We’ve heard similar stories many times—
A couple doesn’t understand why things seem to get worse for their adopted child. Despite a diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and years of intervention treatment services, he continues to frighten his parents. He regularly lashes out with anger and runs away, among other behaviors. Friends and family press the couple to resolve the issue. Yet, the couple is out of answers.
Although the couple has done everything they can to get their child help, they may have the wrong diagnosis. The child could, in fact, not have FASD at all. He could have RAD. Or he may very well have FASD but has never been diagnosed or treated for his RAD. While the situations vary greatly for families, many face the same problem—confusion between RAD and FASD.
To parent a child with special needs requires great patience, professional guidance, personal support, and self-care. But to parent a misdiagnosed child with special needs is especially difficult. Misdiagnoses lead to years of following the wrong path or only addressing half the problem. In the end, parents and children end up frustrated and hopeless. Although other diagnoses also present confusion (i.e. attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and RAD), we’ll focus specifically on the differences between FASD vs. RAD in terms of attachment for today.
Children with RAD and FASD are often labeled “bad kids”. In all honesty, they are not easy to parent. There is hope though. Your three most powerful assets are: accurate diagnoses, consistent and nurturing parenting as early as possible, and long-term advocacy. To parent a child with special needs who is misdiagnosed requires long-term perseverance. We urge you to educate yourself and find highly-qualified specialists to guide you toward appropriate diagnoses and treatment. Next, educate those who interact with your child regularly. You are your child’s most important advocate. Remember to take care of yourself first so you can persevere on this long and important journey of parenthood. If you’re interested in an assessment here at the Institute for Attachment and Child Development, please call 303-674-1910.