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Kathy Marshack News

The Silent Treatment – How to Cope when Those with Asperger’s Shut You Out

Monday, September 26, 2016


The Silent Treatment – How to Cope when Those with Asperger’s Shut You OutYou had a disagreement with your Asperger’s Syndrome spouse two weeks ago and rather than resolving it, he walked away and has been giving you “The Silent Treatment” ever since. (This could just as easily be describing an Aspie woman.) He’s nice to everyone who calls on the phone. But you don’t exist. He completely ignores you and shuts you out. He sleeps with his back to you. He leaves the house without saying goodbye to you, although he loves on the dog, making it a point that you see it. He mutters under his breath when he walks past you. And you feel like you’re going mad! Does this describe anything you’ve experienced? If so, you are not alone.

The silent treatment is really a cruel form of abuse and it includes more, like ignoring and shunning, and treating you as if your opinion doesn't count.

Yes, many of our Aspies have severe anxiety, and some cross wiring that makes it difficult for them to feel and talk at the same time. Many couples have learned how to cope with these situations by creating their own personal rules for engagement. However, when the Aspie chooses to shut down, cut off, shun and even get passive aggressive, this has the result of making us feel abused, oppressed, and worthless.

Psychologists will tell you that when a person cuts you out of their life or shuts you down in these passive aggressive ways, they suffer from a narcissistic wound. They feel obliterated by your strength, so in turn try to obliterate you. It is a severe type of pathology. Not everyone with ASD takes this narcissistic path, but when they do it is devastating.

I hope that a few of you are brave enough to stand up, speak out and talk back. That's what the next Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD video conference is about. If you’re a member of the group, please register for the call to discuss The Silent Treatment on Thursday, October 6, 2016 at 2:30 PM or Thursday, October 27 at 3:00 PM. We’ll discuss: How to recognize the abuse. How to confront your Aspie. How to take back your life, whether they get it or not. (If you’re a NT in an NT/AS relationship, please feel free to join this group.)

Also, be sure to read “Our of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)”. This book discusses the science behind Aspie behavior and how you can initiate the rules of engagement that help your Aspie give you the emotional support that you need. Click on the image below to request a free chapter.

How to Handle Micro-Aggressions from Your Aspie Mate

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Micro-Aggressions are ways that those with Aspergers Syndrome intentionally or unintentionally invalidate, degrade or insult to their Neuro Typical partnersBack in June 2014 our Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD group discussed what MicroAggressions are and what can be done about them. This is an important topic that is worth revisiting. Usually this term "Micro-Aggressions" is used in the context of bullying and discrimination in schools and the workplace. But I think we NTs (neuro-typicals who are in a relationship with someone with Asperger’s Syndrome) are an overlooked population that experiences these micro-aggressions on a daily basis.

What are some micro-aggressions you may be experiencing from a loved one?

  • You’re told only what you have done poorly, not what you have done well.
  • You’re accused of being critical when you only disagree.
  • You’re told you always get your way, when that is hardly true.
  • You arrange loving displays of affection for the holidays, but your birthday is ignored.
  • You receive that blank look when you try to converse.

As you well know these micro-aggressions, while perhaps unintentional, are still demoralizing. Even worse than the original hostile comment, is that there is little chance of repairing the relationship with an assertive confrontation. Merely asserting yourself can result in an escalation of hostilities, making you feel even worse.

But all is not lost.

If you’re a member of the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD, please join our free international teleconference on Thursday, September 29, 2016 at 2:30 PM. We’ll discuss ways to deal with these micro-aggressions and save your sanity.

And 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.

Does Your Aspie Spouse Make You Look Like the “Bad Guy?”

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Subtle ways that those with Asperger’s (ASD) unintentionally disrespect their mates, causing you to think it’s all your fault, and your children do too!Recently I stumbled upon an article that captures the essence of the life NT’s face when living with a mate who has undiagnosed ASD or Asperger’s Syndrome. The article by Sarah Swenson, MA, LMHC, is entitled, Married with Undiagnosed ASD: Why Women Who Leave Lose Twice, and it does an excellent job in making a painful situation so relatable as it captures the subtleties of the disrespect that is passed from ASD parent to child. I’ll provide a brief summary of the story for you here, but I encourage you to please take the time to read the entire article and the comments that follow it.

An undiagnosed ASD man marries a woman  whom he greatly admires for her success and social skills. (Note: This story could just as easily have been about an ASD woman who marries a NT man. Not all Aspies are male.) But as soon as the wedding is over, these very qualities make him uncomfortable. Therefore, he withdraws into his predictable patterns and he tries to pigeon hole her into them as well. But this makes her feel like she’s disappearing. She feels rejected and lonely. Maybe it’s all in her head. No one understands what she’s going through. They just see that this is a good guy and she’s not trying hard enough to make the marriage work.


Then, when they have children, the situation gets worse. She tries to cover for him and create a “normal” life for them, yet he subtly undermines her efforts. No, he’s not intending to do harm. It’s just that if he doesn’t think it’s important, it’s not going to be part of their lives. A poignant story is told about how he doesn’t view her birthday as important, so the children also learn that mommy’s birthday isn’t important.

As Sarah Swenson describes it from the child’s perspective, mommy becomes the “bad guy” the “boss” who treats daddy badly.

“She is the woman who did not deserve to have birthday parties, remember. She is the woman who appeared to have pushed their father aside, so he was unable to be part of their daily lives. She appeared to have been the one who rejected him, and who instead of involving him in their lives, inserted her own agenda and goals. She is the one who spent all the money, because she had to manage everything and make all the decisions without her husband’s input. She is the one, most importantly, who broke up the family. Her selfishness caused the divorce, and the children were left to sort it all out.”

Yes, in order to preserve her sanity, this woman leaves this unintended abuse and neglect. She loses her marriage, her husband, and the respect of her children because they blame her for everything.

This story struck a chord with me and many other women, as the comments reveal. In particular, the subtlety of the disrespect is important to note. Trying to free yourself from this disrespect is futile until you understood who you’re dealing with. And, in the end, you may need to leave “the burning building”, regardless of whether your Aspie intended the disrespect.

I understand what you’re going through and I want you to know that there is hope. Hope for being understood. Hope for finding yourself again. Hope for making a better life with your Aspie or, if necessary, without your Aspie mate. Please join our growing community of NTs and discover how to navigate this crazy making ASD/NT world.

If Your First Baby is Autistic, Will Your Second Baby Be Autistic Too?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Parents with one autistic child worry that the next baby will have Autism (ASD) too, and while there is a higher risk, the statistics show it’s not a given.This question weighs on the minds of many concerned parents, and it’s a reasonable question to ask. The more education you seek the better decisions you’ll make. So I’ve pulled some statistics together to help you understand your risks.

I’ve previously written that if you or your husband is over 40 years of age, there’s a higher risk to have a child with autism.

A PsychCentral article written by Dr. Rick Nauert reports on a study by Kaiser Permanente that found that the risk of younger siblings developing an autism spectrum disorder is 14 times higher if an older sibling has ASD. It said:


“Compared with gestational age-matched younger siblings without ASD diagnosis, those born at term (37-42 gestational weeks) who had an older sibling diagnosed with ASD had more than 15 times the increased risk for ASD diagnosis. Younger siblings who were born at preterm (28-36 gestational weeks) and had an older sibling diagnosed with ASD had an almost 10 times increased risk for ASD.
Younger boys with ASD who had older brothers were 15 percent chance of having ASD, while younger girls with older sisters have a 7 percent chance.
Previous research from Kaiser Permanente has found that second-born children who are conceived sooner than two years or later than six years after the arrival of their older sibling have a significantly increased risk of ASD.”

NPR reported on a study conducted by UCDavis Mind Institute. They found that “the overall risk that a younger sibling of an autistic child will have the disorder is 19 percent. But if the younger sibling is male, the risk shoots up to more than one in four. By contrast, if the younger sibling is a girl, her risk of autism is 9 percent. And if a family has two or more children with autism, the risk among younger siblings goes up even more — to 1 in 3.”

Should you be concerned? This certainly shouldn’t panic you. We have to be careful how studies are interpreted. Genetics certainly play a role in the risk for autism, but it’s not the only factor. Environmental factors, such as extremely low birth weight, extremely premature birth, and exposure to toxins must also be considered.

To be safe, parents who have an older child with an autism diagnosis and their pediatricians should be on the look out for early signs of autism – lack of interest in people, not responding to their names, not responding to people or smiling at them.

There’s no guarantee that any child will be born without serious health problems. The issue is how you will handle the challenge if your child does suffer a birth defect or has a mental disorder. My advice is not to worry excessively, but if you see indications that your child is not responding as he or she should be, seek the advice of a professional who is trained in diagnosing such disorders. Working closely with your child’s pediatrician, these professionals will be able to assess the situation, educate you on what the diagnosis means and help you and your child to cope as a family.

Are you looking for guidance regarding your relationship with a family member with Asperger Syndrome? For further Autism Spectrum Disorder resources see Remote Education Asperger Relationships.

Exciting New Discoveries – How the Immune System Controls Social Behavior

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Exciting New Discoveries – How the Immune System Controls Social BehaviorThe immune system does an amazing job in protecting us from threats to our health such as viruses, germs, bacteria or parasites. The white blood cells (leukocytes) and lymph system play key roles in fighting against these invaders. Interestingly, scientists have known for some time that immune dysfunction is associated with several neurological and mental disorders.

Now, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have found that “the immune system directly affects – and even controls – social behavior, such as the desire to interact with others.” This is a textbook shattering discovery! It has significant implications for neurological diseases like autism spectrum disorders.

Jonathan Kipnis, chair of UVA’s Department of Neuroscience explains, “The brain and the adaptive immune system were thought to be isolated from each other, and any immune activity in the brain was perceived as sign of a pathology. And now, not only are we showing that they are closely interacting, but some of our behavior traits might have evolved because of our immune response to pathogens… Part of our personality may actually be dictated by the immune system.”

What lead up to this new understanding? His team discovered:

1: Within the meninges (the membrane that covers the brain) are lymphatic vessels that directly link the brain to the lymphatic system. Up until this discovery, no one knew they existed. This new discovery alone changes what has been taught about the brain!

2: The immune molecule, interferon gamma plays a “profound role in maintaining proper social function.” Normally, this molecule is produced by the immune system responding to the threats mentioned above. During their study, the scientists blocked this molecule in mice and “it made regions of the brain hyperactive, causing the mice to become less social.” When they restored the molecule, “the brain connectivity and behavior was normal.” This molecule certainly seems to be vital for social behavior.

“Using this approach we predicted a role for interferon gamma, an important cytokine secreted by T lymphocytes, in promoting social brain functions. Our findings contribute to a deeper understanding of social dysfunction in neurological disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia, and may open new avenues for therapeutic approaches,” said Vladimir Litvak leader of a research group at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

I am hopeful that this discovery – that the immune system affects our social interactions – will further unlock the mysteries of ASD and how to treat it. Until then, let’s do all we can to support the neurotypical (NT) partners and family members in a relationship with someone with Asperger’s.

Keeping up-to-date on Asperger’s Syndrome is vital. Please, sign up for my Enriching Your Life Newsletter to learn about my next scheduled live webinar. Some recorded webinars are also available for download to the member of my Meetup group. If you’re a NT and you’re not yet a member of Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD, then please take the time to join today.


TMS Treatment Helps Woman with Asperger's Experience the World in a New Way

Monday, August 08, 2016


Expand your frame of reference and see the world in a new wayRecently, Alix Speigel hosted a fascinating story on NPR's podcast, Invisibilia. It revealed the story of Kim who, “until she was 54 years old, was totally unaware that there were things in the world she couldn't see.”

Throughout her life, nothing happened in the way she expected and she hadn’t a clue as to why that was. It seemed to her that people said and did things that were completely unrelated. It didn’t make sense to her. You see she has Asperger’s Syndrome, which makes a person unable to pick up on social cues or the nuanced emotional meanings that most people can easily see.

Then Kim was given an opportunity to see what others see. Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston were investigating how a procedure called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) affected the brains of people with Asperger’s. An electromagnetic coil is placed next to the scalp and rhythmically sends 30-minutes magnetic pulses through the skull in order to stimulate brain cells.


After undergoing this treatment, Kim felt deeper emotions for the first time in her life. As she read different statements, she was able to see the larger context of situations alluded to and was able to see the true meanings attached to them. She explained it was like going from “black and white to color”.

While the effects didn’t last long, it made her aware of a different way of experiencing the world. Where she once thought she was better than others, she now saw that she was simply different, and not necessarily in a good way. She felt hopelessly depressed, so she begged for another session of TMS.

During the next session, instead of reading, she watched short videos as the magnet did its work. Once again her perception was drastically different before and after the treatment. Where once she saw nothing out of the ordinary, she now saw the nuances of the body language, the subtly of conversation and she actually understood sarcasm. It amazed her! Once again her results were short lived, but this time it left her with a greater understanding of herself and the world around her – without the depression and self-doubt that happened the first time.

Researchers don’t understand why a few like Kim respond so well to TMS and others don’t. At this time, the FDA approves TMS as a treatment for treatment-resistant depression, but not for autism. They’ve found that it slightly increases the risk of seizures in those who have epilepsy. Since the research into TMS is still in its infancy, I’m anxious to see what they eventually discover.

Kim’s story reminds us of an important truth. Whether we have Asperger’s or not, we all function within a confined frame of reference based on our biology and experiences in life. The good news is that this frame of reference can be shifted and expanded. Although I don't offer TMS, I can help in expanding your frame of reference so you can achieve better relationships and greater self-understanding, and if you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.


Be sure to
click on this link and read the NPR show notes or listen to the podcast.

Stumped by Your Aspie? How to Translate What They’re Trying to Say

Monday, July 18, 2016


If you’re stumped when it comes to communicating with your Asperger’s Syndrome loved one, here are some tips for translating what they’re trying to say.Communication – this is a topic addressed over and over again when I counsel family members who have Asperger Syndrome (Aspies) and is frequently the topic of discussion at our Meetup (Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD). Having raised a daughter with Asperger’s I understand the frustration many of you feel when you try to understand what exactly your Aspie is trying to say.

If any of you are familiar with Star Trek, you might envy the Universal Translator on board the ship that automatically translates every language and sends the translations directly to the chip implanted in the brain of every officer on the Enterprise. Wouldn’t that be helpful!

While a Universal Translator doesn’t exist, we do have another option: Always speak to the good intention, whatever it is, even if you are not sure. When you get a confusing message from your Aspie partner or child, always assume it makes sense somehow, someway. Trust that there is a good intention behind the message even if is speaking Aspie.

By maintaining a neutral position, you are better able to answer the question, “Why is he/she telling me this?”

When I get stumped by a confusing message from an Aspie, I use the phrase, “That’s right,” in order to bring me to neutral. The phrase reminds me that the other person is “right” in that they have a good intention, which has meaning to them. “That’s right,” also helps me know that I am “right,” in that I am capable of good intentions. You may not always be able to get the message translated, but at least being in neutral puts you in a much better frame of mind for the attempt.

Here’s a simple example. When my daughter Bianca was 8, she wrote me a note about trouble she was having at lunch at school. She grew up around my home office, so she observed that my office manager and I often exchanged written notes (even with the advent of e-mail). If I was with a client, Bianca would leave me a note, so that I would be sure to answer her when I had a break from appointments.

Notes became Bianca’s version of the Universal Translator. Her penchant for writing as opposed to talking with me should be noted. It is a typical Aspie trait to find comfort in the written word—because face-to-face communication requires empathy and the interpretation of confusing non-verbal messages.

So the next time you feel stumped by your Aspie, put yourself in neutral and then ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I know about this person?
  • What is important to him or her?
  • What are their interests, beliefs and opinions?

Then do your best to speak to those things, instead of relying only on your interpretation of reality. If you want to delve deeper into understanding how to communicate with your Aspie check out my book, “Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)", you can download the first chapter for free. If you have questions about what you read I’m available for an online Q & A session.

 

How to Cope as our Aspies Get Older

Wednesday, July 06, 2016


Aging in those with aspergers is uncharted waters, so learn how to help them, while at the same time caring for yourself emotionally – 7/14 teleconference.We have so little information on what happens as Aspie's age. (For some helpful hints, read Liane Holliday Willey Ed.D article about caring for her own aged Aspie father entitled, Supporting Elder Aspies.) We have even less information on how to help the NTs who are aging along with them. There are health issues, legal issues and financial issues, but the most profound is the despair that no one understands or can help.

Over the years, our Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup group has had had many discussions about these mind numbing relationships and how to care for yourself emotionally in relation to a spouse or adult on the Autism Spectrum. In the July teleconference we’ll discuss how to care for yourself as aging moves to the forefront. Disability, health problems, financial security, housing and so much more confront us as we age, but the issues are dramatically compounded when living with an Aspie.

Even if you are young or middle aged, I’m sure you have had fears about what will happen to you or your children if your aging Aspie should deteriorate further . . .or worse if they have to take care of you!

Please, join us in this discussion of how to prepare for this stage of life. You are not alone, even if you think you are. The teleconference, Aging with your Aspie, will be held on Thursday, July 14th at 2:30 PM. Click here to register. You must be a member of the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD to attend this free, international teleconference.

Read more on my website: Asperger Syndrome FAQ’s.

Have a Family Member with Asperger’s? How to Speak Aspergian

Monday, June 27, 2016


People with Asperger’s Syndrome have their own language – they speak in code words or have an unusual system of speech, but you can learn ways to connect.Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language? It takes a lot of hard work. To be able to think in another language oftentimes takes years of practice. The same is true with learning Aspergian.

Speaking Aspergian is a powerful tool in your relationship with someone who has Asperger’s Syndrome. It's not so much speaking the language of your Aspie as it is understanding theirs. With this understanding, you can neutralize everyone's distress. When you’re detached from the emotional meaning of the communication, it’s much easier to guide the conversation to a mutually agreeable place.

For example, Aspies don't have empathy. They positively hate it when I say this but it’s true. If your Aspie doesn't have all of the elements of empathy, it’s the same as Zero Degrees of Empathy as you well know. Your Aspie may have cognitive empathy, or a rather flat logical understanding of the facts, but they struggle to connect it to the emotional meaning. Or they may be highly sensitive and cry at the drop of the hat, but be unable to speak about their feelings. Or they may care deeply about a social justice or personal cause, but be unable to connect with others on the issue.

Disconnects between emotions and thoughts, no awareness of the intention behind human behaviors, using idiosyncratic words that carry no meaning for others, . . . these methods create a kind of language that can seem impenetrable. Autistic children seem to have a language of their own that no one can fathom. Autistic adults, even our high-functioning Aspies have the same unusual language patterns. Once we break the code, it’s much easier to communicate and relate.

Our next low cost Video Conference will be on the topic: How to Speak Aspergian. It will be held on Thursday, July 7, 2016 at 9:00 AM PDT and again on Thursday, July 28 at 3:00 PM PDT. There are still a few spots left, so if you’re a member of the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD please sign up soon to ensure you get your spot.

Bring examples of the mysterious language of your Aspie for our discussion. Even if your Aspie uses a different code word than another Aspie, the system they use is the same. But the real goal is more than understanding their code; it is also to reduce distress and find a way to connect with your loved ones.

The Art of Detachment - Self-Care Tips for those in an Asperger Relationship

Monday, June 20, 2016


The Art of Detachment - Self-Care Tips for those in an Asperger RelationshipLiving with a mate who has Asperger’s Syndrome is filled with stress. You love them but they are unpredictable. You never know how they’ll react to an ordinary situation.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that many NT (neuro-typical) mates report a variety of psychosomatic and immunodeficiency illnesses, such as migraines, arthritis, gastric reflux, and fibromyalgia. When the body is regularly thrown into a state of alarm, the over-production of adrenalin and cortisol wreaks havoc with the body’s natural defense mechanisms.

Recently I wrote an article for PsychCentral on the need to care for yourself first. This may seem impossible at first, because of the chaos of family life. But it is essential and possible if you learn the art of detachment.

Detachment is learning to protect yourself from all of those not-so-ordinary moments. It doesn’t mean you stop caring about your loved ones. It simply means that you:

  • Stop taking it all personally.
  • Stop worrying if you’ve covered all the bases.
  • Stop beating yourself up for your flaws.
  • Stop expecting more from your AS spouse than he or she can give.

When you learn the art of detaching, you actually free up some energy to care for yourself. And that creates the energy to make better decisions instead of flitting from crisis to crisis.

There are two methods for achieving detachment:

1. Emotional self-care is doing all of the healthy feel-good things you can fit into your day. If you notice that you’re drinking, eating, or smoking too much, you need healthier self-care. Make it a point to always plan healing rest and recreation in your day, too.

2.Cognitive self-care consists of education. When you can’t fathom what’s going on with your Aspie, and they’re accusing you of things you didn’t do, stress increases. It’s bad enough to be misunderstood. It’s quite another to try to operate without a frame of reference for the misunderstanding. Even though it’s work to read a book and to attend psychotherapy, knowledge is power.

When I was learning to deal with family members with ASD, there weren’t that many resources. So I founded a Meetup group, Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD. It has helped many cope as they connect with others living through he same experiences. Check it out and if it feels right for you, please hit the “join” button.



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