My recent post,Reactive Attachment Disorder stinks! created some buzz among my readers. Those who have a child with RAD, understood and probably felt some relief knowing that others are in the same boat. Others, those who know my son personally, find it very hard to believe that life in my home is as difficult as it is sometimes. He simply does not display these behaviors around others. BUT, that doesn’t mean that it is not true.
I am the parent of a special needs child, however, my kids’ disability is the inability to receive love from his parents. This makes treating this disorder extremely difficult.
While researching for a fact sheet or a tip sheet on Reactive Attachment Disorder, the shortest one I found was 3 pages in length. Who wants to read that? Even those of us in the trenches get bored with all of that, so it is my hope to share some information, the Cliff Notes of RAD – In a nutshell:
Paul has RAD which means that he did not develop an attachment with his primary caregiver early in life. This lack of connection influences his physical, neurological, cognitive & psychological development. It produces ongoing feelings of rage, deep shame, a lack of trust and a fear of attaching to anyone. He has an inability to understand cause and effect and a compulsive need to control everyone and everything. He has difficulty regulating his emotions and his behavior. His fear, rage & distrust is so bad that he may explode when a limit is set or a line is drawn. He truly believes that he will die if he is not in control. He was deeply hurt, afraid & lonely as he survived severe neglect. He developed strategies to survive this time in his life and those strategies are to manipulate and control any situation he considers unsafe. The battle for control is constant.
So, if I ask Paul to put his shoes on…he may feel out of control. He doesn’t put his shoes on so that he can control that situation. Even the smallest of things. If asked to put his plate in the sink, he may put it beside the sink to remain in control. If you don’t live it every day, you may not even notice the little ways in which he controls things. Some subtle attempt to control can be interrupting, asking someone to repeat themselves even when he heard, mumbling, ignoring, fidgeting, refusing to put forth appropriate effort, & telling lies. Children with RAD often maintain control by demonstrating learned helplessness.
You may never see Paul rage. He’s not angry at you…he’s not even angry at us, but he is angry at the situation of neglect that he experienced and he will take it out on those who love him the most now. You may get the opportunity to see some of the other symptoms: Lack of guilt or remorse, blames others, difficulty with cause and effect, stealing, lying, manipulative, lack of empathy, poor impulse control, overly friendly to strangers, mood swings, tantrums, refuses to do assignments or does them poorly, & has abnormal eating habits.
That said, I love Paul. I knew I was meant to be his forever Mom after just a few weeks of knowing him. I knew I could make a difference in his life. We’ve come a long way…yet we have a long way to go. Please keep us and all those who are parenting children with this confusing diagnosis in your thoughts & prayers. We need them. Thank you for understanding that this disorder just might be something you will never understand.