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Kathy Marshack News

Your Child Struggling with Uncontrolled Temper or Aggressive Behavior?

Monday, May 18, 2015


child struggling with uncontrolled temper or aggressive behaviorRecently I watched a video by Dr. Daniel Amen M.D. where he discusses how, after researching 100,000 brain scans, he’s discovered that actual brain damage is contributing to emotional problems such as anger issues and even brutal killings. Judges and defense attorneys often consult with Dr. Amen in order to understanding criminal behavior. While he does not in any way condone what these criminals have done, he’s made some fascinating discoveries by studying their brains.

For example, after looking at Kip Kinkle’s brain in 1998, (you may remember he shot 25 at his school, killing two plus his parents in Springfield, OR) he found that sometime in the past this person had suffered either deprivation of oxygen or some type of infection that made his the worst 15-year-old brain scan that Dr. Amen had ever seen.

What can we learn about rehabilitating people who have aggressive behavior and are violent? By taking their entire history and imaging the brain, we can discover the biological, psychological, and social reasons why they’re acting the way they do.

When we see homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, ADHD and suicide, we should seriously look at the health of the brain for answers. The good news is we can prevent these brain injuries from escalating into hurtful behavior, either towards themselves or towards others. They can be rehabilitated if it’s caught early enough!

Is your son or daughter troubled with anxiety, depression, anger, or destructive behavior? Please do not ignore these symptoms or dismiss them as typical teen moods. Seek help immediately to determine if there’s a physical or psychological cause. That way the problem can be resolved now, so he or she can live a happy and productive life. Brain health can be restored. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment to find out how.

Watch Dr. Amen's video for the very emotional success story of how he helped a young man go from a troubled youth to an American hero.

What Adopted Children Need to Feel Loved

Thursday, May 14, 2015


what adopted children need to feel lovedLast year in the United States, 51,000 children were adopted, leaving 102,000 waiting for their special parents to find them. According to state government statistics from 1999 to 2013, there have been 3,989 adoptions in Oregon and in 7,799 Washington.

We all understand, or at least can acknowledge, the losses that come from divorce or death. Perhaps if you’ve not gone through it yourself, you can’t truly understand it yet. However, have you ever considered that there’s a much deeper loss experienced by those that have been adopted? Some time in their lives, they will deal with the grief of the loss of a family, loss of an identity, and intense feelings of rejection.

As a result, many adoptees build walls around themselves so others can’t get close to them and inflict further pain. Or they keep their feelings deep inside so as not to hurt their adoptive parents by making them feel rejected, since they know how much that hurts.

Children need to know their adoptive story. They need to know that they are in no way responsible and that they are lovable, precious and wanted. They need a positive and nurturing environment to grow in.

Raising adopted children and growing up adopted is different than other families. There are many similarities, but the exceptions to the rule need to be examined too. It’s foolish for adoptive parents to raise their children without education about the effects of adoption on the lives of their children and themselves

So, in addition to the regular books and seminars on effective parenting, adoptive families should be reading and talking to adoption professionals about the special needs of their families. People often locate a mental health professional in their area by asking their doctor or pediatrician for a referral or contacting one of the mental health organizations.

The blessings of raising an adopted child are plenty. Take the time to be prepared to meet the challenges. Don’t take your parental role lightly. Educate yourself by reading books, attending seminars, or speak to an adoption specialist. For more information, visit: Adoptive Families.

Looking back as an adoptive parent myself, one of the most valuable resources I found was regularly speak to an adoption professional who is also a mental health care professional. And yes, that led me to specialize in adoption myself, as I studied for my psychology degree.

Since each adoptive family is different, this type of professional can specifically address the needs of your family. Books and seminars are for the masses, but one-to-one discussions will be completely focused on your needs and the needs of your child. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office and schedule an appointment. I would be happy to assist you.

For more statistics, check out the latest US Dept. Trends in Foster Care and Adoption July 2014 PDF.

What Happens to Autistic Children Aging Out of School?

Monday, April 20, 2015


what programs are there for aging out autisticsAccording to experts, within the next 10 years, an estimated 500,000 autistic children will become too old for education through the local school districts. At the age of 21, these children graduate and have to find their own way in the world that is ill prepared for them.

Autistics (the term they prefer to be called) don’t grow out of their disability. So losing their structured routine is terrifying to them. It can undo the progress they’ve made and send them spiraling back into self destructive or isolating behavior. Many parents who have already experienced this describe it as falling off of a cliff or even being pushed off of a cliff.

Recently on a must-see Dateline Show, On the Brink, they followed the stories of two autistic boys for three years, chronicling their experiences as they aged out of the school system. The struggle these families go through in order to find specialized care for their sons is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

It’s required that each school district has a transition plan, a set of measurable goals to prepare autistics for adulthood. The reality falls far short of what is needed.

Let’s raise awareness of this issue and give continuing support to those we know personally in addition to everyone across the nation who struggles with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It’s a growing problem that we cannot afford to ignore.

I realize the caregivers of those with ASD need extra support and comfort as they carry a heavy load. I’ve formed a supportive network through international teleconferences and local meetups called Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Familiy of Adults with ASD. And I’m happy to now let you know that there are groups forming around the country so you may soon be able to meet in your own local area. Check here for the currently scheduled meetups. Please come and join us. You’re not alone.

Listen to the full Dateline Show here.

Check out Autism Speaks Transition Tools here.

Over-Medicating? Is There a Better Way of Treating ADD and ADHD?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Is there a better way to treat ADD and ADHDAre you concerned about the overuse of stimulant medications for ADD and ADHD in children? According the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “The percentage of children with an ADHD diagnosis continues to increase, from 7.8% in 2003 to 9.5% in 2007 and to 11.0% in 2011.” Oregon and Washington are listed at 9.1% to 11%, which falls in the moderately high portion of their scale.

When parents see their children struggling in life because they can’t concentrate, find it hard to sit still, and impulsively say and do things that interfere with their ability to form lasting friendships and do well in school, they desperately want to find a solution to the problem. Many children are put on stimulants such as methylphenidate (Ritalin), dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine or Dextrostat), and pemoline (Cylert), which can dramatically reduce the hyperactivity and improve their ability to focus, work, and learn.

However, do you want to settle for controlling ADD/ADHD symptoms, when it’s possible to create life-long improvements? There is a more effective treatment...

People with ADD see immediate improvement with medication and think that’s good enough. But these medicines won’t cure the disorder. They only temporarily control the symptoms. Although drugs help people pay attention and complete their work, they can't increase knowledge or improve academic skills. Drugs alone won’t help people improve their self-esteem or cope with problems. The most significant, long-lasting improvements are made when medication is combined with behavioral therapy, emotional counseling, and practical support. Yet according to a September 2014 PsychCentral article, “Just one in four kids get drugs plus psychotherapy.”

Are concerns about how to pay for mental health treatment holding you back from getting help? Then you need to know that a 2008 law, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (also known as the mental health parity law), requires insurance coverage of services for mental health, behavioral health and substance-use disorders to be comparable to physical health coverage. Read more about the parity law here.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and your child with ADD/ADHD is not doing as well as he or she could be or you personally are struggling with your ADD/ADHD, please contact my office and schedule an appointment so we can get started on a program to help.

Read more on my website: ADD & ADHD.

15 Questions to Assess How Your ADHD Child Is Doing in School

Thursday, November 20, 2014


15 questions to assess how hour ADD or ADHD child is doing in schoolThe people who care most about your child’s education (you and the teacher) have a great opportunity to communicate and work together at the regularly scheduled parent/teacher conferences. Teachers have a lot of kids to keep track of – and each one has their own strengths and weaknesses. But since school can be especially difficult for your ADD and ADHD child, this conference with the teacher is the perfect opportunity for you to make sure your child doesn’t fall behind and have trouble fitting in at school.

You know your child better than anyone else. You know the problems aren’t because your child is a bad kid and it’s not because you’re a bad parent. Just as a child with a broken bone needs special care, so a child with an interrupted brain balance needs special attention. And things can change for the better!

When a parent takes some time to prepare for the parent/teacher conference or schedules a private meeting with the teacher, you can respectfully show that you want to be involved and supportive. Some questions you can discuss are:

  1. What skills (math, reading, etc) should my child learn this year?
  2. What are my child’s weaknesses and strengths?
  3. How is my child’s class behavior?
  4. How is my child doing socially?
  5. How is my child doing emotionally?
  6. In what areas do you see need for improvement?
  7. Do you feel my child is doing his/her best?
  8. What type of learner is my child – visual, auditory, or kinesthetic?
  9. How can we best accommodate my child’s learning style?
  10. Is my child performing at Grade Level?
  11. Does my child need extra help in any areas?
  12. How much time should my child spend on homework?
  13. How can I help?
  14. If your child is having a problem, initiate a conversation about it by asking: “May I share a concern?”
  15. What would you advise?

What more can you do? The first step to really improving life for those with ADD and ADHD is to build your child’s self-esteem. They don’t have many experiences that build their self-esteem and competence. And it's not easy coping with the frustrations day after day. They may fear that they’re strange, abnormal, or stupid. Some children release their frustration by acting contrary, starting fights, or destroying property. Some turn the frustration into body ailments, like the child who gets a stomachache everyday before school. Others hold their needs and fears inside, so that no one sees how badly they feel.

Over time a trained therapist

can help children with ADD or ADHD identify and build on their strengths, cope with daily problems, and learn to control their attention and aggression. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please

contact my office and schedule an appointment. Holiday breaks are a great time to fit it into your busy schedule.

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

Thursday, November 13, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more on my website: Overcoming Depression.

Do You Have to be “Supermom” to be a Good Parent?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


supermom juggling motherhood a home and a careerWhat’s your definition of a “good mom”? What image comes to mind? Is she the “have it all” “be-it-all” type of supermom? Does she tirelessly manage a spotless house while keeping her kids busy in 10 different, after-school activities so they can get into the best colleges? Does she have an “even if it kills me, they’re going to have it” attitude? And all of this sandwiched in between a career or business as an entrepreneur!

A recent New York Times contributor, Heather Havrilesky, poured out her feelings about the mixed messages that are putting immense pressure on moms to be supermoms, while at the same time receiving degrading messages like, “Oh, you’re just a mom”. She talks about losing her own identity, which I’m sure many moms out there can relate to.

Even though my daughters are both grown up now, I remember the stress involved in trying to do it all. Do you sometimes find yourself wondering…

  • When did the role of motherhood get so out of balance?
  • How did it become the norm that life revolves around everything your child wants rather than the child learning to fit into the family?
  • How is it you become a bad mom if you don’t keep running from the moment you wake up until you fall exhaustedly into bed at night?
  • How are you supposed to smile happily through it all?

On top of that, you’re burdened with an immense sense of guilt every time you take some ‘me time’ for yourself…” This striving for a false perfection sets you up for the frustration of never being able to measure up.

Moms, especially working moms, are people too, not superheroes. You’re going to make little mistakes, even big blunders. The key is to recognize the mistake, accept it, and learn from it. As a psychologist please let me assure you that children are remarkably resilient. If you err, stop it, change it, apologize for it. You will be modeling flexibility and honesty for your child – two important values for them to have.

It’s important to remember that your child is a unique and a separate person from you. He or she isn’t an extension of the parent, but is as different and distinct as their fingerprints. If you take the time to be curious about who your child is, how they think, who they’re becoming, you’ll have the opportunity to make a lifelong friend.

Occasionally, when a problem arises that is beyond your understanding, it’s appropriate to seek the expertise of a family therapist. Sometimes personal problems or relationship problems interfere with productive family life. It is important to recognize these problems, seek professional help and restore family life to a healthy, happy balance. If you like in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Want to create a better work/home balance? If you’re an entrepreneur please check out my book – Entrepreneurial Couples - Making it Work at Work and Home.

Read more on my website: Women Entrepreneurs, Resources for Copreneurs and Am I a Good Parent?

How Can You Teach Your Aspie Child to Love?

Tuesday, November 04, 2014


mother teaching autistic son to loveLove seems such a natural part of our lives that we tend to take for granted that our children will learn it as they grow. However, for those who parent children with Asperger Syndrome, it’s far from that easy. In their black and white world they need to have everything explained to them, and that becomes difficult, because love is so many things. Yet teaching love to your child is the most profound work a parent can do.

Because I know how heartbreaking it can be, I want to help as many as possible learn valuable strategies that work. To reach more people, I wrote an article for PsychCentral outlining how, in my practice, I’ve found a very effective way to assist children with Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s by defining the many different types of love for them just as the ancient Greeks did. What are the Greek words for love?

  • Agápe refers to true love.
  • Éros is passionate and romantic love.
  • Philia means friendship.
  • Storge means affection.

In the full article, I show how to explain each one to your child; therefore I really 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?)

Does information like this help you? I’ll let you in on a secret…this article is based on my book: Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD). If you haven’t grabbed your copy yet, you can purchase it as either a kindle edition or paperback. Not only does it have true-life experiences, tips and strategies, it also contains the science behind why they do what they do. If your family member has ASD, this resource will enhance your ability to understand and to cope.

If you’re a neuro-typical person who has an adult family member with Asperger’s Syndrome, think seriously about joining our Asperger Syndrome – Partners and Family of Adults with AS group. If you live in the Vancouver, WA area, join our local meetup. Otherwise, please join our international teleconference, which, I’m excited to announce, now has members from all the continents on this globe except for Antarctica.

Parents – Have You Weighed the Risk of Football?

Friday, October 31, 2014


parents have you weighed the risks of footballWe can’t keep our children in bubble wrap. Living involves risk. Responsible parenting means we’re on the lookout for potential hazards that can harm our children. That’s why we teach them “look both ways before crossing the road” or “don’t get in a stranger’s car”. We naturally want to protect our children.

But what if your children WANT to do something that you KNOW will harm them? Do you give in and let them decide to do it? What if it’s an activity that is viewed by many as “harmless fun” or touted as “building character”? Specifically I’m thinking about football…

Is Football Safe for Children?

Recently I watched a heart wrenching YouTube video that I think all parents should watch. The handsome, grinning face of twenty-one year old Owen Thomas is followed by a photo of his tombstone. He looked so happy being a hard-hitting lineman from 9 years old and onward. Yet, out of the blue, he committed suicide.

Concussion is a leading cause of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) in football players, which in turn has caused some players to commit suicide. Surprisingly, Owen had never experienced a concussion during all his years of playing football, so there seemed to be no explanation for his death.

It was shocking to discover that when Dr. Ann McKee, neuropathologist at BU CTE Center, examined his brain, he had advanced CTE! She concluded that the CTE had resulted from sub-concussive hits he’d experienced throughout the years of playing the game. Just from playing the game.

When you sign your child up for a sport, you know there’s a physical risk. They can sprain an ankle or even break a bone. Are you prepared to deal with the brain damage that results from playing football? I urge every parent to do the research and weigh the risks. Dr. Robert Cantu, Neurosurgeon at Boston University said, “No one under 14 should play football. The youth brain is lighter in weight, so it takes less to put it in motion. You tap a youth brain and it moves much quicker than an adult brain.”

While Dr McKee would not make a blanket proclamation for all, when asked if she had a child who was 8, 10 or 12, would she allow that child to play football, she emphatically said, “I would not, because of the way football is being played currently. It’s dangerous and it could impact their long-term mental health. You only get one brain. And you want your kids to succeed in life and be everything they can be. If there’s anything that would infringe on that, I wouldn’t do it.”

Watch the Frontline YouTube Video: Is Football Safe for Children?

Read on my website: Depression – How To Recognize The Symptoms.

How Having a Child Changes Dad’s Brain

Friday, September 12, 2014


dad bonding with his daughter

There are a growing number of stay-at-home dads – up to 2 million in 2012. According to Pew Research Center 8% of homes have single fathers. Can a father bond with his child as strongly as the maternal bond at birth? And does it matter if the child is his biological child?


These questions were asked and answered in CNN’s story, Dads' brains are ready to bond with kids. It discusses the finding from the largest parental brain study to date. The scientists wanted to determine how male and female brains function differently as parents, and more specifically, how men's brains are changed by fatherhood. What did they discover?

The amygdala, which regulates emotional response and allows the maternal bond to occur quickly, became highly active in mothers after giving birth. The months of pregnancy accelerate this connection.

Secondary caregiving fathers' brains showed a strong response in the neural network that regulates social cognitive processing.
Primary caregiving fathers activated both of the above-mentioned areas of the brain after a short time.

Being the primary caregiving parent activated the most response. Professor of psychology and lead researcher, Ruth Feldman concluded, "There's something really strong that makes mothers bond with the infant right when they're born. Fathers need a little more work for that to happen."

Across the board, they found that fathers, whether primary and secondary caregivers, increased amygdala activation when they increased their time taking caring of the child. It didn’t matter if the child was biological or adopted.

Ever one of the five key areas of being a good parent takes time – listening, consistency, teaching, modeling, and loving. Now we have scientific proof that it takes time to change the brain in order to form that close bond with your child. If you don’t feel close to your children today, perhaps it would be good to ask yourself, “How much time am I spending with each child?”

Read more on my website: Adoptive Families and Parenting.



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