Have you heard of RAD? Reactive Attachment Disorder? You can research it and you can read some of my previous blogs for a better understanding, but unless you have first-hand experience with it, you will never fully understand.
Today is the day after Valentine’s Day and also the day after a terrible tragedy in Florida. There was a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Today more information is surfacing regarding the shooter. However, yesterday some of my friends were already talking. It is sad to say, but many of my friends, the parents of kids with RAD were asking what we always ask when there is a tragedy of this type, “Was he adopted? Was he the victim of early neglect or trauma? Was he at-risk?” Today we find out that yes, in fact, he was. Yesterday there were reports that he was “a little off, quirky, weird, & possibly depressed.” One report I read said he had an autism diagnosis. Many of the kids that are diagnosed with RAD were initially diagnosed with Autism. Even doctors know there is something “a little off” and since they can’t quite put their finger on it, they go with Autism.
I’m not a doctor or a psychiatrist and I don’t know that the shooter from yesterday sincerely had RAD, but there are quite a few of us parents speculating. I have been receiving messages all morning as we support each other and also as we grieve for this boy’s family in addition to the families of all the victims. We RAD parents are also grateful that his adoptive parents are already gone & we hope that maybe, just maybe this tragedy will bring attention to the mental health crisis in America.
This shooter was obviously disturbed and his mental health crisis didn’t just happen yesterday. It happened his whole life. I don’t know in his case, but I do know in many cases that help is a short-term fix, always falls back into the hands of parents and that most services conclude at age 18. Mental health facilities for adolescents are shutting down at alarming rates and when these schools/treatment facilities close, the teen is placed back with the parent that already admitted that they couldn’t handle the mental health situation in the first place. Desperate parents call the police when their child is raging and if removed from the home at all, the child is placed in a DAS Program – Diversion and Acute Stabilization Program. This program lasts for a maximum of 30 days and then what? The child goes home or into a Residential Treatment Facility. Of course, the RTFs don’t have available beds at all times. I’ve known of families taking their disturbed child out of a psychiatric hospital home as they wait months for a bed to be available. Then, of course, if the child behaves as the RTF deems appropriate, the child is returned home and may once again, struggle with family rules or boundaries and the cycle continues. Well-meaning people suggest that the disturbed child shouldn’t stay in the home as it is a dangerous situation, yet there truly are very few options. ( Read Post Nowhere to Go for more information.)
So, today as my friends and I continue to fight the good fight with our kids, and as we fight the battle with the mental health system to get services, we know that the shooter was not alone. He may have acted alone in the events of yesterday but he is not alone. I know people who are attempting to raise kids just like him right now. Please pray for these folks in the trenches.