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Kathy Marshack News

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.

Are New Year’s Resolutions Too Superficial?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Every year you resolve to lose weight, quit drinking, or spend more time with family, yet the resolve fades, so why are New Year’s Resolutions so hard to keep? Every year you may resolve, “I want to lose weight” or “I want to quit drinking so much”, or “I want to spend more time with my family.” Yet as January fades away so does your resolve. Why is it that we can’t accomplish what we want? Because all too often we apply a band-aid when surgery is needed. We end up trying to fix the symptom or signal without addressing the real problem.

When problem solving the first question to ask yourself is, "Is this thing I’m observing the signal or the problem?" Recognizing and interpreting the signals is quite a complex process, but you can improve your skills.

However, there are two common mistakes people make when trying to solve a problem or create real change in their lives…

1. Ignoring signals until they grow into serious problems. For example, I often hear that people too busy to attend to themselves or their personal relationships. Too busy doing what? Working? You need to ask yourself why are you working so hard? Is that your goal? Most people want a close-knit family who enjoys being together. But if you’re too busy managing the nuts and bolts of a business or career and have no time to enjoy and communicate with your family, aren't you overriding one of the reasons why you working in the first place?

2. Mistaking signals for the problem. When a person is angry or aggressive, we tend to listen, but when a person is quiet or passive, we tend to ignore them. Actually, those behaviors are signals of something. Discovering the meaning of the signals takes digger deeper.

The bottom line is that all human behavior is meaningful. But the meaning may come disguised as signals that look like problems themselves. For example, alcoholism is a signal of a pervasive illness. Alcohol abuse, on the other hand, may be a sign of overwork, too much stress, a lack of parental guidance, or even confusion in the work place. If you try to solve the problem of alcoholism by reducing the person's stress at work, the alcoholic may just have more time to drink. Likewise, if you recommend alcohol treatment for the person who is abusing alcohol, they may stop drinking but find other self-destructive methods to cope with problems at work.

Many New Year’s resolutions are superficial but the underlying problems most likely require deeper probing. So if there’s something about your life that isn’t working don’t just settle with a quickly forgotten resolution. Instead dig in, assess, diagnose and search out the meaning. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment to figure out what the signals are telling you. I’ll help you tap into all the strengths at your disposal to create workable solutions.

Explore Alternative Treatment of Depression as Research Links SSRIs During Pregnancy with Increased Risk of Autism

Monday, January 25, 2016


Should I take SSRIs for depression while I'm pregnant?" This is a vital question to discuss with your Dr. since there's an increased risk of autism in your childOnce again a study links taking SSRIs (Prozac, Zoloft or Paxil) during pregnancy with increased risk of autism in the child. Anick Bérard of the University of Montreal an internationally known expert in the field of pharmaceutical safety during pregnancy published the finding in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. The researchers factored into the study genetic predisposition or family history, maternal age, socioeconomic factors such as poverty, and the affects of depression itself. And they found that you double the risk of Autism if SSRIs are used.

Bérard and her team followed 145,456 children from birth to 10 years of age. Significantly, 1,054 of those children were diagnosed with autism. When interviewed she said:

“Using antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), during the 2nd/3rd trimesters of pregnancy increases the risk of having a child with autism (87 percent increased risk of autism with any antidepressants; more than doubling the risk with SSRI use specifically) – this risk is above and beyond the risk associated with maternal depression alone (maternal depression was associated with a 20 percent increased risk of autism in our study). Given the mounting evidence showing increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcome with antidepressant use during pregnancy, our study shows that depression should be treated with other options (other than antidepressants) during this critical period.

Indeed, 80-85 percent of depressed pregnant women are mildly to moderately depressed; exercise and psychotherapy have been shown to be efficacious to treat depression in this sub-group. Therefore, we acknowledge that depression is a serious condition but that antidepressants are not always the best solution.

Our study is not out to scare women. It’s 2015 and women can make informed decisions, but they need to have evidence-based data. A discussion with their physician is warranted in order to fully consider all treatment options.”

The prevalence of autism amongst children is increasing. So is depression. According to the World Health Organization, by the year 2020 depression will be the second leading cause of disability throughout the world, after heart disease. Therefore, it’s likely that antidepressants will remain widely prescribed, including during pregnancy.

Today six to 10 percent of pregnant women are currently being treated for depression with antidepressants. Since 80 to 85 percent of depressed pregnant women are mildly to moderately depressed, it is advantageous to use medication as the last resort. This degree of depression can often be effectively treated with alternative methods such as exercise, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and a holistic health approach.

If you’re depressed and plan on becoming pregnant, please learn about your medical choices. If you’re already taking SSRIs please consult your doctor. It would be harmful to stop taking them without your doctor’s supervision. And it’s harmful to leave depression untreated for the duration of the pregnancy, since depression itself increases the risk of autism.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and would like to be fully informed about treating depression with holistic health options, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Parents – Is Sexting Just Another Name for Child Pornography?

Wednesday, December 09, 2015


sexting the same as child pornographyAs a parent, you’d do anything to protect your children from being a victim of child pornography. You know the emotional, mental and possibly physical harm that can come to your child, especially it if falls into the hands of bullies and adult sex offenders.

Yet, more and more teens are creating and distributing child porn without even knowing it. It’s called sexting. So, how do you protect your child in an age when children have access to the Internet and yet they don't have the maturity to protect themselves?

A recent New York Times article by Erik Eckholm discusses this weighty issue of teenage sexting and the legal consequences. In Fayetteville, North Carolina, two teenagers were charged with the felony of “exploiting a minor.” This could have resulted in a lengthy prison sentence and being listed on the sex offender registry. Can you imagine what that would do to their future? Their quality of life? Their job prospects?

It’s tempting for teen sweethearts to trade nude photos over their cell phones. In the heat of the moment they don’t think about what that means. However, in Washington State and Oregon, sexting may result in state felony charges including dissemination of child pornography. The act of sexting isn’t illegal, but it becomes a child pornography issue when the photographer, recipient of the text or distributor is under the age of 18.

So when a 15-year-old girl emails a sexually explicit photo of herself to a boy, she has in theory created and distributed child porn. If that boy sends the picture to his friends, he’s guilty of possession and distribution of child pornography.

The article goes on to say that “about 20 states have adopted new laws intended to address juvenile sexting by providing a less severe range of legal responses to personal photo-sharing, including misdemeanor charges that may be expunged, and required community service or counseling.”

But is legislating new laws the answer? Isn’t it more important to address the most crucial issue – what is this obsession with sexting doing to young people today?

Mr. Fitzpatrick, the prosecutor in New York State, is implementing a program that educates students and parents about the personal and legal risks. When his assistant district attorney makes the presentation in high schools, it’s clear that it’s right on target. He said, “About a third of the way through, you see this wave of students frantically hitting the erase buttons on their phones.

Please don’t dismiss sexting as a childhood indiscretion. The consequences may follow your child throughout his or her life. I urge you to create a relaxed atmosphere in which to speak with your teen about sex and sexting as soon as possible. In a respectful manner explain the dangers to them. If you have a hard time communicating with your teenager you may need support. If so, seek the assistance of a mental health care professional. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and need help in reaching your teen, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Don’t Make the Mistake of Hiding Family Problems From Your Children

Monday, November 30, 2015


Don't shield children from family problemsIt’s hard to keep secrets in family businesses yet I see so many parents try. I have had too many parents tell me that their children aren’t aware of the hardship the parent or the business is facing.

The reality is that the child knows something. Just like an animal can smell danger, your child can feel the tension in the house, even if he or she can’t describe in words what’s wrong. If your child doesn’t get your help in understanding the family problem, he or she can only imagine what's going on — and usually imagines the worst.

I have had four-year-olds tell me of their parents' pending divorce, when not even the respective spouses knew, but it eventually proved to be true. I have had ten-year-olds tell me the extent of Dad's alcohol problem, down to where he hides his bottles, when Mom was still in denial about her husband's alcoholism. I have had teenagers tell me of a parent's extramarital affair because they were afraid to tell this "secret" to anyone else.

Some children handle these psychological traumas poorly. Some coast on by without a scratch. Others have problems at home but not at school. The bottom line is that "it all depends”. What it depends on is how the trauma is handled by the child and his or her parents and significant others. As the child's primary role model, you can reframe the trauma into a learning experience. Your child will experience many difficult times while growing up, and adult life is certainly not problem-free either.

By working with your child to resolve his or her feelings of fear, anger, and grief, and by also working through your own, you’re helping your child learn how to handle the stresses and strains of human life. As parents we may feel that our children should never have to suffer. However, another way to look at suffering is that it’s an opportunity to grow, to become stronger, more resilient.

As parents, don’t deprive your children of experiencing the hardships that face the family or the business. For example, don’t hide dissension between you and your spouse. A fair fight between Mom and Dad that results in a fair and appropriate resolution gives your child a chance to see how conflicts get resolved. If you shelter your children from the hard times, they may not know that hard times exist ahead for them, and they may not learn how to cope when they do come.

Obviously, you don’t want to expose your child to harm, nor use the sink-or-swim method of parenting. Yet as you act in your role as family leader, you can assist him or her in discovering every aspect of life, the good as well as the bad. You can encourage your child to use his or her resources to resolve new problems, thus building your child's confidence that he or she can handle tough things. You can demonstrate that even though life is no cakewalk, you are open to learning new things. You can resolve most of the dilemmas that life dishes out.

Read more on my website: Am I a Good Parent? If you could use help resolving a problem in your marriage, your relationship with your children or both and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

How to Use Good Communication Skills to Revive Stale Relationships

Monday, November 16, 2015


You need good communication skills to revive a stale relationshipRelationships are ever evolving. Because we as individuals change over time, we can’t expect our relationships to stay the same. Nor would we want them to since they would become boring and stale. We want our close friendships to mature and grow with us.

Do you find yourself in a stale relationship? How can you refresh it? Without good communication skills and quality time dedicated to communicating, relationships soon flounder and fail. We all need to learn that relationships are not a thing, but a process.

Recently I wrote an article for PsychCentral discussing this topic and shared an example of how one couple, Steven and Danielle, assumed they knew how the other felt and started taking each other for granted. I’d encourage you to click here to read the entire PsychCentral article. (And while you’re there, will you share this information from your favorite social media platform, too?)

How can you nurture a floundering relationship back to health?

Firstly, recognize that people are relationships. We know ourselves (our similarities and differences) only in relationship to others. When we aren’t able to communicate with others, we become confused and begin to doubt ourselves or we build impenetrable defenses against change.

Secondly, pay attention to how you listen. Listening means that, instead of planning your next comment, you just listen and try to understand where your partner is coming from; don’t comment; don’t judge. And it also requires that you make sure you’re on the same page to begin with and that you then stay on the subject.

Thirdly, disagreement is good if handled respectfully and honestly. It gives everyone the opportunity to examine their own views, challenges them and allows them to grow as they consider something new.

As you develop the art of listening and conversing, you’ll have more meaningful conversations and develop deeper relationships. Without these skills you will never achieve the intimacy you crave. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, and you our struggling to adapt and communicate in your relationship with your partner please contact my office and schedule an appointment. It really does help to talk with someone.

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.

 



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