal communication or body language is lost due to mind blindness. Understanding mind blindness has been a critical part to understanding the autistic brain. According to some new research...there may be another type of blindness known as context blindness.

Dr. Peter Vermeulen discusses context blindness is his new book, Autism as Context Blindness. Vermeulen says, "The term context has its own intriguing historical context. Context comes from the Latin word contextus, the past continuous tense of contexere, which means to 'weave' or 'entwine.'" Context shapes our responses to life. For a person without autism (referred to as a neuro-tyical in the autistic world), life is relative or depends on the context. For someone with autism, life is absolute. Absolute is necessary to certain aspects in life, but not when it comes to social interaction.

NT's are always in the process of weaving a tapestry of relationships within relationships. Other people are how we come to know ourselves and our lives. NT's feel bereft without the connecting that is so important to us. Aspies cannot see the forest for the trees.

We will be discussing Context Blindness on September 15, 2012 at 1:00 in Portland, Oregon for the Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD. Until then, pick up a copy of Autism as Context Blindness or click here to read Dr. Vermeulen's article: Autism: From Mind Blindness to Context Blindness. This new light may prove to be ground breaking.

My upcoming book, Parenting with a Spouse or Partner with Asperger Syndrome: Out of Mind, Out of Sight will discuss context blindness with regard to parenting with an Asperger partner. Click here to read a free sample chapter. 

Caring for Alzheimer's Patients

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Alzheimer's is a devastating disease. The sad truth is that an individual with Alzheimer's will hit a point when they will not be able to function independently. For each person, the situation is different, but the side effects include memory loss, depression, and mood swings.

Being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer's is particularly challenging. This is especially true if you are a loved one. You can expect it to be physically and emotionally draining. As hard as it is to think about yourself, you have to. If you don't, you will be in no position to take care of the person you love. Eat a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly, get a good night's rest, and make time to be around others. You may not feel that you are up for socializing, but you will need the support. The Alzheimer's Association has a hotline for caregivers. The number is 800-272-3900. Take a look at a previous blog on How To Cope with the Stress of Being a Caregiver.

Here are a few simple tips to keep in mind when caring for the needs of someone with Alzheimer's:

- Encourage stimulation both mentally and socially. This improves cognition.

- Regular exercise. Studies show that resistance training is best for improving cognition, but ultimately just do whatever you can to get them moving!

- Beware of alcohol. Certain medications don't mix well with alcohol. Also, because of memory loss, the individual can easily lose count of how many drinks they have had. Over-drinking is a strong possibility.

The article New Research Offers Tips for Alzheimer's Caregivers provides more details regarding the tips I discussed.

Interview in “Everyday Health” – Coping with a Partner’s Asperger’s Syndrome

Friday, July 20, 2012


I was recently interviewed for an article in Everyday Health about Asperger Syndrome and relationships. The article is entitled, "Coping with a Partner's Asperger's Syndrome." I address the unique challenges that this situation creates as well as fours ways to cope when your partner has Asperger Syndrome.

Included in the article are two real life individuals with Asperger partners. Sharing these intimates details requires courage and I applaud them for sharing. There is also a nice plug for our local support group: Asperger Syndrome: Partner's and Family of Adults with ASD.

For more information about Asperger relationships, visit my website - Asperger's & Marriage. My book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge? is also available.

Did You Grow Up with a Asperger Parent?

Monday, July 02, 2012


Asperger Syndrome is a high functioning form of autism. This diagnosis can sometimes go unnoticed and the individual is classified as being "different" or "unusual." Times are changing and more and more are recognizing that they either have Asperger Syndrome or that their spouse or parent have Asperger's. Either way, adjusting to this realization is challenging.

Did you grow up with an Aspie parent? How did being raised in an Asperger environment affect you? As a licensed psychologist who specializes in working with neuro-typicals or NT's (a term given to non-Aspie's), I have found this to be a unique situation and I do not mean that lightly. This is especially true of those raised by an Aspie parent. I have found that these individuals feel like they do not fit in the typical NT world or in the Aspie world yet they are sensitive to both. They crave an emotional connection with their parent, but feel convinced that nobody will truly understand who they are. What a conundrum!

You are not alone if you have felt this way before. I am overwhelmed by the response I have received from many NT's with Aspie parents. Connecting with others who have been in your shoes will not only provide comfort in an uncomfortable situation, but may help you to learn more about yourself. Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Support Group is an excellent medium for any who find themselves in this situation. Please join us for our monthly Meet Up if you live in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area. We will be meeting on July 21, 2012 to discuss what it is like being raised by an Asperger parent. If you are unable to attend, please visit on online page and become a member. The online support is incredible.

For more information on Asperger Syndrome, visit Asperger Syndrome Frequently Asked Questions.

Changing the Stigma Surrounding Mental Disorders and Illnesses

Thursday, June 07, 2012


Even with an increase in understanding, there is still a negative stigma surrounding mental disorders (Asperger Syndrome, ADHD) and illnesses (depression, OCD). Fear, discrimination, and rejection are some of the negative reactions that some have received because of their mental disorder/illness. Because of this, some fail to seek out treatment. Failure do so will only lead to serious consequences like substance abuse, failed marriages, suicide, or even jail.

How can this stigma be reduced? It is important to understand that these disorders/illness stem from the brain. The brain is a highly powerful organ in the body. As is true of any other organ, it doesn't always function properly. What would you do if you had heart disease? Wouldn't you immediately go to a heart specialist and get the right type of treatment and medication to help you heart? Should we view the brain in the same way?

Getting proper treatment is the big step to changing the stigma. Also, remind yourself that you are not the disorder or illness, it is just something you have. For example, if you had diabetes, do you run around introducing yourself as someone with diabetes? Of course not because it is just something you have, it is not who you are. The same should be for whatever your mental situation is. Don't allow it to define you. Yes, accept that it is a part of you, but do not let the idea of it change who you really are.

You are also not alone. Join a support group. You can now find a support group for just about anything. The more supported you feel, the more inclined you will feel to stick with your therapy and treatments. There may always be some stigma surrounding the mental health community, but it is changing. Don't let what others think change what you need to do to be a happier and mentally healthier person.

Contact my office if you live in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area if you would like to seek help for your mental disorder or illness.

Sweat the Small Stuff When Co-Parenting With an Asperger Partner

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Have you ever heard the expression, "Don't sweat the small stuff?" I'm sure you have. Sadly this expression does not work if you are co-parenting with an Asperger partner. (Asperger Syndrome is a high form of autism. Common symptoms include lack of empathy, impaired use of nonverbal behavior to regulate social behavior, and lack of social and emotional reciprocity. For more information, visit Asperger Syndrome Frequently Asked Questions)

When you are in a relationship with an Aspie and co-parenting, your life is turned upside down every day because of the "small stuff." Small stuff is the problem and if you ignore it, it may lead to dire consequences. What can you do to work through this problem? Learn to attend to the things that you can and let the rest go. Easier said than done, right?

You may not be able to change the situation you are in, but you can change how to react or respond. In order to do this in a healthy and positive way, you must take care of yourself. Learn all that you can about Asperger Syndrome. Doing this will help you somewhat to detach from emotional distress you face while dealing with the small things. Also, take out a little time for yourself every day. That may sound impossible, but if you do not, you will spiral down into a dark place and then who will be there for your family? So, prioritize and drop the rest.

My upcoming book is entitled, Parenting with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Out of Mind, Out of Sight. A FREE sample chapter is available for download. You can also checkout my AAPC bestseller, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge?, which focuses on relationships and marriage with an Asperger partner.

If you live in the area you can join me May 19, 2012 at 1:00 PM in Portland, Oregon for the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Support Group. We will be discussing, "Would we marry them again?"

Genetics and Environment Play a Part in Adoptive Child's Future

Monday, April 30, 2012


As a parent of adopted children, I am keenly interested in all issues facing adopted children and their parents. One issue that has recently surfaced is about the risk of drug abuse for adopted children. The Archives of General Psychiatry published a Swedish study about how genetics and environment are risk factors when it comes to addiction and adopted kids.

The study showed that adopted children are twice as likely to abuse drugs if they had a biological parent who also abused drugs. This is due to a genetic predisposition. However, environment can also play a part. If the environment that an adoptive child is raised in is a negative one with criminal activities, drug or substance abuse, or divorce, this also puts the child at greater risk for substance abuse in the future.

If you are parents with adopted children or are interested in adopting, you should look into your child's biological history. If you find out that addiction is in your child's history, be alert to possible signs that this could be a problem for your child. Take preemptive steps to ensure a positive and nurturing environment. This can greatly affect the child's future.

Being an adoptive parent is hard work, but the reward is great. Do not take your role as a parent lightly. Educate yourself by reading books, attending seminars, or speak to an adoption specialist. Even speaking a mental health care professional can be a valuable tool. For more information, visit Adoptive Families.

Find Support After Divorcing Your Asperger Spouse

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Divorce is a touchy subject and even more so when one partner has Asperger Syndrome. Since Asperger Syndrome is a high-functioning form of autism, their relationships and marriages are more challenging. This is not to say that divorce is inevitable but it requires a high level of commitment from both partners.

Why are relationships difficult for Aspies? Reciprocity is a vital part to any healthy relationship, but is usually lacking in an Asperger marriage. What I mean by reciprocity is connecting to the interior life of your loved one and sharing their interior life. An Aspie/Neuro-typical (NT or without Asperger Syndrome) couple are often described as like two insulated wires wrapped around each other . . . touching but not connecting. Because of the lack of reciprocity, divorce is common.

The aftermath of divorcing an Aspie can be devastating. In order to cope with this aftermath, you must learn to be brave, strong, and resolute. One of the best ways to do this is alongside others who have done the same. A support group provides a regular structure to help you navigate through the shock, guilt, and sadness that you may experience after you divorce your Aspie spouse. This type of support group is the only place where you can surely find a level of compassion, understanding, and support that you will so desperately need.

On April 21, 2012 1:00 PM in Portland, Oregon the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of ASD Adults will be meeting to discuss, "Divorce and Asperger Syndrome: A Dangerous Topic." This Meetup will no doubt be a difficult topic to discuss, but it will be highly therapeutic. I encourage as many as possible to attend. If you cannot, feel free to log onto our Meetup page and join our online community.

For more information on Asperger Syndrome and relationships, my book Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge is available for purchase or click here to download a free sample chapter.

A Fight for the Right Kind of Healthcare

Monday, April 09, 2012


Healthcare is of major concern, not just to healthcare providers, but to all American citizens. While we are awaiting methods to extend health care to all Americans, perhaps there is something we can do. Instead of just waiting on insurance plans to pay doctors and hospitals, could we perhaps research healthcare that works? Many government agencies and health care organizations are willing to go to great lengths to get the right kind of care that patients need.

An example of this is a medical doctor and biochemist, Dr. Stanley Burzynski. In the 1970's, Dr. Buzynski developed gene-targeted cancer medicines called Antineoplastons. After enduring a 14 year legal battle, Dr. Buzynski finally obtained FDA clinically approved trials of Antineoplastons. It was a vicious and difficult road for Dr. Buzynski and his patients. To learn more about Dr. Buzynski and what he has accomplished, I highly recommend the documentary - Burzynski The Movie.

Asperger Syndrome and True Love

Thursday, March 08, 2012


Love is an interesting emotion. You may think that love would mean the same thing to everyone, but it doesn't. This is especially true for someone with Asperger Syndrome. Asperger Syndrome is a high- functioning form of autism. Asperger Syndrome is demonstrated by deficits in communication, social skills and reciprocity of feelings. Because of this odd display of emotion, you could assume that an Aspie does not love, but that is not true. Everyone loves, it is just expressed differently for an Aspie.

This is the case for two Aspies, Jack Robison and Kirsten Lindsmith. Jack is the son of John Elder Robison, author of the acclaimed memoir about Asperger Syndrome, Look Me in the Eye. Kirsten was diagnosed with ADHD at age 11, but 2011, she realized that she had Asperger Syndrome. Jack and Kirsten have been dating for two years and now live together. According to them, they have found love. This isn't to say it has been a walk in the park for them. There have been challenges. To read more about Jack and Kirsten's relationship, read The New York Times article - Navigating Love and Autism.

If you are raising an Asperger child, I am sure you would agree that you would love for your child to grow up and find the kind of happiness that comes from love. If you are married to someone with Asperger's, you may feel lost and confused as to what love really means to your partner.

There are so many questions surrounding this topic. . . Do Aspie's really want or need true love? What really is true love? This will be the topic for discussion at the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup Support Group. This meeting will be held in Portland, Oregon on March 17. We look forward to having a lively discussion and hearing your thoughts on this very personal topic that is central to the lives of many. If you will not be able to join us in person, become part of our online family.

For more information on Asperger Syndrome, read Asperger Syndrome Frequently Asked Questions.


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