Brian and Cindy had tried everything for their son with reactive attachment disorder—in-patient stays at hospitals, different medications, and various professionals. Although many professionals know what RAD is, they don’t know how to effectively treat it. Parents often feel like they have no where to turn, not even to their own friends and family.
Whatever Cindy and Brian did, they inevitably ended up feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. “The doctors didn’t even want to talk about [reactive attachment disorder],” said Brian. “It was like a death sentence.” Some professionals gave them advice and strategies to implement at home. While their son did well for a while with their suggestions, he’d always return to his violent behaviors. They felt as though they couldn’t help their son and neither could anyone else.
Cindy and Brian aren’t alone in their failed attempts to find qualified help for their son. Unfortunately, reactive attachment disorder is largely unrecognized still. Even when RAD is diagnosed, many professionals don’t know how to help for a variety of reasons. While many are skilled in the traditional sense, only a limited amount of therapists have the expertise to work with children with reactive attachment disorder and their families.
Feeling alone as parents of kids with RAD
Just as many professionals don’t truly understand RAD, neither does the general public. This means that parents often feel isolated from people in their support systems. It’s difficult to talk about RAD and its’ symptoms, including violent outbursts, lying, and stealing. “It’s embarrassing and people question you as a parent,” said Cindy. “I didn’t talk about it to anybody. Not even our closest friends knew what we were going through.”
Then one day, Cindy talked to Claire at the Institute for Attachment and Child Development. For the first time, Cindy felt understood. “I would start saying something and [Claire] would finish my sentences because she knew,” said Cindy. By the time many parents of kids with RAD find IACD, they are usually completely worn-out. Parents say that they’ve spent an enormous amount of time and money to help heal their children with RAD without success. Unfortunately, many are on the brink of failed adoptions.
Broken bones and broken attachment
It’s not taboo to talk to friends, family, and a doctor when a child breaks his leg. Like broken bones, however, broken attachment also takes time and professional assistance to heal. Each child with RAD has different parents, backgrounds, and triggers. To heal trauma requires a tailored plan for every single child.
It’s time that we talk about broken trauma like broken bones. It’s time that students in graduate school learn what they need to effectively help kids with RAD and their families. It’s time that foster and adoptive parents get the support they need to help their children heal, rather than get shamed and shunned from professionals, friends, and family. After all, healthy and permanent parents are the most effective catalyst for positive change in the lives of children recovering from trauma. But parents can’t do it alone.
Watch the whole Parent Talk about RAD series of Brian and Cindy: