Over the last ten to twenty years, the term reactive attachment disorder, or RAD, has become more popular and more dreaded. Parents and even therapists have used this term when working with kids with severe acting out behaviors that have been in foster care or adopted. The term is supposed to represent a child who doesn’t have the ability to connect with others, a child who constantly manipulates others to get what they want, and who ultimately is abusive to their foster or adoptive parents.
Many of the kids diagnosed with RAD have been considered lost and incapable of getting better. Even some therapists have said that there is nothing you can do with these kids. Parents end up torn between the natural caregiving response inside them and the need for them to create a barrier of protection to protect themselves from their child.
With more research and information surfacing about brain development and how trauma affects the developing mind, it has become more clear as to why children with breaks in attachment, or children who have experienced trauma or neglect early on in their lives, develop a series of coping skills to avoid feeling vulnerable. Along with a more clear understanding of why kids who have been diagnosed with RAD act and behave the way they do, has come a better understanding of what parents and therapists can do in order to help them. And yes, it is very possible for kids diagnosed with RAD to get better when provided proper and effective treatment.
Many experts in the field of Early Childhood and Infant Mental Health don’t use the term RAD when diagnosing children. They describe the behaviors and symptoms of these children more in terms of security of attachment rather than absence of attachment. These experts more often diagnose a child with RAD-like behaviors with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) rather than RAD because it better describes the causes of the behaviors and doesn’t suggest that the child has no level of attachment.
When you have a child who has been adopted or diagnosed with RAD or who has sever acting out behaviors, it is important to get the help and guidance of a therapist who specializes in attachment and who understands how to help your child develop a more secure attachment with you, the parents. This process usually takes time and is difficult but it is very effective and rewarding in the end.
For more information on attachment or to find a therapist in Arizona who specializes in working with kids diagnosed with RAD, please visit parentarizona.com