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Maternal Depression Is Linked to Child’s Inability to Show Empathy

Monday, March 06, 2017


Maternal Depression Is Linked to Child’s Inability to Show EmpathyDid you know that 1 in 9 women suffer from depression during or after pregnancy? That’s the latest statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s appalling that not all of these sufferers feel free to seek treatment. Especially in the light of a recent study I want to share with you.

But first a little background… Last year I wrote about the increased risk of autism in the children born to women who take SSRIs for depression. While that is of concern to health professionals, untreated depression is too serious and outweighs that risk. As an alternative, I like to incorporate holistic health treatments and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as often as I can.

Because this is such a serious health concern, I continually monitor for the newest information to share with you. Recently I came across an article in the Science Daily that further enlarges on the topic of maternal depression and its effect on the child’s inability to show empathy, often a hallmark of autism.

The study followed over 70 mother-child parings – 27 with depressed mothers and 45 without. They tracked them for the first 11 years of the child’s life.

They found that maternal depression across the first years of life impacts children’s neural basis of empathy. In children of depressed mothers, the neural reaction to pain stops earlier in the area related to socio-cognitive processing. According to Professor Ruth Feldman, “this reduced mentalizing-related processing of others' pain, is perhaps because of difficulty in regulating the high arousal associated with observing distress in others.”

The way the depressed mothers interacted with their children was crucial to the difference between these two groups. They were less synchronized or attuned with their children and had more intrusive behavior that triggered this reduced empathetic response in their children.

Identifying this depressed mother-child behavior opens the way for more effective interventions at this crucial period in a child’s development. I’m awaiting further results from their ongoing study into the way that maternal care affects the development of a child’s brain, endocrine systems, behavior and relationships.

This new understanding highlights the absolute necessity to treat depression in mothers. The long-range consequences are too serious to ignore. If you or someone you know is suffering from depressive symptoms, please seek help from a mental health professional immediately. There are numerous, effective ways to treat it, with and without medication. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment so we can explore your options.

Help Your Children Distinguish Truth from Lies on the Internet

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


Children are woefully unprepared to tell the truth from lies on the internet, so we need to teach them to think critically by asking these probing questionsWe live in the information age. If you want to know anything, just Google it. However, it can be incredibly difficult to sort through it all to find the truth. The disturbing thing is that many people are acting on the false information they find online. They make unwise purchases; they retweet “facts” without checking for truthfulness; and even worse they may end up harming themselves or harming others.

For example, only this week NPR reported on a man who took a gun to a popular family restaurant to investigate a conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton was running a sex ring there. His source of information? Fake news stories on the internet. If grown men are so easily misled and manipulated by false information on the internet, what’s going to happen to our children?

To make wise use of online information, a person needs to have good reading and comprehension skills. But that’s not all. You also need to be able to make comparisons and critically assess if the information is accurate and reliable. This is a skill that needs to be taught to our children.

At present, our children are woefully unprepared. If you want to read an interesting study conducted by the Stanford History Education Group, click here to read their PDF summary. They found, for example, that over 80% of middle school students identified a native advertisement as a legitimate news story although it was labeled “sponsored content”. And just because they say a photo, they believed an obviously false story.

How can children learn to read online information critically?
They need to learn how to ask searching questions, such as:

1) Is it from a reliable source?
  • Is this person or organization known for telling the truth?
  • Or do they have bias that causes them to only report things that promote their viewpoint or puts cash in their pockets? 
  • What authority, experience, training, or credentials do they have?
2) Is it professionally written?
  • Is the information clear or confusing; consistent or contradictory; vague or detailed; provable or unverifiable?
  • Are there grammatical errors that suggest it was written by an unskilled writer?

3) Does it make sense?
  • Does it contradict what I know to be true?
  • Is more than one trusted site reporting this piece of information? 

It’s not wrong to question and examine what you hear or read. There’s a lot of truth in the adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it usually is”. This doesn’t mean you become fearful or suspicious and see conspiracies everywhere. Just remember the old Russian proverb that President Reagan used, “Trust, but verify.” It means being open-minded enough to consider all sides before making up your mind. Let’s continue the conversation over on my Facebook page. I’d be interested to know what questions you ask when you want to verify a story.

To read more on my website: Parenting.

7 Ways to Teach Your Child to be a Leader

Monday, November 21, 2016


Mother and daughter spending time togetherIt probably goes without saying that parents want their children to be leaders rather than followers. Some children are natural leaders. They seem to inherently understand how to negotiate successfully, effectively give directions, and kindly offer help. These children bring peace and harmony to a group, and inspire others to do their best.
 
But for most children, these skills do not come naturally. They are skills that must be learned from you as a parent – the family leader! When you are running a family business, there’s an additional element to teaching leadership since your child might be called upon to lead the family business someday.
 
So how can you teach your child to be an effective leader? Fortunately, you don’t have to revamp your entire routine to teach leadership skills to your children. Small things you do every day can have a big effect.
 
Take a look at these seven ways you can help your children grow into great leaders:
 
Emphasize the value of perseverance. Leaders need to learn to handle failure gracefully. They may fail many times, but true leaders always get back up and move on quickly. It is important to allow your children to experience disappointment rather than protect them from it. When you shield your children from failure, they don’t learn to tolerate the inevitable failure they will experience later in life. Children need to learn how to deal with a setback and move forward with a positive attitude. When they do fail, be kind and show support. Let them know that you understand their feelings. This will help them understand that things will ultimately work out for them.
 
Don’t be so quick to offer praise. Children need praise to build their self-esteem, but not so much that they depend on praise from others to feel good about themselves. Their confidence must come from within. They need to learn to believe in themselves, especially in the face of opposition or naysayers. When you do praise your children, praise the effort they put in to something.
 
Let your children be self-sufficient. Don’t be quick to jump in and solve their problems for them. This applies to everything from school projects to a disagreement they have with a friend or sibling. Step back and let your children work through their issues. This empowers them to stand on their own two feet and take control. They learn to be responsible and accountable.
 
Focus on independence verses obedience. By no means am I advocating a parenting technique where the child can be disobedient, rude, or disrespectful. However, if you want your child to lead your company someday, they need to learn how to be independent and make good decisions now. Independence is a state of mind that children must conquer for themselves. In order to do this, children must eventually prove themselves in the adult world. This proof often comes by leaving home, perhaps even the family business for a time, and facing their fears of being on their own.
 
Don’t focus too much on achievement. Of course, you are proud of your child when they get good grades or excel in some other way. But are those individual achievements really what’s most important? Isn’t it the journey? True success, especially in the business world, comes from teamwork. The most successful people surround themselves with talented people who make up for what they lack. If you focus too much on the individual achievements of your children, they will not learn how to work with others, ask for help, and may give up out of discouragement.
 
Say no. It sounds simple, but it is very powerful. Successful leaders work hard for the things that are important to them. They don’t get everything they want, right this second. It is vital for children to develop this same patience. Help them set goals. They will experience the joy and gratification that comes from working hard to accomplish their goals and get what they want. Your children will learn to deal with the initial disappointment, and refocus on the goal ahead.
 
Model the behaviors you want to see in your children. Your children see everything you do, and soak it up like a sponge! Make sure your actions are saying what you want them to say. Be honest and authentic. Show your children that it is ok to be who you are. Show them that you aren’t infallible, that everyone makes mistakes. Then you can teach them how to work through, and learn from, their mistakes.
 
Parenting is no easy task, and we can all use some help from time-to-time. If you need help with your family, and you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office to set up an appointment.

Help Your Gifted Children Reach their Full Potential

Monday, September 12, 2016


If your child doesn’t want to go back to school, has test anxiety, depression, and is a perfectionist, you may have a gifted child who needs more challengesNow that school has begun, are you noticing a change in how your child feels toward school? As a preschooler, he was eager and excited to go to school. (The masculine is being used for ease of writing. This could easily be your daughter also.) But now the spark is gone, perhaps he even hates school so every day is a battle. Sullen behavior shouldn’t be ignored, because it’s a symptom of a larger problem. Possibly you think he has ADD or ADHD, but in reality you may have a gifted child who is bored!

Don’t wait for someone at school to tell you that your child is gifted. He may be doing just enough to fit in and get by. Gifted children quickly learn to underachieve in the early grades.

If your child has some of the following typical traits, it would be wise to get him/her tested and evaluated.

  • He read earlier than most.
  • He has an unusual sense of humor.
  • He has great comprehension and concentration.
  • He has a wide range of interests.
  • He gets his schoolwork done quickly without any effort or practice.
  • He has developed test anxiety, perfectionism and fear of failure because he hasn’t been challenged so hasn’t learned how to deal with these situations.
  • He has unusually large vocabularies for his age.

Remember, it’s possible to be gifted in a creative sense and not have an IQ score above 130.

Here are some proactive things you can do to help your child reach his/her potential.


  • Be the authority figure and make wise decisions regarding the best schooling and activities for him.
  • Provide learning challenges for him at school and at home.
  • If certain classroom discussions are at a level far below his, ie., math or reading, look into ways that this time could be better used – perhaps tutoring or part-time homeschooling in advanced math or reading.
  • Expose him to different skills and activities that reveal his talents and passion, yet don’t over-schedule him with extra curricular activities.<
  • Don’t be so focused on the challenges that basic knowledge for day-to-day living is missed.
  • Help him understand why he is different from the normand give him skills to cope with these differences.
  • Allow him some downtime to do what he thinks is fun.
  • Let him enjoy his childhood, and don’t expect him to make adult decisions.
  • Really get to know your gifted child and have fun with him.

To get a thorough and realistic appraisal of your child’s potential you may decide to have an individual intellectual and achievement evaluation by a qualified psychologist. If your child is gifted, it’s critical that you educate yourself. Gifted children are fundamentally different and they need their parents and teachers help to learn the social, interpersonal and self-development skills to relate to the rest of humanity. And if you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment to get your child assessed.

Read more on my website: Parenting Gifted Children.

Include the Teacher When Creating a Behavioral Plan for Your ADD/ADHD Child

Wednesday, September 07, 2016


Include the Teacher When Creating a Behavioral Plan for Your ADD/ADHD ChildBack to school – this can be a stressful time of year for children and parents. Children and teens with ADD/ADHD can enjoy their school years as they learn and contribute to the success of their education. Yes, the classroom environment – the need to sit still, stay quiet, and concentrate – is extremely challenging for them. But if parents equip their ADD/ADHD children with a behavioral plan, they’ll be properly prepared for school.

Useful behavioral plans give your ADD/ADHD child structure and clear expectations. It really helps to include the teacher in creating this behavior plan so that there are specific goals and daily positive reinforcement that contributes to your child’s success. Keep in mind that what works for one child may not work for another. So this plan must be tailored specifically to each individual.

As you create the behavioral plan, keep in mind the following things:

1. Teach your ADHD children strategies for learning in the classroom environment.
2. Give your children good communication skills so they can explain to the teacher about how they learn best.
3. Provide the teacher with as much information as you can about your child – learning style, tactics that work, medications, and so forth.
4. Support the teacher and form a partnership relationship with school officials.
5. Avoid an adversarial attitude.
6. Keep a calm, positive attitude.
7. Listen to what the teacher and school officials have to say, even if it’s difficult to hear.
8. Schedule monthly meetings with them to stay on top of things.
9. Enlist the help of the teacher to create specific, realistic goals and the steps for reaching them.
10. Support your children at home and show that you’re united with the teacher in providing the best learning environment for your child.

Here are some additional pro-active strategies you may want to discuss with the teacher to help your ADD/ADHS student thrive in the classroom:

  • If your child is easily distracted, ask the teacher to seat him or her away from the doors, windows and classroom pets.
  • Create a secret word or signal that the teacher can use to alert your child that he or she is misbehaving; this allows for discreet correction without shattering his or her self-esteem.
  • Look for opportunities for them to move around. Perhaps ask that your child be seated where he or she can achieve the maximum amount of movement possible, be sent on errands, incorporate movement in the learning process, and is encouraged to take full advantage of recess and P.E.
  • Structured schedules and specific step-by-step instructions are important; encourage the teacher to give one brief, easy to follow step at a time, which allows the child to come back for the next step when that one is accomplished.

And of course the best strategy of all is to look for ways to make learning fun at school and at home!

Coping with family members with ADD/ADHD puts stress on the whole family. Learning new skills takes time and it’s helpful to enlist the counsel of a professional. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please feel free to contact my office and schedule an appointment to assess and formulate a plan that works for your family.

Learn more on my website: Coping with ADD/ADHD.

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.

Should You Mold Your Children or Help Them Discover Who They Really Are?

Monday, July 25, 2016


Should You Mold Your Children or Help Them Discover Who They Really Are?Parenting is a full-time job. Every parent wants the best for their children. Therefore, we devote a great deal of time and resources to training, teaching, and guiding them. But is there more to parenting than us teaching them?

Another way to look at parenting is that your job is to get to know your child. Why? Human development is never-ending. Just as you’re assisting your child in the unfolding of his or her identity, he or she is assisting you in the same way.

For example, by taking note of my older daughter’s incredible artistic abilities, even from a very young age, I learned a lot about her, and myself. I learned that my daughter has qualities that I don’t possess. I learned that she’s delightful to get to know. And I learned that I can learn from her, too. This intersecting of the developing progressions of two individuals is referred to as a dialogue. (Thus, the name dialectical psychology – the system of psychology that provides the theoretical foundation for my book, Entrepreneurial Couples: Making It Work at Work and at Home.)

Even though children are dependent on their parents and quite impressionable, especially when they’re young, a child comes into this world with a lot of traits already "hardwired." Any parent who has more than one child will tell you that each baby was different. Even when brothers and sisters have the same parents, grow up together in the same house with their siblings, under roughly the same conditions, they turn out differently. The reason is that each individual is a product of both heredity and environmental influences.

But the development of a child is still more complex than heredity plus environment. Each child uses his or her innate resources (heredity) to perceive and then interpret the experiences (environment) he or she is exposed to. One person may interpret that tingly feeling in the spine as fear, while another person perceives the same feeling as thrilling. As your child interprets or makes sense of the environment over time, he or she acquires a number of beliefs about the world. These beliefs develop into a larger structure within which your child builds a life.

As parents you’re in a wonderful position to be part of this unfolding of your child. However, it’s important that you understand that your job is not to mold and shape your child as if he or she were a little lump of clay. Your child is a dynamic being who is discovering himself or herself while growing up. Your job is to assist in that discovery, to guide and protect, and to provide opportunities for even more discovery; but your job is definitely not to dictate your child's life.

If you as the parent are a strong leader, and if you realize that your job is to get to know your child while at the same time getting to know yourself, your child will develop normally and with positive self-esteem. With positive self-esteem, your child will be prepared to handle most anything that comes his or her way. Knowing and liking who he or she is makes it easier for the child to ask questions, take risks, and correct mistakes. If you show your child that he or she is a valuable person by demonstrating your interest, your child will feel comfortable about going out into the world to discover how to best use his or her talents.

There is no need to wait until there is distance, or even animosity, between you and your children to get assistance. If you need help getting to know your children, and appreciating who they are and what they contribute, please contact my office and schedule and appointment if you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area.

If you live outside the office area, please schedule an appointment through a secure video Q & A session. This feature can be found under Entrepreneurial Couples Remote Education.

Are You Mentally and Emotionally Prepared to Retire from Your Job?

Monday, April 25, 2016


Determine if you’re mentally and emotionally prepared to retire from your job, by answering these questions about retirement, because it’s not just about finances.“If I retired, I’d have more time with the grandkids. I’d get to enjoy my hobby more. I could finally relax. I wouldn’t have to get up so early and always be on all the time.”

Do thoughts like these cross your mind? If you’re of the baby boomer generation, it’s imperative to give retirement preparation serious consideration right now. And not all your decisions should be based on whether you’re financially prepared to enjoy your retirement. Whether your retirement is successful or not depends more on your emotional and mental preparation.

Before you hand in your retirement notice, ask yourself these questions:

Does your present job give you fulfillment or purpose? Then it may not be time to walk away from it. How will you spend your time? What life direction will you take? Do you have something planned that will give you more purpose in life? You don’t want to end up feeling bored, restless and useless.

Do you want to retire because you hate your job? Perhaps retiring isn’t the answer. What you really might need is to find a new career that fulfills you. Why not try volunteering for a worthy cause, which in time could lead you to a new vocation.

How will retirement affect your social life? If your entire social life revolves around work, you may end up feeling alone when you retire. It would be good to make sure you have a good social network in place before you step into retirement. On the other hand, if you’re already regretting the time you don’t spend with your family and friends, then this may be a good indicator that it’s time to think about retiring. Don’t forget to give some thought to how your choice will affect your marriage if your spouse doesn’t retire at the same time that you do.

Do you have realistic expectations of retirement? Sleeping until noon, puttering around, and staying in your pjs all day, will get old and stale quickly. You’re going to have a lot of time on your hands. How will you fill it? If you’re not already involved in activities you love outside of work, then it’s time to begin finding some that you enjoy.

Have you prepared the next generation to take over? When you’ve been at the helm of the family firm, it may be difficult to let go. As a result, your children may not be ready for the responsibility that you’ll be giving them. If they’re not ready, start formulating a plan to train them today.

Have you built up a stewardship? As an entrepreneur, do you take your responsibility seriously to give back to the community who supported your growth? You can read the story of Bob Thompson who is a sterling example of stewardship.

Change inevitably brings stress. Some people are not as well equipped to handle it as they thought. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t hesitate to reach out for help from a professional coach or family therapist. She can help you sort out your feelings and get you back on track. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Understanding Autism - Why Do They Have Trouble Making Eye Contact?

Monday, April 18, 2016


Understand Why people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can look you in the eye sometimes (albeit briefly) and at other times they can’t make eye contactWhy is it that people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can look you in the eye sometimes (albeit briefly) and at other times they can’t? Until now, ASD researchers have had difficulty identifying the triggers that cause people on the autism spectrum to avoid eye contact.

Psychology Today reports on a new study that is unlocking the puzzle. Researchers at the University of Vermont (UVM) devised an experiment using eye-tracking technology and Skype. The scientists observed and tracked the eye movements of children between the ages six and twelve. Nineteen of the participants were typically developing children and the other eighteen were children with autism.

As they conversed about “things people do” topics, all of the children made eye contact. However, when the conversation switched to talking about “things people feel,” the children with ASD began looking at the mouth rather than the eyes. The researchers also found that the more severe the autism is the more frequently the child avoided eye contact.

The researchers associate the shifting gaze and autism severity with lower levels of executive function (EF). They hypothesize that talking about emotions short circuits their EF, so the children shift their gaze so they won’t overload their cerebral limit. Whereas, the NT person looks for emotional and social cues from facial expressions, especially from the eyes, the ASD child finds it too overwhelming. As a result, children with ASD haven’t developed social skills.

To summarize what lead author Tiffany Hutchins, Ph.D. said:

"When a child with ASD talks with me about emotions, it’s very draining. It's like driving in a snowstorm. They don't just watch passively. They have to monitor my engagement, think about what I'm doing, my tone, and my affect to get my full meaning. They are totally focused, every move is tense and effortful, and their executive function drains away. In fact, we found that decreased working memory correlated with decreased eye fixations, so as working memory decreases, we see fewer fixations on the eyes."

She concluded that pressuring children with autism to make eye contact can potentially backfire. It may be best to recognize their need to gaze away in order to reserve his or her executive function resources. Instead, she recommends changing how you phrase things using “what people do” versus “how they feel” and you’ll have a profound impact on where the eyes go for information. And don’t forget to give positive reinforcement for their good behavior.

Does your family need personalized help with learning how to cope with Asperger’s Syndrome, a high functioning form of Autism Spectrum Disorder? If so, and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.



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