Princess was brought to our home by a Child Protective Services Worker at six months old. She was a beautiful baby girl. We had been waiting for a baby girl to join our family for so long. Her birth mother signed over her rights when Princess was 13 months old. Her adoption was complete when she was 23 months old.
|Princess' 2nd Night in our Home|
At 18 months, we took her to a developmental pediatrician. The same doctor had just diagnosed our boys with autism just a month before. She confirmed that what we were seeing was Reactive Attachment Disorder, but did not give the diagnosis until about six months later when Princess could actually share some of the trauma she went through.
I will never forget how the doctor looked at me that first appointment, knowing what the road ahead would look like. The adoption wasn't official yet.
"Are you sure you want to do this? This will be the hardest thing you'll ever have to do."
With tears running down my cheeks, I answered her with a yes. I knew Princess was meant for our family. However, she was right, raising a daughter with RAD has been the hardest thing I've ever done.
|Princess at 1 Year Old|
I continued to implement the strategies I'd been taught during therapy for quite some time after, but I felt awful about myself as a parent. The progress Princess was making wasn't enough in my book. Our home felt like such a horrible place to me. There just had to be something else out there. I couldn't accept that this was how life was going to be.
I did a search on Amazon for books about Reactive Attachment Disorder and then checked out as many as our local library supplied or could order from other libraries. Many of the books talked about attachment, but then had very little on the actual disorder. They just kept saying that RAD was the worst case scenario.
There were other books that touched on approaches, but I barely made it through a few pages before I shut them. Nothing new was being presented. Then I opened up the book, Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control, A Love based Approach to Helping Attachment-Challenged Children With Severe Behaviors Volume 1, by Heather T. Forbes, LCSW and B. Bryan Post, PhD, LCSW.
I was hooked before I even made it to the first chapter. Heather T. Forbes, LCSW starts with A Note to the Reader:
"There is a stream of sorrow that continues to flow through my heart. It is flowing from the past pain of parenting my own children out of a place of control and fear instead of a place of love and compassion. I started my parenting journey nine years ago on a plane to Russia with my husband and then one year later on another plane to Russia to adopt our daughter. After adopting our children, we realized that we were in desperate need of help. Seeking help from a specialist after specialist led to us to become parents who were forcing attachment and working to make our children change. Our home was constantly filled with an undercurrent of anger, resentment and fear. I hated being a parent. I hated always trying to stay one step ahead of the defiance. I hated always having to control behavior in order to assure safety for our future. Sorrow, pain, and perpetual fear continued to pervade our every interaction. Today, this river of sorrow runs in a dark place within my heart."
I cried when I read this. At one point in time or another, I had felt every single feeling she described. This book seemed real. I couldn't wait to read more. It took a long time to get through the book, mostly because I wanted to put into practice what I was learning one step at a time. That and finding time to read by myself is nearly impossible. I was not disappointed.
This book introduces a "new view" to behaviors of children with RAD and our response as parents and caretakers. There are wonderful parenting examples at the end of many chapters, as well as a quick references for parents. The first part of the book introduces "The Stress Model." It also introduces the concepts of fear and love. In my opinion the discussion of these two emotions in relation to RAD children (and their parents or caretakers) is the theme of the book. I can not forget to mention that I love that this book focuses not only on the RAD children, but their caretakers.
Part two of the book focuses on specific RAD behaviors, giving examples of how issues are addressed using the "traditional view" and the "new view." Behaviors discussed include: lying, stealing, hoarding and gorging, aggression, defiance, and lack of eye contact. I'll admit I cried more than once reading these chapters. The authors also go into extensive explanations about how the brain works in very understandable terms, as they discuss the child's response to specific situations.
Part three of the book is filled with Real-Life Stories from Real-Life Parents. I laughed. I cried. They were fabulous to read. I love how the authors include such a variety of behaviors from children of varying ages, starting with kiddos as young as two and a half.
The "new view" explained in this book makes sense to me. It completely changed how I viewed my daughter's behaviors. I'm not saying the view takes away all frustration, but it helps. After reading each chapter, I tried to apply what I had learned, with my daughter. I selected very specific situations that related to the topic. Each time I tried the "new view," it worked. This is not to say it was easy to apply and smooth sailing from there on out, but in that moment, things were better for both of us. A situation that could have very easily turned ugly did not. I can not express enough how grateful I am for those positive moments. They mean the world to me.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a child with attachment issues or Reactive Attachment Disorder. It is a great way to start your journey towards the healing of hearts of all those in your family. There are very few books I read more than once. This one, I find myself opening all the time, especially for those quick reference sections in time of need. Again, they're not the easiest to jump into, due to my own feelings, pride, etc., but when I'm able, they work.
If I had any recommendations for the authors to include in future books, it would be to share more situations where the RAD child is a toddler. So many parents don't understand what's going on and are told that what they're seeing are "typical two" behaviors, when in fact they definitely are not. The sooner a parent can identify what's going on, the sooner the healing process can start and help can be provided.
On a more personal note, in this household we don't deal with stealing food or gorging, but rather a refusal to eat. I rarely see this behavior addressed and would love some pointers on how to handle it using the "new view."
I truly believe all parents love their children and try their very best to care for them. A parent's ability varies. At times one's best isn't good enough. Most often this is due to circumstances beyond the parent's control or a lack of example and education. Children coming from homes where the parents were unable to provide and care for them are high risk for attachment disorders. Those adopted from orphanages are also at risk. When we discover one of these children has entered our home and joined our family, let us not give up hope. We can make a difference when given the proper tools. Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control is a must have in our toolbox!