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Kathy Marshack News

Minimize Asperger-Induced Stress by Creating New Holiday Traditions

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Lessen Asperger-Induced Holiday StressHolidays should be a fun time to connect with friends and family, but when your husband, wife or child has Asperger’s Syndrome it can be anything but joyful. The increased number of social occasions makes it tough on your Aspie loved one because they have difficulty with socializing. This makes it hard on you, because you always feel like you need to be on guard to field their social faux pas.

To help you cope, let’s focus on how you can minimize the stresses of the coming holidays. This will help you be more prepared to manage the meltdowns and your own dashed hopes for the upcoming seasonal events.

Of course you can plan better self-care, like a massage or an extra session with your psychologist. You can reduce the number of parties you attend or you could even skip taking the kids to see Santa. However, instead of thinking about what to avoid, why not think about the positive things you can do?

You can introduce these new traditions that actually are fun and soothing…

1. Have the holiday meal catered or ordered from your deli. If you don't have the stress of planning and cooking a big meal, you’ll be in better shape to handle the other stresses. Plus you can stay home where your Aspies feel safer.

2. Drive separately to the event so your Aspies can go home early or one of you can take home a overtired child. This leaves you and more stable family members to still have fun.

3. Skip all of the extended family invitations and leave town for a quiet weekend at the beach or the mountains or even at a downtown hotel. You can still enjoy the holiday spirit if you phone ahead and request that your children are allowed to decorate the tree in the hotel lobby.

Your Aspie may be appalled that you want to do these things, but you can tell them "This is a new tradition that I want to start. Let's try it to see if it works." They might buy it. In any case you need a break.

Sometimes you’re too close to the situation to see the best solution to your problem. Often others can think outside the box and provide you with some great ideas. That’s what we’re going to focus on in our next, free, International Teleconference entitled, Creating New Holiday Traditions. It’s scheduled for Thursday, November 19th at 2:30PM PDT. Come and share your best Asperger holiday tips.

Learn more about the science of Asperger Syndrome and how it can help your family be happier in my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD), click on the image below to download a free chapter.

New Autism Research: Repetition May Not Be the Best Method of Teaching New Concepts

Monday, November 09, 2015


repitition may not be the best method for teaching children with autism“Repetition is the mother of retention” or so the saying goes. Yet recent studies are showing that this adage doesn’t apply to those on the autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Why? Because people with ASD have difficulty transferring information from one context to another.

In fact, a study conducted by the Weizmann Institute shows that this repetitive training may make it harder for those with ASD to apply learned knowledge to new situations. After running a series of test on high-functioning ASD adults and a control group, the researchers discovered that the ASD adults could learn the first bit of information, but they couldn’t apply it to the next situation presented to them. All subsequent attempts at teaching them the second piece of information failed. They were unable to learn it.

It’s like they showed ‘hyperspecificity’ of learning – their learning became fixed and inflexible – since learning the first location adversely influenced their ability to learn the second instance,” said Hila Harris, the study’s lead author from the Weizmann Institute.

They then ran a test on a new group of ASD adults and control individuals without the repetitive teaching. “Our conclusion is that breaks in repetition allow the visual system some time to rest and allow autistic individuals to learn efficiently and to then generalize. Repeated stimulation leads to sensory adaptation which interferes with learning and makes learning specific to the adapted conditions. Without adaptation, learning is more efficient and can be generalized,” said New York University’s David Heeger.

The research team believes this has important implications for educating those with autism. They concluded that “incorporates variability from the beginning and promotes learning a broad concept rather than a specific example” works best with the ASD community. They gave the illustration of teaching what a dog is. When they used only one picture of one breed, those with ASD were unable to identify that other breeds were dogs because they were taught initially with a very narrow and specific focus. When they used many pictures of various types of dogs to teach what a dog, then the ASD students were able to understand what a dog is.

Are you having difficulty interacting your ASD family member? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment and we’ll explore all options that are available to help you.

If you’d like to learn more about the science behind Asperger’s Syndrome (a high-functioning form of ASD) and learn why they do what they do, you’ll find answers in my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD), click on the image below to download a free chapter.

Hapa Aspie – How Can We Help Children Caught in Between the Asperger-Neurotypical Worlds?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Hapa Aspie refers to children raised in a family where one parent is neurotypical and one has Asperger’s, and they need help to cope with the mixed signals.Hapa is the Hawaiian slang word meaning half. Hapa Aspie is a term I coined for the children who are born and raised in a family where one of the parents is neurotypical (NT) and one has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a high functioning form of ASD.

Throughout mankind’s history there have been those who have been torn between two worlds because they’re the half – the half sister, the half brother, or even the derogatory term for mixed races.

Parenting children in a home with an Aspie parent is very complex, particularly if you have Aspie and neurotypical (NT) children. The NT spouse has to switch back and forth between the worlds of Aspie partner, Aspie children and NT children. This is also true for NT children (those who don’t have AS). Their world is a very confusing mix. At school or with friends, they can engage in the NT interactions that reinforce their perception of reality. At home, they get mixed signals. It’s hard for adults to maneuver the unusual world of Aspie/NT family life. Imagine how hard it is for NT children.

During crucial developmental stages, NT children who get different signals from their parents and their siblings learn to cope in unique ways that last a lifetime. Very often, NT children are lonely, depressed and feel invisible to others. They frequently develop a variety of Aspie-like traits, too. That’s not surprising, given that’s what is modeled for them. Whether by genetic inheritance or behavioral learning, NT children from these families acquire a unique perspective that can best be explained as Hapa Aspie. (Read more about how to help Hapa Aspie children in my book, Out of Mind-Out of Sight chapter 7.)

In order to free yourself from the confusing childhood of being raised by an Aspie parent…and in order to help your children keep their self-esteem in tact, we really need to look at this phenomenon very carefully. The usual parenting tips do not work. Nor does the usual divorce advice work.

The next free international teleconference will be held on Friday, October 23, 2015 at 2:30 PM PT and we’ll discuss this topic: What about the kids? Were you one? Please join us and bring your questions and share your strategies for parenting with a partner who has no empathy for his or her children (love maybe, but no empathy). Plus if you grew up with an Aspie parent as I did, this is your chance to clear the air for yourself and to give tips to those NTs still raising these Hapa Aspies.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and need personalized counsel on helping your family come to grips with the conflicting Aspie/NT worlds, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

 

Can a Child Have Both Autism and ADHD?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


a child can have both ADHD and autism

Yes! And this can cause a real problem when the very young are being diagnosed. A doctor may stop looking when he or she sees ADHD symptoms and then they miss that the child is also suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder. Dr. Amir Miodovnik, a developmental pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital authored a recent study, which shows that symptoms of ADHD may, in fact, conceal ASD in very young children.


Why is this significant? Because a delayed diagnosis of autism delays vital treatment. Dr. Miodovnik found, “It took an average of three years longer to diagnose autism in children initially thought to have just ADHD. It's been shown the earlier that you implement these therapies for autism, the better children do in terms of outcome." He found that some cases the ASD diagnosis didn’t occur until six or more years later. (Look for more information on this study in the October print issue of Pediatrics.)

ASD and ADHD are different neurological disorders, however they do have some symptoms in common. What similar symptoms do Autism and ADHD have?

  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity
  • Inattentive
  • Social awkwardness
  • Difficulty in interactions with others

What are some differences between ADHD and ASD?

Asperger’s Syndrome
  • All-absorbing interest in specialized topics, like sports statistics or dinosaurs
  • Lack of nonverbal communication - eye contact, facial expressions, body gestures
  • Lack of empathy or understanding others’ feelings
  • Monotone pitch or lack of rhythm when speaking
  • >Missed motor skill development mile markers, such as catching a ball

ADHD
  • Easily distracted and forgetful
  • Problems processing information accurately and quickly
  • Touching or playing with everything especially in a new environment
  • Very impatient and can’t wait their turn
  • Over-reacting when upset or bothered, without consideration for others

Can you see why there might be confusion? Dr Miodovnik recommends that parents who believe that a child younger than 5 has ADHD should take their child to a developmental pediatrician, rather than a family physician, to make sure that possible autism will not be overlooked. He also recommends this because managing a child with ADHD can be complicated.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and you’re concerned that your child has been thoroughly diagnosed and is receiving optimal treatment, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

If you have a loved one that has been diagnosed with ASD, you will also benefit from learning how science is unlocking the key to understanding Asperger behavior. My book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD), explores the science behind Asperger’s. If you want to understand your Aspie better, this is a must read.

Avoid Extreme Parenting Fads If You Want to Raise Happy Children

Monday, September 21, 2015


avoid tiger parentingYou may have heard of a new trend called “tiger parenting." However, according to the American Psychological Association strict and emotionally unsupportive isn't the parenting formula for high-achieving child prodigies. In fact, researchers say tiger parenting can be harmful to children's wellbeing and academic success.

Strong parents are neither permissive nor authoritarian.

Authoritarian parents impose absolute standards of conduct, stress obedience, and are willing to use physical punishment to gain compliance. Their children are often irritable, dependent, and submissive and have a limited sense of responsibility and lower levels of academic achievement. Although these children receive a lot of attention, it is often of the negative kind, which reinforces feelings of inadequacy.

Permissive parents are those who provide their children with few controls or demands and display moderate levels of warmth. Children of permissive parents are usually impulsive, aggressive, self-centered, and low in achievement and independence. This is because they are left alone a lot and begin to assume that they are not much cared about.

Many children rise above the standards proscribed by permissive or authoritarian parents, but the majority develop emotional problems that follow them into adult life. Authoritarian parents may secure obedience from their children, but at the price of fear. Children of permissive parents do not learn teamwork. As adults these children run the risk of having imbalance in their marriages and their work lives.

The ideal, however, is to be an authoritative parent who combines warmth with moderate levels of control. Authoritative parents are rational, receptive, and flexible. They encourage independence in their children, but give them only as much responsibility as they can handle. Instead of demanding blind obedience, they set clear rules and are willing to explain those rules to their children. Children of authoritative parents are independent, assertive, self-confident, and socially responsible and tend to do well academically.

The authoritative parent is a strong leader. The child knows where he or she stands with the parent and believes that he or she is loved. Because the parent is a leader and not an authoritarian, the child admires the mother or father and looks to her or him for guidance instead of obeying out of fear. Because authoritative parents allow the child to try things out for him- or herself, under their supervision, the child develops a sense of mastery of the environment, which leads to positive self-esteem. Children raised in this type of environment develop a strong sense of self. They are aware of their strengths and their weaknesses and are prepared to work on both.

If you feel like you’re struggling as a parent, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. In fact, seeking professional help can ensure a healthy, happy family life. If you like in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Click here to read more about five key areas to master as a parent.

Why Women with Asperger’s Syndrome Don’t Fit In

Friday, September 18, 2015


women with aspergers don't fit inIt’s a harsh fact that women are valued for who they are, whereas men are valued for what they do. While we may make allowances for the eccentricities of men with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), such as the stereotypical absent-minded professor or geeky software engineer, there are no acceptable and endearing stereotypes for women with AS. This is because women – all women, whether they have careers or work in the home – are val­ued for how well they fit in. Most women sense they need to be pleasant, supportive and caring, or they’re labeled “bossy”, “pushy”, or worse.

 In mapping out the “theory-of-mind network” of the brain, neuroscientists have found that women without Asperger’s score the highest in showing empathy – being able to read a person’s feeling by looking at them. Men without Asperger’s score the next highest. However, studies are showing that women with Asperger’s score a lot worse. In fact they are on the extreme male side of the spectrum. This is called the “extreme male brain” theory of autism. You can read more about this study led by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the ARC at Cambridge University here.

For the woman with Asperger Syndrome this gender impera­tive can be a nightmare. Fitting in is almost the antithesis of Asperger’s Syndrome. How can you fit in when you don’t have “social radar”?

The most important first step for an AS woman is self-accep­tance, which doesn’t come from trying to fit in. Once you and your family can accept that this is the way it is, you can finally move on to develop a structure that you can live with. Here are some ways to achieve self-acceptance:

  • Stop expecting to fit in, but reach out to others who accept your uniqueness.
  • Laugh at your foibles.
  • Explore the little-known world of Asperger’s Syndrome and teach your daughters to navigate the world from the lessons you’ve learned.
  • Believe you have gifts to offer.
  • Develop housekeeping routines and mothering techniques that work for you.
  • Hire as much help as you can afford.

What matters is preserving your self-esteem so that you have time to enjoy your loved ones and they you. Seek the support and guidance of a psychologist who is well versed in the double whammy of dealing with being a woman and having Asperger Syndrome. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Can ADD Be Healed?

Wednesday, September 09, 2015


After you’ve been accurately diagnosed with ADD or ADHD there are treatments that can help your brain heal so you can finally reach your full potential in life.You may be surprised to learn that ADD, attention deficit disorder, affects people in widely diverse ways. Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychologist with 35 year’s experience, recently shared how his research has identified seven types of ADD. (You can read more about them here.)

A few common symptoms of ADD are being easily distracted, hyperactive and impulsive, but not everyone has those symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to be accurately diagnosed so a treatment can be developed that targets your specific needs.

Breaking the cycle of failure and frustration is the primary goal of treatment for the ADD adult through the proper use of medication and psychosocial interventions. Some stimulants such as Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine and Concerta are effective and safe medications. But, in some cases, it may make the symptoms worse. Stimulants may not be appropriate due to a history of abuse, a patient’s high blood pressure or heart disease also. Hence you and your doctor will need to closely monitor your reactions to any prescribed medications.

Psychotherapy is especially helpful for ADD patients with conditions such as depression and anxiety as it helps adults deal with the frustration and anger issues. In addition, psychotherapy can help improve social skills and ability to deal with ADD-unfriendly situations.

If you suspect that you or someone you love has ADD symptoms, don’t delay seeking a diagnosis and treatment because you’re afraid of what other people will say. Just as you would seek treatment for a heart condition, so it’s proper to seek help for a brain dysfunction. If you live in the Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington area please contact my office to set up your first appointment.

Read more information on parenting children with AD/HD and ADD in Adults.

Dr. Daniel Amen is offering a free video series on healing ADD. I highly recommend you watch it as soon as possible.

Does Avoiding Confrontation Improve Relationships?

Friday, August 28, 2015


Avoiding confrontation or conflict in a relationship isn’t healthy because conflict is a sign of growth as you open up communication on a difficult subject.Are you like so many people who hate confrontation and conflict? Do you give in on even big issues just so you don’t have to fight for your point of view? If so, you’re not alone. But please consider is this the best way to handle communication in your relationships? Is it healthy to have this attitude?

Listening, talking, communicating, resolving problems, making joint decisions... these are requirements for all healthy relationships. Without good communication skills and quality time dedicated to communicating, relationships soon flounder and fail, especially among people experiencing stress in their lives.


There’s a common misconception that conflict and confrontation are bad. Couples may fight openly or quietly seethe, but they have a terrible time confronting the real conflict respectfully and honestly. It's as if confrontation and conflict are impolite.

However, conflict and confrontation are natural and healthy components of any relationship. You’re neither bad nor wrong for causing a conflict or identifying one. Conflict is an opportunity to open up communication on a difficult subject. Don’t fear conflict and confrontation. Conflicts are inevitable and actually a sign of growth.

Good communication means you don’t avoid conflict, rather you enhance your problem solving skills beyond simple linear cause and effect (i.e. blame). You develop effective tools to "lean into" conflicts and resolve them early on, so that you can reorganize your lives to include the new learning.


Compromising, acquiescing, or forcing your opinion on others are NOT effective tools!

Does that surprise you? After all, isn't compromise a requirement of any partnership? The reality is that decisions arrived at through compromise or force usually lack creativity and seldom last. Sure, an occasional compromise may be necessary for the sake of expediency. But if a decision is important, a compromise may cause deepening anger and resentment. Both people feel they’re giving up something in order to get an agreement, and the decision is a watered-down version of two stronger opinions.

If you don't make time to talk, if you don't nurture your personal relationship, your relationship will disintegrate into bitterness and divorce. So take the time now to evaluate your communication skills and invest the time to develop a meaningful, loving relationship with your spouse.

Sometimes it becomes necessary to get outside help to get your relationship back on track. If you’d like to consult a family therapist and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. If you live elsewhere, take a look at remote education for entrepreneurial couples that allows us to connect via video or telephone conference. It may be the first and best step that enables you to rebuilding a warm and close relationship.


Read more on my website: Conflict and Communication.

5 Ways to Make Back-to-School Anxieties Disappear

Monday, August 17, 2015


It’s only natural for your child to feel anxious about the new school year. And if your children have ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), AS (Asperger's Syndrome), or ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) they need extra help to transition into the new routine. Yes, it might be tempting to put off back-to-school preparations, however the more you prepare your child the easier it will be on you, your child and the teachers. Here are a few reminders to make this process easier…

Be Positive
You can help ease their worries by always speaking positively about returning to school. Get them excited about that they’re going to learn. Help them remember what they enjoyed from previous years.

Make Appointments Early
Does your child need to see his doctor, dentist, or optometrist? How about teachers and administrators you need to talk with before school starts? It relieves a lot of stress to get these appointments taken care of well before the school year starts.

Get into the School Routine
Routine is so important for children with ASD and ADD. A month before school starts, review class materials that your child likes for a scheduled time each day, gradually increasing the time and adding more difficult materials so your child transitions from the carefree summer to the classroom structure. Also gradually shift wake up time and bedtime to match what your child needs to function well at school.

Involve Your Child in Back-to-School Preparation
Let them go school shopping with you so they can pick out things they like. Work together as you assemble their backpacks. Talk about what they’d like to eat for lunch and snacks. And the night before school starts, help them lay out the clothes they want to wear.

Visit the School
Introduce your child to as many people as possible – the teacher, principal, office staff, school nurse, teacher assistants, custodians. Alert them to your child’s special needs and how they can assist you.

I really recommend that you put together a packet about your child for the teacher. Take a look at the article How to Assemble a Teacher Information Packet for some helpful tips.

For additional back to school and safety tips, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics - Back To School Tips. My website also has information about Parenting a Child with ADD.

Dinosaurs, Asperger’s and a Mother’s Love

Wednesday, August 05, 2015


dinosaurs autism and a mother's loveAs parents when we have children who are challenged in some way, we will go to great lengths to take care of them. A New York Times article on excavating dinosaur fossils from the Grand Staircase monument called the Kaiparowits Plateau flooded my mind with memories…


When my autistic daughter was a teen, I took her to three North American Paleontology Conferences so that she could earn science credits for high school. She was terrified in public school because she was tormented by other students. But she loved paleontology and felt comfortable around the scientists because she could converse very knowledgeably on the topic of her "special interest”.

I had called Dr. Jere Lipps, paleontology professor at the University of California at Berkeley and he’d graciously told me that my daughter was more than welcome. She received an award for being the youngest participant. I was very proud of her—even though she’d needed a dose of Klonopin (an anti-anxiety drug) to make it through each day.

Here’s an excerpt from my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD), which tells of the experience:

“In a dimly lit motel room, I sit in front of my laptop, uploading photos from the day’s exploration on the Oklahoma prairie. Next to me, sprawling on her bed is my 15-year-old daughter. She’s reading a novel, her usual pastime. She is re-reading Raptor Red. She loves this book so much, and reads it so often, that she’s literally worn it out. I have bought her more than one copy to keep her happy…

By day we sight dinosaur tracks permanently etched into rock where millions of years ago a mighty river dried up and created mud flats, the perfect medium for storing ancient footprints. On another day, we follow our guides past fences and “No Trespassing” signs to witness evidence of dinosaur nests with bits of fossilized eggshell still scattered on the ground.

Amazingly. I take most of the photos, because my daughter is mesmerized by the experience. She needs the photos to document the field trip for school credit. As usual, I remain the “responsible party,” a trait of helicopter mothers the world over. She’s the youngest member of the expedition and kind of an honorary member since most participants are professional paleontologists, graduate students, or adults with an amateur’s passion. In true helicopter mother fashion, I’d searched high and low for a way to leverage my daughter’s interest in paleontology and art into a high school science credit. I had to be inventive in those days since there were no educational programs for “twice exceptional” kids at the time (i.e. Asperger Syndrome and gifted).

I am uploading pictures from the camera, picking out the best shots and inserting them into a PowerPoint presentation. It is her task to write a description of each photo. That will be a test of her paleontological knowledge as well as a test of her limited patience. She complains that she is tired. She complains that she is hungry. She complains that she can’t remember anything. She complains about me and my helicoptering. With enough coaxing and bribes of snacks from the hotel canteen machines, she finishes the PowerPoint for that day. We celebrate by calling Dad and her sister to say, “Good night.” Then we fall into bed exhausted.”

Perhaps you recognized this scenario in your life. I enjoyed sharing these experiences with my daughter. Yet I wish I had had someone to guide me through these trying times. That’s why I’m so happy to tell you that we’re almost ready to start the new international video conferences for families of those with ASD! It’s going to be wonderful getting to talk with you face-to-face. I’ll give you more details soon.
Out of Mind Out of Sight Parenting with a partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)


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