Saturday, December 11, 2010

Reactive Attachment Disorder

Reactive Attachment Disorder - RAD.
When I was a kid, Rad meant awesome. 
The RAD that we deal with is anything but. 
I would not wish RAD on my worst enemy! 

I had never heard of RAD and we kinda stumbled upon it. Therapists after therapists and none were helping us with this child. His behaviors were getting worse. 
A mom in our homeschool group suggested a book to me that had been suggested to her for helping her ADHD son, called "When love is not enough". Wow. 
I picked up the book and started reading....and lightbulbs were turning on page by page! Coincidentally, I was reading this book at church camp and happened to walk by the playground and overheard two moms talking about the author. I was able to talk at length with one of them and she referred me to a wonderful therapist who did in fact diagnose Einstein with RAD. 
Awesome how God works. Without the book I wouldn't of had a clue where to turn. Without the book I wouldn't of caught Nancy Thomas's name in the playground. This was the summer of 2004.

The information I will be sharing comes from Nancy Thomas at

Kids with attachment disorder have problems with relationships. 
They are not affectionate, they do not love, they do not trust, they often have no conscience, they want to be in complete control. 
They do not think and feel like a 'normal' person. 
And they are angry! But not just angry. 
They are FULL OF RAGE!

Here are the symptoms we deal with.
*superficially engaging and charming (he will charm the pants off you!)
*lack of eye contact (unless he's lying, then he'll look you right in the eye)
*affectionate with strangers
*not affectionate on parent terms (not cuddly, won't let us give him a hug or comfort)
*destructive to self, others and things(!!!)
*cruelty to animals
*lying about obvious things (I could list many examples here!)
*stealing (but he refuses to see it as stealing - big issues at school lately with this)
*no impulse control - hyperactive (and remember he already has ADHD)
*lack of cause & effect thinking
*lack of conscience 
*abnormal eating patterns
*poor peer relationships
*preoccupied with fire 
*preoccupied with blood and gore
*persistent nonsense chatter & questions
*inappropriately demanding & clingy
*abnormal speech (will often mumble, slur & stutter just to annoy or make you re-ask)
*triangulation of adults (!!)
*false allegations of abuse (I'll never forget watching him out the window trip over a clump of snow and come in saying dad pushed him down, when dad was in the bathroom! He has claimed false abuse with us, sisters and pets)
*presumptive entitlement issues (HUGE)
*parents appear hostile and angry

In looking at Nancy's list of symptoms the ONLY one he doesn't have is learning lags. BUT that is tough. He is extremely smart, but schoolwork has been a big issue simply because of control. He will do assignments wrong, not turn them in on due date, refuse to put his name on them, etc. Simply because HE wants to be in control - not the teacher and definitely not me when he was homeschooled! He doesn't have learning problems, just submission ones.

So, what can cause a kid so much stress and turmoil to result in RAD?
Here are some causes:
*unwanted pregnancy
*pre-birth exposure to trauma, drugs or alcohol
*abuse (physical, sexual, emotional)
*separation from primary caregiver
*on-going pain such as colic or ear infections
*care givers who don't do bonding, or frequent changes in caregivers
*depressed moms
*several moves
*self-centered parenting

Any of these that happen before age 3 can put a child at risk of RAD. RAD is common in adopted kids. In our case, we didn't get physical custody until he was six and very much damaged by his early childhood. 

Treatment for RAD isn't easy either. It's not covered by our insurance and the closest therapist is 3 hours away. We weren't able to stay in attachment therapy long because of the costs involved. We haven't been able to locate one closer. 
The goals in attachment therapy are to heal the childs heart. They work on attaching the child and mother (bonding), giving the child a safe place to release/resolve past trauma, helping the child express feelings in words not actions, helping the parent with effective parenting techniques, and giving support to the family. There are no drugs to fix it. 

It's been a long road to get where we are, and there is still a long road ahead of us.
Still praying for healing....


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