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Kathy Marshack News

Are You Feeling like a Misfit in your NT-AS Marriage?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


asperger husband makes the wife feel lonely and like she doesn't fit in anywhereAny marriage is subject to ups and downs due to human nature in general and the individual partners, in particular. When Asperger Syndrome is part of the mix, the challenges easily mount. This is not to say that the Aspie partner is to blame or is at “fault.” However, given that the core characteristics of Asperger Syndrome relate to communication, emotions, perspective taking and sensory issues, the very components upon which relationships are built, it is no wonder that misunderstanding and frustration often crop up in these relationships.

After years of adapting to your Aspie loved ones, many Neuro-Typicals feel "Aspergated" or as if they have one foot in the NT world and one foot in the ASD world. . . not quite fitting into either. Do you relate to this following scenario?

Little by little you lose contact with your friends as you retreat into your spouse’s Asperger comfort zone. You quit going out to dinner and you quit inviting people over, because you’re Aspie partner complains, so it’s just easier to disappear. And because your social needs aren’t being met, the only way you know how to cope is to “shut down”, pretending that it doesn’t matter. Sure you don’t give up without a fight, but the efforts to fix the situation seem to be pointless.

As a result, your evenings find you in one room watching TV or playing with the children, while your husband is glued to the TV in the den watching his programs. If you don’t start connecting with someone soon, you’re going to go crazy with resentment. But it’s been so long since you put yourself out there that it feels awkward, clumsy and so lonely. You feel like you just don’t fit in anywhere. Does this sound all too familiar?

Are you feeling like a misfit? Fortunately we have the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with AS group, whose members provide the deepest of understanding and caring. But where else can you go for this kind of support? Join us on March 21, 2015 1:00pm for our next local meetup in Portland, OR. Can’t be there? Then join the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with AS international teleconference on Friday, March 27, 2015 at 2:30pm PDT. Let's talk about how we can find this support or at the very least how to protect ourselves from the ravages of loneliness.

And if you haven’t purchased your copy of my books on how to nurture Asperger Relationships so that they thrive, here are links with more information:

Out of Mind - Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome

Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going over the Edge?

Read more on my website: Asperger Relationships.

Does Your Asperger Parent or Partner Make You Feel Invisible?

Thursday, February 05, 2015


asperger partner makes you feel invisibleHave you ever felt like your Aspie family member doesn’t see you? Like your thoughts and feelings aren’t acknowledged and don’t matter? This can especially become a pattern of life for those who grow up with one Asperger parent and one Neuro-typical (NT) parent.

What does psychological invisibility mean?

Recently I wrote an article for PsychCentral discussing this topic and shared an example of how one young woman, Rose Marie, grew up feeling invisible. I’d encourage you to click here to read the entire PsychCentral article. (And while you’re there, will you share this information from your favorite social media platform, too?)

In brief, because those with Asperger lack empathy, they cause others to feel ignored, unappreciated and unloved. When people feel invisible, they can come to believe they deserve to be ignored. They develop coping mechanisms similar to “psychic numbing” where your own feelings become invisible to yourself. They develop a “tough cookie, no fear” exterior to get past their feelings of insecurity. The result of this disregard is what I call, “invisibility.”

And this doesn’t just affect children. Even when someone comes into a relationship with a strong sense of self-esteem, it can quickly be shattered by a partner or spouse who has an empathy disorder.

How can those who feel invisible cope?

Many cope by coming up with an explanation of why life has turned out the way it has. But these explanations change nothing. An old fashioned southern euphemism is appropriate for Neuro-Typicals in this situation: “No explaining; no complaining.” Explaining and complaining are defensive maneuvers that we use when we feel trapped. They are attempts to prove to ourselves that we are okay; whereas if we are truly okay, then what is there to defend?

Everyone who wants to cope with these feelings of invisibility must stop explaining or complaining. Everything you talk about should be about what you’re feeling or hearing or seeing or smelling right now. Don’t analyze. Don’t blame others or yourself. Don’t judge either. No complaining. No explaining.

Do you want to experience feeling truly okay, acceptable, fully alive — without an explanation or a complaint? Perhaps it’s time to seek the assistance of a health care professional. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

This information has been excerpted from my book, Out of Mind - Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD). Learn more and grab a free sample chapter by clicking here.

Can Spiritual Support Help You Cope with Asperger Relationships?

Wednesday, February 04, 2015


spiritual support is essential to maintain hope in your asperger relationshipsWhen caring for someone with Asperger’s, do you put self-care at the top of your list? People who travel by air are instructed, “In case of an emergency, put the air mask on yourself first and then your children or others.” Only in caring for yourself first can you truly care for others. Otherwise you have nothing left to give. Families with member who have Asperger’s Syndrome especially need to attend to and take care of their whole person. That means caring for your whole being - your mind, body and spirit.

Does this mean you need to be religious?

Spirit or spirituality is not synonymous with religion or religious. Church has nothing to do with spirituality directly. Rather the spirit is that part of each human that makes us a distinctive personality. It is the part of us that defines us and yet connects us to others. It has long been known that a strong healthy spirit will guide us successfully through adversity, whereas a conquered spirit will succumb to illness and death. It was Mother Theresa's strong spirit that transcended her small stature and seemingly insignificant role as a nun to profoundly affect thousands of people for the better. In other words, spirit is that singular life force that directs and shapes our attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Therefore, keeping spirit or life force healthy is essential to the process of achieving healthy balance in any life.

Does spiritual practice and spiritual guidance help in your life with Asperger’s Syndrome?

Many of our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD members post that their church and/or spiritual discipline helps them stay strong and loving. But not all are finding comfort from their religious organizations. In fact, some report the opposite. . .that they feel even more alone. We don't need platitudes. We need unconditional love and support for this life.

Join our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD local Meetup on Saturday, February 21, 2015 at 1:00pm PST or our international teleconference Meetup on Friday, February 27, 2015 at 2:30pm PST. We’ll discuss this topic: SPIRITUAL SUPPORT: Does It Help? Let's meet to discuss what works for you whether it is a formal religion, another form of spiritual discipline, or even atheism. What really matters is that we connect and know that we are not alone. . . In the material world or beyond.

Read more on my website: Asperger Syndrome Support and Asperger Relationships Remote Education.

Is it Aspie Bashing to Talk about Your Pain?

Friday, January 09, 2015


asperger syndrome partners and family of adults with asd meetupOnce in a while I hear a comment that my books are Aspie bashing or that our Asperger Syndrome Partners Family of Adults with ASD Meetup group is all about denigrating those on the Autism Spectrum. Most of the time these complaints come from well-intentioned people who are not really looking at the whole picture.

To keep quiet about the crazy-making and suffering experienced in many of these relationships is incredibly harmful to those Neuro-typicals who have lived without validation for years. On the other hand, I have limited the Asperger Syndrome Partners Family of Adults with ASD group to only NTs who live this life. I really don't want Aspies to feel threatened by the openness of our communication. After all, there should be a safe place to vent and connect for all involved.

Join our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD local Meetup on Saturday, January 17, 2015 at 1:00pm PST or our international teleconference Meetup on Friday, January 23, 2015 at 2:30pm PST. We’ll discuss this topic: Is it Aspie Bashing to talk about our pain?

Let's get together to talk, not blame. This topic is important. How do you come to terms with the crazy-making stuff in your life if you can't review it with others who understand? Our Meetup is a place to share your experiences with others who get what it’s like to be married to an Aspie. When others are trying to discourage you from expressing your feelings or may even be blaming you, you need a safe and secure place to help you resolve all of those painful memories. It can take the painful pressure off of the cork so you can release the years of pent up emotions before you implode and destroy yourself. Asperger’s is in no way an excuse for abusive or violent behavior. Let’s use the time together to find positive and strategic ways of coping and supporting one another.

And really…maybe the accusation of bashing is the result of a lack of empathy for what we are going through. Think about it.

Three more ways to learn more about Asperger’s Syndrome:


We have the Winners!

Friday, January 09, 2015


coping with partner who has asperger syndrome bookcoping with a spouse with asperger syndromeDuring the month of December I ran a "Feedback" Contest on Facebook asking for your heartfelt thoughts about my two books on the topic of Asperger’s Syndrome. I’m happy to say the winners have been posted on my Facebook page.

Yes! There are two winners! When it came down to the final decision, I just couldn’t decide – so both of these people will receive their own 20 minute remote education call with me during the next few months. I’m really looking forward to getting to know them better. I’m hoping they’ll share with me how I can better serve this NT/AS community.

I just wanted to share with you their winning comments. I’m using initials to protect their privacy.

Jules NZ commented: “Out of Mind – Out of Sight. For me, this book has given me permission to follow my instincts and trust myself again after 30 years of invalidation and dwindling self esteem. The chapters about zero empathy from the Aspie spouse, and invisibility of the NT partner were revelations for me, and there are simply too many other topics that are for me, like gold. This book has become my bible and I refer to it frequently to help me understand the craziness that has been my life, parenting with my Asperger husband.

Going over the Edge has been a life saver for me, I have used the knowledge within to understand and learn about Asperger Syndrome in my relationship with my husband. The practical examples are so easy to relate to when you live this life. Dr Kathy must have been talking about me? how did she know?? I have read this book over and over and each time find another gem to support myself and remind myself I am ok, that what I am experiencing is normal for life with a spouse with Aspergers.”

JB commented: “I read Going Over the Edge. I am married to an undiagnosed man who shows many traits described in the book. I was most impacted by the young girl's drawing and discovering the busy brain. Like most challenges we face if we become aware and accept them they become manageable and even tolerable especially when you know there is support available for you. I don't love my situation but the book did give me hope and settled me down. It caused me to sit back and look at things from a new perspective. I have to read parts of it from time to time to wheel me back in when I start to feel crazy. Thank you.”

Their comments really touched my heart as I can see that my work is truly helping them. And yes, I do consider myself to be one of the winners, since I get to connect with wonderful people like you. Please come on over to my Facebook page and congratulate our winners.

Learn more about Asperger’s Syndrome:

  • Schedule a 20 minute educational call with Dr. Marshack for Asperger Relationships Remote Education.
  • Download a free chapter of Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD).
  • Download a free chapter of Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going over the Edge? Practical Steps to Saving You and Your Relationship.

New Research: Is the Risk of ASD or ADHD Increased by Taking Depression Medicine during Pregnancy?

Thursday, November 13, 2014


depression and pregnancyResearch shows that genetic factors play a large role in autism spectrum disorder. However, not as much is known about the role of medications prescribed during pregnancy. Do antidepressants and antipsychotics increase the risk of ASD and ADHD? Or is it the mother’s depression a greater contributing factor? That’s what researchers are trying to find out.

New research suggests that increased risk of autism after medication use during pregnancy may actually be reflecting the increased risk associated with severe maternal depression instead. According to SFARI (Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative), “Women who have a history of bipolar disorder or depression are more likely to have a child with Asperger syndrome than classic autism.” They base this statement on a study published in the 2012 issue of Autism Research and Treatment.

PsychCentral reports on a study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital researchers, which discovered, “While a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder was more common in the children of mothers prescribed antidepressants during pregnancy than in those with no prenatal exposure, when the severity of the mother’s depression was accounted for, that increased risk was no longer statistically significant.”  They did, however, discover an increased risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). And antipsychotic drugs sometimes used to treat severe, treatment-resistant depression appeared to increase the risk for autism.

The senior author of the report, Roy Perlis, M.D., M.Sc., M.G.H., made this comment, “Untreated depression can pose serious health risks to both a mother and child, so it’s important that women being treated with antidepressants who become pregnant, or who are thinking about becoming pregnant, know that these medications will not increase their child’s risk of autism.”

Depression is not something you want to ignore because you’re afraid of what medication will do to you or your unborn child. There are a variety of depression treatment options available, with medication and without medication. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and a holistic health approach are beneficial in helping anxious or depressed people lower medication requirements. Please discuss these options with your doctor. You don’t need to stay in the darkness. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and set up an appointment so we can discuss the best treatment for you.

Wondering if you or someone you love has depression? Take the online PsychCentral Depression Quiz. If depression is indicated, please contact your physician or a mental health professional immediately.

Read more on my website: Overcoming Depression.

How to Protect Your Children and Yourself from Parental Alienation Syndrome

Thursday, November 06, 2014


Parental Alienation SyndromeHave you ever seen children who relentlessly belittle and insult one parent without cause? This is so heartbreaking, yet is becoming more common. It can get so bad that they even view that parent as evil. A person is most likely to see this situation during high conflict divorces where children become pawns in the battle between mom and dad.

Psychiatrist, Richard A. Gardner coined the phrase, “Parental Alienation Syndrome” to identify this behavior. He describes it as…

"A disorder that arises primarily in the context of child custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child's campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent's indoctrinations and the child's own contributions to the vilification of the target parent."

How and why does Parental Alienation Syndrome happen?

Many attorneys and marriage counselors suspect that high conflict divorces involve at least one partner with ASD (or another type of empathy disorder). This is because of the Empathy Disorder. Lack of empathy, unregulated emotions and a desire to control the outcome can lead to alienating the children, without regard for the serious damage the children suffer.

What are some alienation techniques that are used? The magazine Psychology Today lists the following behaviors:

  • “Bad-mouthing the other parent, 
  • Limiting contact with that parent, 
  • Erasing the other parent from the life and mind of the child (forbidding discussion and pictures of the other parent), 
  • Forcing the child to reject the other parent, 
  • Creating the impression that the other parent is dangerous, 
  • Forcing the child to choose between the parents by means of threats of withdrawal of affection, and 
  • Belittling and limiting contact with the extended family of the targeted parent.”

This painful issue of “Parental Alienation Syndrome” causes many to fear divorce, so we will be discussing this problem and how to protect yourself and your children at our next local Meetup - Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with AS on Saturday, November 15. If you live in the Vancouver, WA/ Portland area, please join us. If you’re unable to attend in person, please join the international teleconference on November 21, which will cover the same information for our global community. While not all on the Autism Spectrum will engage in Parental Alienation Syndrome, the underlying empathy disorder is still an issue in any divorce.

Autism Alert: Will Broccoli Sprouts “Cure” Autism?

Monday, October 27, 2014


broccoli sprouts being grown to treat autismNo doubt you were as thrilled as I was to hear the recent news reports about a new treatment for autism…sulforaphane, which is found in cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts. It’s especially abundant in broccoli sprouts. (Watch the CBS News report here. Read the clinical report here.)

The compound, sulforaphane, has been found to be efficacious for protecting cells from the oxidative stress that sets off cancer. It also bolsters the body’s natural defenses and it stimulates the body’s heat-shock response (the way the body protects itself from stress caused by the high temperature from having a fever).

Perhaps you, like other parents, have noted that your children’s autistic behavior improves while they have a fever. In 2007, Dr. Andrew Zimmerman and his team tested this anecdotal trend clinically and found it to be true. This discovery led to the research group studying sulforaphane’s effect on ASD, with very promising results.

Scientists at MassGeneral Hospital for Children and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine studied the reaction of 40 males (ages 13 to 27, with moderate to severe autism) to a daily dose of sulforaphane compared to those who received a placebo.

During the four weeks of testing, those who received the compound “experienced substantial improvements in their social interaction and verbal communication, along with decreases in repetitive, ritualistic behaviors, compared to those who received a placebo.” Dr Singh noted that, “It appears this supplement corrects underlying cellular problems.” However, once the dosage stopped, all subjects returned to pretreatment levels. This is exciting news!

But before you rush out and start supplementing your child’s diet…here’s a word of caution: Just because this compound is a product of a natural source, the high dosage needed to get results should be given under the supervision of a physician who can do blood work to monitor its effects. The study showed an elevated liver enzyme count, which could possibly be a precursor to liver inflammation. Always talk with your pediatrician before using supplements such as broccoli extract.

Is getting your children to eat more veggies a good idea? Most definitely, yes. It gives the cells the resources they need to heal and provides valuable fiber for proper elimination. Many have also found relief by eliminating foods that contribute to inflammation and toxicity or that trigger immune response such as artificial ingredients, gluten, sugar, and casein. Others have noted improvements by adding digestive enzymes, probiotics, and more fermented foods such as non-dairy yogurt or kefir that heal the damage to the gut.

Learn more on my website: Holistic Health for optimal health practices.

Webinars to Help You Recognize if your Loved One Has Undiagnosed ASD

Thursday, October 16, 2014


help does my husband have autism spectrum disorderDo you suspect your loved one may be on the autism spectrum, yet they haven’t been diagnosed? ASD is more common than most people think. There are large segments of the population that are undiagnosed, which means they are going without the support and intervention they need. There are three groups of people especially who are often unidentified or incorrectly identified for ASD. Who are they?

Females – More males have been diagnosed because the description of ASD is based on what ASD looks like in males. Hence the tools for identifying ASD are skewed and miss females.

High Functioning Individuals – Bright kids with ASD often are dismissed as not needing services until some resulting emotional and behavioral problem arises. Too often they hear, “Just try harder. You can do it.” Then their behavior is addressed without getting to the cause – ASD.

Those with Catatonia – This disorder affects a person’s speech, movement and behavior, often manifested in stupor. Researchers estimate that between 12 to 18 percent of adolescents and young adults with ASD have catatonia (Wing & Shah, 2000). I’m happy to report that Catatonia is now recognized as a specifier for ASD in the DSM-5.

I want to alert you to a resource that may help you recognize whether or not your loved one is in one of these categories of undiagnosed ASD.

There’s going be a webinar series starting on October 20th. It’s produced by The Ziggurat Group with host psychologists, Ruth Aspy, Ph.D. and Barry G. Grossman, Ph.D. They wrote the award winning The Ziggurat Model, a book about designing interventions for students with Asperger’s Disorder and high-functioning autism, which has been adopted at the district-wide and state-wide levels. These webinars will provide strategies and solutions for better identifying and serving each group mentioned above. Each class costs from $50 to $100. This is a small price to pay for changing someone’s life.

Parenting a child with ASD, especially when you’re parenting with an ASD spouse, is no easy task. My new book, Out of Mind - Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD), addresses these issues. Click here for more information.

For more information on Autism Spectrum Disorder, visit Asperger Syndrome - FAQ.

Research Shows That the Autistic Brain Is too “Noisy”

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


the autistic brain in too noisy from too many connections being made at one timeFor years I have described the brains of my autistic clients as too "noisy". I’ve long suspected that this also applies to those with ADHD and Bipolar Disorder. Now it appears that science is proving my point. Health and science writer for the New York Times, Pam Belluck, reported on an exciting new study in her article: “Study Finds That Brains With Autism Fail to Trim Synapses as They Develop”. Scientists have long debated whether autism occurs because there’s too much connectivity in the brain or not enough. Now it seems we are much closer to having the answer…

Research published by a group of researchers from Columbia University Medical Center is showing that it’s a matter of too much. A baby’s brain produces a massive amount of synapses – the electrical and chemical connections that allow the neuron’s spines to send and receive signals. It might help to think of each neuron being covered with spines that are like very sensitive antennae. When there are too many signals, the system gets jammed.

One of the groundbreaking findings in this recent study is that all the children started with approximately the same number of synapses and spines on their neurons. So they’ve discovered that it’s not a question of overproduction of at birth.

The problem arises as the child ages. It’s normal for the brain to start pruning these synapses, so each area of the brain can develop its specific function. Within the group of autistic children, they found that the brain was not pruning the synapses, resulting in “too much noise”.

Ralph-Axel Müller, a neuroscientist at San Diego State University, agrees that there’s growing evidence of over-connectivity. After conducting brain imaging studies, he concluded, “Impairments that we see in autism seem to be partly due to different parts of the brain talking too much to each other. You need to lose connections in order to develop a fine-tuned system of brain networks, because if all parts of the brain talk to all parts of the brain, all you get is noise.”

This goes a long way in explaining why those with autism spectrum disorder experience oversensitivity to noise, problematic social interactions, and even why they are more prone to epilepsy. This is an exciting discovery, because it brings us one step closer to discovering effective treatments. Studies are already being done on possible drug therapy. But they have a long way to go to find an effective one that doesn’t have troubling side effects.

The use of medicines, whole foods, vitamins and supplements can help heal the brain. Combining this type of holistic health regimen and therapy has helped many of my clients to live a fuller and more productive life. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office and set up an appointment.

Learn more on my website – Mind and Body: Holistic Health and Therapy FAQ.



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