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Kathy Marshack News

How Do You Survive the Loneliness in Your NT/AS Family?

Monday, May 07, 2018

The loneliness we feel when in a relationship with someone with Asperger’s Syndrome is indescribable. Even Aspie children can contribute to this feeling. We know we love them. They say they love us. Yet there’s this deep, profound loneliness, the source of which we must discover in order to combat itThere is something ineffable about the loneliness we feel when in a relationship with an Aspie. Even our Aspie children can contribute to this feeling. Even though we know that we love them; even though they say they love us; there is this deep, profound loneliness nevertheless.

To be perfectly honest with you, I still feel lonely on a daily basis. I know it's not reasonable, since I have such abundance in my life. Nevertheless, spending decades of my life with those unable to acknowledge me, understand me, or connect with me, has left me longing for the sense that I am loved and belong. My head tells me I am wrong about my loneliness, but my heart tells me differently.

When you search the Internet, you’ll see numerous articles and resources for people with Asperger’s who feel lonely. Those with Asperger's have trouble fulfilling the basic human need of bonding and connecting, so it’s not surprising that they feel lonely. Because of this, I help my Asperger clients develop rules for engagement, so their families can thrive, despite these challenges.

But there’s still not much out there for family members who live with an Aspie. We depend on family to provide warmth, belonging, acceptance, respect and value. That’s lacking in NT/AS families. On the outside, everything looks normal, so friends don’t understand, which adds to the loneliness you feel.

Do you find that you suffer in silence, because there isn’t a safe place to talk about your loneliness? I understand. That’s why I’ve created a safe and supportive space for members of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD group. Are you ready to reach out? I invite you to join my next Video Conference: Surviving the Loneliness on Wednesday, May 9th or Tuesday, May 22. It will help you identify the source of this loneliness and how to combat it. One powerful way to combat the loneliness is to participate in our conference call and share our experiences.

If you prefer one-on-one counseling, and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works better for you.

How to Handle “Micro-Hits” without Losing Your Cool

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Do you often feel belittled and trivialized by a family member who has autism spectrum disorder? “Micro-aggressions” is a phrase coined by psychiatrist, Chester M Pierce, MD, in the 1970’s to refer to the intentional or unintentional ways of invalidating, degrading or insulting an individual based on a bias. Usually it’s used in the context of bullying and discrimination in schools and the workplace. However it perfectly describes much of what we experience while living with someone with Aspergers Syndrome.

Aspie micro-aggressions are those subtle messages that deny your reality and denigrate your status with your Aspie partner or family member. But not all subtleties or micro-behaviors are aggression, are they?

I call this other category “Micro-Hits” because they still throw us off balance. When your Aspie shuts you up with a comment like, “You don’t know that!” that’s a micro-hit. It’s confusing, since you may have been stating your opinion (which you are entitled to, by the way), but now you have to explain why you said what you said.

Isn’t it okay to chat, to offer conjecture, to suggest another possibility, without having to prove your point? We get this. Aspies don’t. They’re not aggressions exactly, but micro-hits still confuse and derail us. It’s time to learn how to stay on track with a snappy comeback, instead of that dazed and confused feeling, as your Aspie walks out of the room.

If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, please join us at the upcoming free teleconference: Micro-Hits. It will be held on Thursday, April 19th. We’ll figure out some snappy comebacks, plus discuss tools to stay confident and calm. Perhaps we’ll even discover new ways to help our Aspies a bit.

And if you haven’t heard yet, my new book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS,” can now be purchased on Amazon in paperback or kindle edition. Its down-to-earth advice will teach you to protect yourself from those with Empathy Dysfunction. As a favor to me, can you please add your review on Amazon, after you read it? I’d appreciate it.

How Can You Tell if You’re Codependent of Your Aspie?

Monday, January 29, 2018

Merriam-Webster defines codependence as “a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition (such as an addiction to alcohol or heroin); broadly: dependence on the needs of or control by another.”

What are some signs of codependency? If you answer “yes” to the following questions, you’re codependent…

  • Does your sense of purpose involve making extraordinary sacrifices to satisfy your partner's needs?
  • Is it difficult to say “no” when your partner makes demands on your time and energy?
  • Do you cover for your partner’s social faux pas, substance abuse, or problems with the law?
  • Do you constantly worry about others’ opinions of you?
  • Do you feel trapped in your relationship?
  • Do you keep quiet to avoid arguments?

Healthy relationships take a lot of work, and they begin with knowing who you are, what you want, what your higher purpose is. If those things get overshadowed, neglected, or stifled because of your partner, you’re suffering from codependency.

So what is the likelihood that you’re codependent of your Aspie? Extremely high. You can't help it. The moment your Aspie leaves something undone, you take over; that's codependency. The moment your Aspie walks away before you've finished your sentence, and you let it go or follow him/her around trying to be heard; that's codependency. The moment you make excuses to others for your Aspie's rude or thoughtless conduct; that's codependency. The moment you warn your children to avoid annoying their Aspie parent or sibling; that's codependency.

The worst part about codependency is waking up one day to realize that you've become so codependent that you're not sure who you are anymore. You have fully become the structure underpinning the life of another. Your own sense of self and your self-worth are nonexistent. Evidence of you still exists in the form of memories when you used to laugh and be creative, and you could sleep peacefully instead of fitfully. Shall I go on?

Our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup is going host the free, international teleconference entitled: Am I Codependent? It will be held on Thursday, February 15th at 2:30 PM PT. It will set the tone for getting the New Year off to a good start by taking back your own life! I'm looking forward to meeting the real you and you and you.

If you prefer to work with me one-on-one and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

There’s Something Special Going on at Dr. Kathy’s ASD Meetup this Month

Monday, January 08, 2018

It’s been nine years since I began hosting the Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup. When I started this group back in 2009, I intended it to be a place for those in the Portland, Oregon area to meet for lunch and find supportive friends who understood the often frustrating and isolating life of loving an adult with Asperger Syndrome.

I was ever so surprised when people from other states and then other countries started joining, just for the opportunity to share in the online discussions. We have grown to having members all over the world, on every continent. Whatever the language or the culture, we can all relate to the common theme of life with an adult with Asperger Syndrome. Currently we have 2,259 members. But there’s room for more!

What is the mission of this Meetup?

If you’re a Neurotypical Adult with a spouse, partner, sibling, parent or grown child who has Asperger Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD), you will soon learn that you’re not alone. We meet in small face-to-face group meetings, and hold international teleconferences, and have intimate video conferences for those who live abroad but want the small group feel.

If you need daily support you can join one of dozens of private, online discussions. You are safe here. Only members can access the discussion boards. You can ask questions and share stories of your day. Not everyone agrees on everything, but our diversity is what creates opportunity to grow and change, and perhaps even take back your life from these very tough ASD relationships.

I hope you’ll join us as we form a community for those of us who have this unique life of being in relationship with an adult on the Autism Spectrum.

Since beginning this group I’ve also written three books, "Going Over the Edge?" "Out of Mind - Out of Sight" and soon to be released "WHEN EMPATHY FAILS: How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you."

So I have lots to talk about. However, this month I have something special planned for our free international teleconference on January 18th at 2:30PM PT. It’s entitled: Ask Dr. Marshack Anything! I'd like to "share the floor" with those among you who have lots of wisdom because you have lived this life with Aspies. Certainly you can come to the teleconference with your questions, concerns and anecdotes for me, but I also hope to hear from our many members who have been in the trenches a long time.

The reason this group thrives, is that we are there for each other. To know that you are understood and supported and not alone, is incredibly powerful isn't it?

If you’re not a member yet and you’re a NT living with an Aspie, please feel free to join this Meetup. It’s free to join, and you’ll gain a lot of supportive friends and helpful resources.

Time to Talk Openly on #MeToo Stress Effects of Having a Family Member with ASD

Monday, January 01, 2018

ASD meetoo stressAmid all of the stories of stress illness caused by sexual harassment and racism, shouldn't we also be looking at the stress effects on those who are caring for Aspies (those with high-functioning autism)? The research has been there for years, but now it’s surfacing in a new way. And people are finally paying attention.

While it’s more acceptable to discuss the stress of racism and now sexual harassment (thank goodness) it has been "politically incorrect" to discuss the deleterious effects of autism on the caregivers, especially when it comes to high-functioning autism. Sadly many NTs have to suffer in silence or be accused of being uncaring or even discriminatory, making us feel crazy. But it’s time to talk about it, isn't it?

Parents of children with autism especially experience depression and anxiety. They have to struggle with obtaining crucial support services, deal with the crushing financial strain, and relentless worry about their child’s future. It’s overwhelming! And if your mate is an Aspie, then it’s even worse, because the one you should be able to turn to for love and support can’t give you what you need.

That’s why I host video conferences so you can openly talk about how you can take back your health and lives from the incredible stress of living with family members with autism. If you’re a member of Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, please join our next low-cost video conference entitled: #MeToo Stress Effects of ASD. It will be held on January 4, 2018 at 2:30PM or January 24, 2018 at 3PM. Please come prepared to open up about the stress you live with. You’ll get support from those who know and care because they are survivors and chose to be healers, too. We’ll also be talking about tools for healing.

Another great resource is my book, Out of Mind - Out of Sight. It gives great insight into how you navigate through the crazy-making, NT/AS world. You’ll find real stories from real people who will both inspire and instruct you. If you haven’t already done so, please download a free chapter by clicking on the image below. Or you can purchase your own copy from Amazon. It’s available in paperback or Kindle edition.

What Does It Mean that Autistics Think in Pictures?

Monday, December 04, 2017

Autistics think visually, why this hinders good communication, and what you can do about it.Have you seen the Temple Grandin movie? She’s a high-functioning autistic who has built a life helping others understand autism. (She also specializes in understanding what spooks cattle). She’s written a book about thinking in pictures because that’s the only way she relates to the world around her. There are a number of good YouTube videos, like this one if you start at the 9 minute mark, that give you some insight into her visual thinking process.

Temple has an interesting example on how people think about church steeples. Most people think of a generalized image, but her mind flashes through images of existing churches at specific locations that she’s seen in the past. She never sees things in a generalized way, but sees very detailed examples.

Of course, we can all visualize to a degree. At least we call it that. We might see a color in our "mind's eye" when told to see red. What about a checked tablecloth? Or your first car? But we don't generally "think in pictures." We tend to use pictures, or little movies as methods of organizing data, along with words, emotions, feelings, and other types of thought.

Autistics on the other hand rely much more on pictures. This explains why they have a photographic memory or can focus on the minutest detail. As handy as thinking in pictures can be for certain tasks, it can be a disaster for interpersonal communication. Without words to go along with those pictures, we’re left wondering what they’re thinking about. Without empathy, they may ramble on about their topic of interest without realizing we can't see their picture.

For our Aspies it’s also extremely troubling that we can't see their pictures. How can they convey what they are feeling or experiencing?

If you’re a member of Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup

, please join us for the free international teleconference on Thursday, December 14th, at 2:30 PM PT. Our topic is:

What does it mean that autistics think in pictures? Bring your own examples of how your Aspies think in pictures. But if it makes no sense to you yet, don't give up. We'll keep translating for you.

If you’d rather have a one-on-one session with me and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

How Can You Tell if It’s Abuse or Asperger's?

Monday, November 27, 2017

As tough as it is to look at the issue of abuse, it’s important. We aren't helping our Aspies when we allow them to be abusive. Yes, they have sensory sensitivities. Yes, they lack empathy and miss important cues. Yes, they easily get confused and shut down or rage. But to allow the verbal abuse, or their self-abuse, is not OK.

The answer to the question, "Is it abuse or is it Asperger's?" is that it doesn't matter. Regardless of the source of the abuse, it has to cease immediately. That's always the first step.

The second, third and fourth steps require taking into consideration the source of the abuse and developing a treatment plan specific for the person. With Aspies it's a blend of anger management (or domestic violence treatment), and the kind of coaching that teaches them the Rules of Engagement.

For the NT, as you can imagine, the treatment involves a protection plan, plus psychotherapy to restore your confidence and teach you skills to cope with life better.

Like I said this is a tough subject but it's time to bring it up, isn't it? That’s why we’re talking about this at our next videoconference.

If you’re a member of Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, please join our videoconference on Thursday, December 7th at 9:00 A.M. The topic: Is it abuse or is it Asperger’s? We’ll discuss how to assess the situation when the diagnosis alone doesn't help. In other words, let's find practical ways to communicate and problem solve with your Aspie, even if you have to make it up!
(If this time slot if full, I’m holding another one of December 20th.)

If you’re not a member and want to join here are the qualifications: you are a NT trying to deal with life with someone on the Autism Spectrum. That’s it. If that’s you, request an invite. It’s free to join the group and it has a lot of perks, like this low-cost video conference or free international teleconferences.

If you’d like to learn more of the science behind Asperger’s Syndrome, download a free chapter from my book, Out of Mind - Out of Sight. Or click the image below.

Does Your Aspie Make You Feel Like You’re Living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

If your Asperger loved one makes you feel like you’re living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, take heart, you can thrive despite their unintentional wounds.Oh, does that sound mean? It’s not meant to be. Yes, you may feel guilty describing your Aspie loved one in this manner. But the truth is this is how our rollercoaster lives feel. We’re whipsawed about with their contradictory behavior. It hurts; it’s frustrating; and sometimes it’s frightening.

Once again it all comes back to a lack of empathy. With no theory of mind it doesn’t register with our Aspies just how their conduct affects us. And because they don't really intend to cause harm, they don’t readily accept responsibility for their misconduct. (I’ll be sharing more about Empathy Disorders in my upcoming book, including what you can do to protect yourself from people who can’t demonstrate empathy. To stay up-to-date on it’s release sign-up for my newsletter.)

It’s like they have a split personality. What the world sees and what you see are two radically different things. They cut you off after one phrase and finish your sentences with what they think you should do, completely missing your point. It leaves you fuming, “who is he or she to tell me how to feel.” Or maybe like you’re a bother for contradicting anything the Aspie believes.

Layer upon layer of misunderstanding leads to the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde phenomenon. No matter how much you try to reason with them, they’re convinced that you’re the problem.

It’s even more infuriating that others see them as lovable, smart, or just a little kooky, but basically harmless. Only we know how devastating it is to be in the crosshairs of an Aspie when they’re fired up.

At our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, we’ll talk about how to hold your own against Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s important to know your own heart and not compromise. You’ll learn how to keep your channel clear and never allow boundary crossing. Let’s talk about the warning signs and methods to handle this better so you can prevent your own hurt.

If you’re a member, be sure to register for the November Video Conference, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on Thursday, November 9th at 9:00 AM PT. (Not a member? If you’re a NT dealing with life with an Aspie, all you have to do is request an invite. It’s free to join the group and it has a lot of perks, like this low-cost video conference and our free international teleconference.)

If you prefer one-on-one counseling and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

If you’d like to understand more about the science behind Asperger’s Syndrome, grab a free chapter from my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) by clicking on the image below.

Male and Female Differences in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Monday, October 02, 2017

Have you ever wondered if you’re autistic? Do you wonder about your daughter, your mother or your sister? After living with an Aspie for a few years, you may be a bit quirky yourself. Tragically, girls are typically under-represented in studies and treatment programs for high functioning autism, because they do look different.

In fact there’s emerging research that demonstrates that women on the Autism Spectrum have different brain organization than men on the Spectrum. For example, ASD women and girls seem to have more access to some of the empathy circuits in the brain. Not as much as NT women, but enough that they also are quite confused and suffer in relationships with ASD males.

Current estimates of the ratio of ASD male to female is 4 males to 1 female. However Simon Baron-Cohen suggests that once female ASD is diagnosed effectively, the numbers will change to 2:1. Right now females tend to get diagnosed for ASD only when they’re low functioning. More often than not they’re receiving alternate diagnoses like ADHD or OCD.

Have you noticed the differences between male and female Autism? Or would you like to discuss this topic further? If you’re a member of our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD meetup, be sure to register for the free, international Teleconference: Male and Female differences in Autism Spectrum Disorder on Thursday, October 19, 2017 at 2:30 PM PT. We’ll dig into the research on girls and autism. Bring your personal examples. Even if you have no experience with women and girls on the Spectrum, you’ll gain insight into your male Aspies by comparison.

Other resources:
NPR’s Morning Addition: ‘Social Camouflage’ May Lead to Underdiagnosis of Autism in Girls.
Barry Carpenter Education pdf
What is it like to be a girl with autism?
“Putting on My Best Normal”: Social Camouflaging in Adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions

Do you suspect that one of your female family members has undiagnosed autism? With a proper diagnosis, you can begin the process of helping her live a better life. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

You can read my story and that of others’ in my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD). Click on the image below to download a free chapter.

Why Do Those with Asperger’s Syndrome Say the Strangest Things?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Here are four reasons why your Asperger friends or family members sound like Mr. Spock when they’re sharing their feelings, and what you can do about it.Have you ever noticed that your Aspie friend or family member sounds like Mr. Spock when they’re sharing their feelings? So unattached and impersonal. Why is that? It’s because people with Asperger’s Syndrome have a disconnect between cognitive empathy and emotional empathy. Many also have Alexithymia, which contributes to a disconnect between understanding their own feelings and finding words to tell us what they’re feeling.

In addition to that, Aspies also have developed a belief system as a result of living in a world where others make no sense. For example, have you noticed how they draw a conclusion based on one experience and hold to it forever, no matter how much you plead with them that it’s no longer true?

Another confusing element is when they’re trying to chit-chat but can't remember any important information about the person they’re talking to…as if this is their first encounter? They could be talking to your aunt or the next door neighbor and be totally clueless.

It's like a primary school child who is learning to read and only sounds at the words. By third and fourth grade most children are starting to gather information from their reading, not just dutifully reading words on the page. Our Aspies seem stuck in first grade when it comes to social interaction. They have a few basic rules of engagement but haven't mastered the depth of connecting with others.

Some of you may not care why they say the strangest things, or you may have given up trying to translate. However, some of you are still trying to understand the unfathomable logic and language of our Aspies. I actually think the key to our mental health comes from understanding their disability just a little bit better. This enables us to detach and not take so seriously the odd, hurtful and sometimes mean things they say.

If you’re a member of our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, be sure to register for the October Video Conference: Why do Aspies say the strangest things? There are still opening for this low-cost, hour-long session on either Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 3:00 PM PDT or Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 9:00 AM PDT. Please bring your questions about this phenomenon. I bet you have insights too.

Would you rather have a one-on-one session with me? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. Or if it’s more convenient, I also offer online therapy.

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