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Kathy Marshack News

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.

Asperger Syndrome Parenting and Middle Childhood

Friday, February 03, 2012


Think back to when you were 6 or 7 years old. You may not have realized it at the time, but your body was undergoing a profound hormonal change. Scientists refer this time period as the Theory of the Mind. The brain is reaching its adult size while tens of billions of synapses connections are being made. Loads of information is being "downloaded" and organized. Impulses are being controlled, plans for the future are being made as well as intense reasoning ability.

Children at this age also beginning to comprehend deep subjects such as death, justice, social rules, and relationships. In the area of relationships, children in middle childhood start to learn the value of love reciprocity. The selfishness that a toddler once displayed with no longer work. In order to get love and attention from parents, you must give in order to receive. What a valuable lesson to learn at such a young age.

Stop to consider what middle childhood would be like with an Asperger parent(s). Asperger Syndrome is a high functioning form of autism. They have trouble reading non verbal cues, lack empathy, and struggle with communication. Imagine what it would be like to not learn loving reciprocity because of the AS parent’s mind blindness. When that child begins to reach out for love and attention they are often rejected, even if it’s unwittingly. The results of this can have a damaging effect on the child.

In many cases, a child who is raised with an Asperger parent marries someone with Asperger's. This is because your childhood modeled your ideals of marriage. The question then becomes, can you change the pattern after all of these years? Can you learn to allow true love into your life even if you learned that love is one sided?

The answers to those questions will be discussed at the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adult with ASD Support Group Meetup on February 18, 2012 in Portland, Oregon. If you do not live in the local area, please become a member of our online community and join in on our discussion groups. I would also encourage one-on-one therapy with a therapist specialized in Asperger relationships. Contact my office for more information.

If you would to learn more about middle childhood, I recommend the New York Times article - Now We Are Six - The Hormone Surge of Middle Childhood.

Domestic Violence Is More Common Than You Realize – Get Help Now!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


According to a 1997 Gallup Poll report, child abuse is ten times worse than government reports indicate. Furthermore, 70 to 80 percent of child abuse is related to alcohol abuse.

Spouse abuse and child abuse indicate an obvious breakdown in the multiple developing progressions of an individual's life, and are evidence of serious mental and spiritual problems. Chronic problems that have persisted for years are responsible for this total disregard of human values and dignity.

Ray phoned me because he was looking for a psychologist for his wife, Connie. He felt that she was extremely depressed, even suicidal. She would not seek help for herself but agreed to see me if Ray made the appointment. Over the next few weeks, Ray and Connie shared with me a most unique story of two lives nearly destroyed by child abuse, alcoholism, cocaine addiction, and sexual abuse.
Ray's childhood home life was filled with alcoholism and child abuse, but his parents never divorced. Connie never knew her mother, who died when she was very young. Her father remarried several times, and each time Connie and her sister acquired new stepsiblings. During one of these marriages, Connie and her sister were repeatedly sexually assaulted by older stepbrothers.

Ray and Connie wanted to be the Romeo and Juliet who got away. Ray and Connie had discovered a business that they thought could make them rich. The couple felt they were on top of the world. They made very good money.

But then Connie started to demonstrate serious emotional problems. She was irritable and depressed. She stopped caring about her appearance and left the children unwashed and unkempt. And she rarely left the house, which was never clean. It was at this point that Ray brought his wife to see me. Just twenty-nine, Connie was underweight and haggard-looking when she revealed to me what she had been living with. Ray was a cocaine addict, spending about $1,000 a week on his drug. In order to keep from being beaten by him, Connie agreed to use cocaine too. With increased cocaine use, the couple crossed other moral boundaries.

Connie shared these horrors as if in a daze. She was deeply depressed, but also not really aware of how extreme things had become in her life. Coming from a childhood of abuse, her boundaries were diffuse. Physical abuse and sexual abuse had always been the norm in her life. Even as an adult, she did not know how to protect herself.

Ray, too, was a victim. With no guidance from his parents, he had grown up to be a young man with no values, no ethics. He was ignorant of the devastating effects of drug abuse on the mind, body, and spirit. He was afraid, however. He was afraid of losing his wife, and he was afraid of going to prison. It took a lot of courage to seek my help, considering the potential threat to Ray's freedom.

This sad story reveals that stress, ignorance, and drugs definitely do not mix. Ongoing, untreated stress can create health problems, marital problems, drug abuse problems, and ethical problems. As a result of these problems, in combination with the weaknesses of character that evolved years earlier from neglectful and abusive upbringings, the crossing of boundaries into domestic violence is more common than you might think.

If you recognize yourself or your partner taking even a small step in this direction, you should seek the help of a psychotherapist immediately. Ask your doctor for a referral or look for a therapist who specializes in domestic violence. Contact my office if you live in Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington.

How to Cope with the Stress of Being a Caregiver

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Have you heard the term “sandwich generation”? This is the group of people struggling to meet the needs of both growing children and aging parents, often alone and working full-time. Many of these caregivers may be setting themselves up for an unhealthy future due to a combination of high stress and poor health behaviors.

A recent UCLA study found that caregivers for the aging or disabled are subjected to considerable financial and emotional strain. Most caregivers didn’t need scientific research to support their everyday reality. Unfortunately the research also uncovered higher levels of serious psychological distress compared with the general population.

So what should a caregiver do to combat chronic stress which can lead to anxiety and depression? Here are some recommendations that will help you cope with the extra strain of being a caregiver:

  • Recreate. Consider relief options such as taking long weekends or vacations. You deserve some time off and can come back refreshed to care for your love one.
  • Express your feelings. Feelings of anger or frustration when they not expressed leads to more stress. You may not be able to express this to the person you’re caring for but by writing in a journal, writing a poem, or composing a letter that is never mailed may accomplish your purpose.
  • Keep perspective and look for the positive. Reversing negative ideas and learning to focus on positive outcomes sounds simple but it helps reduce tension.
  • Have a sense of humor. Keeping a sense of humor during difficult situations is a must. Laughing releases the tension of pent-up feelings and helps you keep perspective.
  • Exercise. Exercise is an effective distraction from stressful events and keeps your body and immune system stronger.
  • Strengthen or establish a support network. Studies of people who remain happy and healthy despite many life stresses show that most have very good networks of social support. Consider joining a support group for caregivers.
  • Professional help. A mental health professional should be consulted for unmanageable acute stress or for severe anxiety or depression. Often short-term therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, can resolve stress-related emotional problems.
  • Relaxation techniques. Learn methods for invoking the relaxation response such as deep breathing, meditation or massage.

Above all don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself! If you need help find a therapist who can help get you back on track or contact my office in Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington.


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