We first met our son, Isaac, at age 7. He was diagnosed with ADHD at the time and had a steady stream of stimulant medications pumping throughout his body. Isaac was mean and insanely strong. This lent very nicely to his four-hour temper tantrums.
My husband Chris and I took Isaac to many therapists. Each time, he would blow up and destroy their offices. He tore pictures from their walls, threw their picture frames or toys, and punched through their walls.
Yet, he was completely unresponsive when we took him to psychiatrists. They didn’t know what to do for him either. So, each psychiatrist just relied on Isaac’s old diagnosis and upped the dose of his medications. We continued to get the same results.
The more each therapist tried to build a “relationship” with my child, the further back we fell. Isaac was splitting the treatment team.
Chris and I started to do our own research. We began to piece together the fact that ADHD was probably not our son’s issue. That’s when things started to turn around. But the path to get there was long, scary, and frustrating.
As a fellow parent, here’s my advice to you:
Therapists and psychiatrists are fallible, like all people. You may need to get second and third opinions. You need to find specialists who will continue to dig for answers with you.
Here are common things therapists miss with kids who have reactive attachment disorder:
1) Children with reactive attachment disorder often split their treatment teams.
A child with reactive attachment disorder has the keen ability to manipulate his therapist. He keeps his therapist very busy with trying to build a relationship with him. Meanwhile, the therapist often doesn’t realize how the child is splitting the treatment team (which should include you and your spouse!).
The result is a child/therapist team versus parents—a destructive dynamic.
This happens most often when the therapist is not savvy on reactive attachment disorder issues. Without RAD background, the therapist typically speaks to the child alone and believes the lies the child tells him. If this happens, I’d start to look for a different therapist.
2) Children with reactive attachment disorder can exhibit confusing symptoms.
This is a tough issue because so many mental illnesses have similar symptoms. As a result, your therapist may not know what is actually going on with your child. A good therapist or psychiatrist can admit this difficulty and not get locked into one theory. She won’t give up on trying to find the right solutions. Likewise, she can admit if it’s time to refer you to another specialist.
3) Children with reactive attachment disorder have a knack for manipulation.
Oftentimes, a child with reactive attachment disorder creates her own truth. Even the best therapists can’t always decipher fact from fiction. A good therapist will communicate with you to figure this out as a team.
But…don’t give up.
Keep looking until you find a good therapist who truly understands reactive attachment disorder.
Learn more about how to find a good therapist for your child with reactive attachment disorder. Watch the video “What to Do if Your Child Has Attachment Disorder” and invite Forrest to speak to your group or organization.