Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Enter: Reactive Attachment Disorder

As most of you know (that take the time to be bored silly by anything I have to say), we are providing respite care for two children. While respite care is usually pretty quick, these kids are going to need to spend the whole summer with us. We offered, knowing that it might be the best situation, and we're very glad to do it.

Both of the kids have some degree of issues from early childhood trauma. One has a diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder. Granted, they both battle it on their own levels and in their own ways (isn't that just the way with kids? Gotta' love them). I've had many of you asking how things are going with all the kids, so I thought I'd just do a little catch-up on everything.

First, everyone is doing GREAT! Now, for those of you with kids that have issues, disorders, labels, or what-not, you know that our definition of "great" is completely (underline/exclamation point!) different from the rest of the world. But, yes, everyone is doing great, as we struggle and all work through the process one day at a time.

"Great" in my house means that there are many times of laughing and affection and some actual self-regulation. It also means that there is plenty of acting out, rage, crying, lying, arguing, refusal of affection, manipulation, etc., etc., etc.

"Great" in my house means that as I'm typing this the house is quiet and pleasant. The three oldest are preparing to leave for camp with their dad. The TV's and computers are off. There is lots of reading and playing with actual toys and games. And after a week of separation, I am totally prepared for a vast amount of emotional explosion. Come Thursday night, our house could be WWIII. However, if we use our steps and our words and help everyone to re-regulate ... that will be "great."

Aren't sure what RAD (reactive attachment disorder) is? The symptoms are:

• Superficially engaging & charming
• Lack of eye contact on parents terms
• Indiscriminately affectionate with strangers
• Not affectionate on Parents’ terms (not cuddly)
• Destructive to self, others and material things (accident prone)
• Cruelty to animals
• Lying about the obvious (crazy lying)
• Stealing
• No impulse controls (frequently acts hyperactive)
• Learning Lags
• Lack of cause and effect thinking
• Lack of conscience
• Abnormal eating patterns
• Poor peer relationships
• Preoccupation with fire
• Preoccupation with blood & gore
• Persistent nonsense questions & chatter
• Inappropriately demanding & clingy
• Abnormal speech patterns
• Triangulation of adults
• False allegations of abuse
• Presumptive entitlement issues
• Parents appear hostile and angry

We've seen a combination of at least half of this list in the last two months. It has been a big learning experience, as well as the ultimate test of every therapeutic parenting tool we've ever acquired. I, being the research hound, continue to learn and implement new tools that might be beneficial.

Anywho - that's the run down. I find the last symptom, "Parents appear hostile and angry" the most encouraging for me. I've already had one woman publicly question something I've done with the kids (she tried to be cute about it - "Well, you're no fun!"). When kids have attachment disorder, much of the - ugh - is dealt with at home, and particularly it's saved for mom. So, many people don't see it. No one outside of our home has ever seen the extent of Mac's Tourettes, either (Yes, I would have people talk to me as though I was exaggerating it, or trying to make it out to be something more than it was). So, I still have my thick layer of skin from all of that. I'll just buff it up a bit. I'll be seen as too controlling. I'll be seen as a helicopter parent. I'll be seen as "not letting them just be kids." I'll have to just let all of that blow right over me, and keep doing what is best for everyone.

And I will appear hostile and angry.

Mainly, because I'm hostile and angry. :)


Apryl said...

I've often wondering what other people think about me as I tell my daughter not to touch/hug/say "I love you" to the person we just met. Didn't realize that I was allowed to seem hostile and angry! I'll use that in the future, "I'm just feeling a little hostile and angry."

Thanks for the post!

TulipGirl said...

I thank God for those in the Body of Christ who minister to the "least of these," the children who are struggling with Fill-In-The-Blank. Those who are willing to appear "hostile and angry" when the reality is they are being the day-in-day-out consistent and patient and firm and kind. (And yeah, at times, hostile and angry and struggling.)

Shan said...

Just got back into town and read this Christine. It's funny because as soon as I did I thought about calling you and discussing but then remembered you are in my computer not my real life. teehee.
I THINK MY YOUNGEST HAS THIS and I was so shocked that I hadn't looked into this before now. I'm going to google for more info and see what that resource is you took a pic of in your later post. I thought I was the only one who is often perceived as limiting and even mean as a parent in public with my 5 year old. Just as you described he saves most of his antics for me and some think I'm a very restrictive mom to him because I keep him on a short leash. WOW. Oops now I'm realizing I might have emailed this. Ok, off to read more.
Thanks for sharing your experiences!

Rosita said...

Wow. I'm a 20 year old woman suffering from child symptoms of RAD...

I'm glad i'm not alone.

Sara said...

When I worked at a daycare for special needs children way back in the way back when we had a child who had RAD. He was an adopted child from russia and sadly his mother often appeared quite crazy to us as she would try and discribe what she was trying to do for her son...we thought she was making it up because while he seemed hyper to us...never much more than that. Then one day at school he became so angry that he broke a childs arm...on purpose. He was kicked out of school and we had him full time for a few months, plus the summer...it was not fun. Now that I've read all your entrys with the tag line of "rad" I feel so terrible for using theraputic holds on him...I now see how very harmful that would have been for him and downright inapropriate. Thanks for your honest.