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Kathy Marshack News

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.

Parents – Are You Teaching Your Children All They Need to Know About Sex?

Monday, March 21, 2016


Young people need to have good parental training and examples in order to have a healthy view of sex, so they can navigate through life successfully.As a psychologist and family business coach, I’ve seen it too often. Even with abundant litigation for sexual harassment in the workplace, infidelity and harassment are still ongoing problems because the underlying cause isn’t being addressed.

Like eating and drinking, the sex drive is a normal and necessary part of human life. Unfortunately, much of what people learn about appropriate sexual behavior is gathered from unreliable sources such as television, movies or pornography, or worse, through exploitation by unethical adults.

As with most human skills, sex can be used in a positive healthy way or it can be used to abuse and manipulate. Sex can lead to pleasure and a love bond within a relationship. Or sex can lead to pain, suffering, and corruption.

Other than a perfunctory sex-education class in public school, where the emphasis is on health and procreation, a young adult needs to learn about sexual techniques, or the relationship between sex and love, or the subtleties of sex in the workplace. But where are they going to learn about sexual ethics if the parents aren’t teaching them?

I have met few parents who openly discuss sexuality with their kids. Most parents tell me they’re more than willing to answer any questions their kids ask about sex, as if any kid in their right mind will tell their parents they’re thinking about sex!

I wrote an article recently for PsychCentral that shows how this lack of education and parental example plays out by examining the case of the Smith Family Firm. (Fictional names to protect the identities.) You’ll see how sexual improprieties affect the family, employees, vendors, business associates, and customers. (Click here to read the entire article.)

So, why do people risk sexual infidelity?

Besides a lack of education, sexual misbehavior is essentially a signal of a deeper problem. It’s a message about a much needed change in a person’s life and relationships. If you’re struggling with this yourself or you don’t know how to talk with your children, please don’t hesitate to seek professional, confidential help from a psychologist. As embarrassing as it is to bring these things out, it’s more embarrassing to pass the problem along to the next generation. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more on my website: Love, Sex and Intimacy.

Is it Persuasion or Manipulation? How to Tell the Difference

Wednesday, March 09, 2016


Is it Persuasion or s it Manipulation – How to Tell the DifferenceWhen we watch a movie or a TV show we want to be manipulated. We want the script to make us feel like we’re involved, feeling the joy, sadness or thrill. It’s a great escape. Maybe you secretly admire the con artist. Perhaps you harbor just a little desire to get something for nothing just as the con does? Don't you wish you could be so clever?

The truth is that the con knows that you’re not so different from him or her. The only real difference is that you’ve created an illusion that you’re different, that you would never stoop to manipulation, and that you would never willfully take advantage of another person. Because you’re not so different, but are in denial about it, the con swoops in and relieves you of your money, your pride or your sense of safety.

None of us like to be manipulated to do things that aren’t in harmony with our values, desires or plans. Yet, it’s easy to become guilty of snowing the ones you love to get our own way. However, it creates incredible suffering not just in the short run but potentially for generations.

As difficult as it is to admit that we can be conned, it is even more difficult to admit that we can do the conning. However, the mark and the con are two sides of the same coin.

To investigate your manipulative qualities, ask yourself a few questions…

1. Are you in sales?
2. Does your business require that you use persuasion, diplomacy, and charm?
3. Have you ever lied?
4. Have you ever taken advantage of another's ignorance or naiveté?
5. Have you kept something you didn't pay for?
6. Have you ever cried in order to get your way?
7. Have you ever intimidated your opponent into capitulating?
8. Have you ever hurt someone else?
9. When you have hurt someone else, did you say, "I didn't mean to do it."
10. Have you kept a secret to avoid conflict?
11. Have you ever "dropped names"?
12. Have you ever changed the subject when the topic was too close for comfort?
13. Just once, was money your only concern?

The tools of persuasion, diplomacy and charm can be used ethically or unethically. They are like a hammer and screwdriver. The hammer and screwdriver can be used to build a house or to break into someone's home. The choice is up to the individual using the tools. Likewise, persuasion, diplomacy and charm can be used to swindle or to negotiate a mutually rewarding settlement.

Being conscious of your own manipulations allows you to be ethical. With consciousness comes choice. Choosing to be ethical in your communications and dealings with others requires that you take the time to understand others and to be understood fully. There is no room for conning. The risk of destroying trust is too great.

This topic of manipulation is a hot issues for family businesses. If you're in a family business and are concerned about the repercussions of manipulation schedule a Remote Education session with me to dig deeper.

Is A Manipulative Personality Ruining Your Family Life?

Wednesday, March 02, 2016


Find out if a manipulative personality is ruining your family life by discovering overt and subtle ways that you may be conned or ways you are conning others.No one likes to feel manipulated or conned into doing something that they don’t want to do, whether it’s because of ethical reasons or personal preference. It leaves you feeling violated – understandably so. The word con is actually an abbreviation for confidence. Therefore the con game is really the confidence game. The success of the game is to create confidence within the victim for the manipulator.

By having confidence in the con artist, we’re handing over our trust, or temporarily suspending our disbelief. No matter how outrageous the con's behavior, once that person has your trust and confidence, the con artist can have their way with you.

Some of you may already know some of the signals of a scam and pride yourself on escaping. Some of the less well-known signals are more intuitive, however.

What are some subtle signals that you’re being manipulated?

  • Feeling ashamed without there being a good reason.
  • Feeling overly impressed or awed by a peer.
  • Feeling special or flattered by attention from someone you hardly know.
  • Finding out there’s no pay off for you.
  • Discovering you’re being used because you’re doing more work than the other person in the relationship.
  • Always hearing “good” excuses for why the other person never seems to come through for you.

Less recognizable are the signals that YOU are doing the manipulation. If it’s been your life pattern for a long time, you might not even be aware of it. Here are a few indicators:

1. How often do you say: "I didn't mean to…" Can this really be manipulation? Well, ask yourself how you feel when the tables are turned. Don’t you feel mad, confused, hurt, or trapped? The person who uses the "I didn't mean it" con game is not taking full responsibility for their actions. It's as if no harm was done if the person didn't mean it. So the next time those words start forming on your lips, stop and make a straightforward apology for your actions and offer to clean up the problem, whether you committed the deed accidentally or intentionally.

2. Do you bully others into submission or charm them into acquiescing, when deep down inside they don’t agree with you? Really, what kind of agreement do you have? How much support are you going to get in the long run? Have you increased your family's trust or are they just afraid of you?

3. Do you make frequent and generous promises which you don’t fulfill? Perhaps you keep lunch dates waiting for hours, dismissing it with the excuse that you’re such a busy person. You expect people to always make allowances for your “little foibles”.

If you truly want to prosper as a family, then be committed to cleaning up these covert confidence games that you’re playing with the ones you love. It can help to enlist the assistance of a dispassionate professional. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment, so we can work on making your family truly happy and secure.

How Do You Know if Your Child is Gifted and Why It Matters

Monday, February 29, 2016


Gifted children are fundamentally different and they need their parents and teachers help to learn social and self-development skills to relate to others.Every parent should think their child is special, because they are all special. But are they all gifted? The definition of gifted is: “someone who shows, or has the potential for showing, an exceptional level of performance in one or more areas of expression.” So how do you know if your child is gifted?

One way to identify giftedness is to have your child’s IQ scored. An IQ over 130 is usually an indication of superior intelligence or giftedness. But a person doesn’t have to have a high IQ to be gifted in a creative sense.

Observations by parents and teachers are an important factor in identifying gifted children. The following typical intellectual characteristics are things you can look for:

  • Unusually large vocabularies for their age
  • Ability to read earlier than most children, often before entering school
  • Greater comprehension of the subtleties of language
  • Longer attention span, persistence and intense concentration
  • Ability to learn basic skills more quickly and with less practice
  • Wide range of interests
  • Highly developed curiosity and a limitless supply of questions
  • Interest in experimenting and doing things differently
  • Tendency to put ideas of thing together in ways that are unusual and not obvious (divergent thinking)
  • Ability to retain a great deal of information
  • Unusual sense of humor

After identifying your child as 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. Take specific steps to help your gifted child become positively motivated, to encourage desirable behaviors and to help them develop a good self-concept.

By doing this, you can understand and perhaps even avoid some common problems gifted children commonly face such as a lack of motivation, boredom, perfectionism, cynicism and even depression. Encourage, nurture, stimulate, and challenge your child. Give him or her freedom to experience the natural consequences of their behaviors. In this way you will help them to know, trust and value themselves.

To get a thorough and realistic appraisal of your child’s potential, parents may decide to have an individual intellectual and achievement evaluation by a qualified psychologist. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment, and I’d be happy to administer the evaluation.

Are You Encouraging Girls Who Are Natural Leaders?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


People usually either have a natural leadership ability or they don't, and you can see the quality almost from birth. But that doesn't mean all people born with this quality become leaders. The quality needs to be nurtured for it to grow and flourish. Just as soccer camp and piano lessons nurture the young athlete and young musician, so must parents help their young leader find experiences to help her to hone this skill.

In one psychology study a number of years ago, participants were asked to describe the qualities of a male leader. They listed such qualities as strong, decisive, charismatic, aggressive, goal oriented, tall and so forth. When a separate group was shown this list of characteristics and told that this described a woman, the participants considered her unfeminine, unlikable, angry and manipulative.

The big difference I’ve noticed between male and female leaders is mostly in how those characteristics were acquired. In other words, women business leaders develop their leadership from quite different life experiences than their male counterparts. And these life experiences do distinguish leadership styles and qualities.

I’m thankful that more and more women leaders are being acknowledged and welcomed as unique human beings who bring their own particular personality to the organization they lead. So many women of my generation grew up feeling like an odd ball. We were told we were too aggressive or unfeminine. Now women are at the helm of multi-billion dollar corporations, like Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, or run for major political office, like Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton have.


For girls to grow up to be successful women business leaders they must conquer the fear of being unfeminine, being willing to break the rules. They need to continue to rise above the negative female stereotypes. It requires:

  • Pride in independent thinking
  • Fearless determination to accomplish your goals.
  • Willingness to create opportunities where others see limitations.

As entrepreneurs or business leaders both women and men are achievers, driven, tenacious, and independent. They’re unafraid of hard work. They strive for excellence in whatever they undertake. They can be impatient with the insecurities of others because these insecurities slow down the process. On the other hand, these leaders are very good at encouraging excellence in others, because they have a powerful belief in their cause. Leaders also believe in their abilities to accomplish whatever they put their minds to. This is probably the defining characteristic of leaders. Strong belief creates charisma and charisma creates followers.

Do you see leadership qualities in your daughter and would like expert advice on how to nurture it while caring for her emotional, psychological and spiritual needs? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more on my website: Gifted Children.



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