Monday, January 9, 2012

Reactive Attachment Disorder

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When we adopted we were told that Michael had been diagnosed with RAD, but we were given little other information.  At first I felt like this was a mistaken diagnosis.  Soon we were to find out that it was not.  We were in no way equipped to handle this challenge.  It has been a "live and learn" experience for us.

We have not had professional counseling for Michael because what is available in our area is primarily individual.  From my reading it seems that family and parent counseling is the best option in dealing with RAD.  I have read and read and read to find information and answers.  We try some things and they work.  Other things we try are complete failures.

The method of parenting that we have found to be most helpful with RAD is described in the book Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay.  It has helped teach Michael cause and effect.  It has aided him in learning that he has choices and control over many things.  Love and limits seem to be the crucial needs of a RAD child.  This book gave us the tools to offer both of these to Michael without making it a continual battle of wills.

Michael has made remarkable progress.  It used to be that we could go down the characteristic check-list, and he fit every category with the exception of one or two.  We praise the Lord that we are now only dealing with about five of the characteristics.  God is good!

Below you will find more information about RAD.  It is not a condition that is apparent to those outside the immediate family.  This is one of the things that makes it so challenging to work with.  People see a charming and loving child, and so the parents and especially the mother can feel alienated and alone.  Please take the time to read and then say a prayer for these special hurting children and their families.  God is the Great Physician. 

DEFINITION OF RAD from Mayo Clinic

"Reactive attachment disorder is a rare but serious condition in which infants and young children don't establish healthy bonds with parents or caregivers.

A child with reactive attachment disorder is typically neglected, abused or orphaned. Reactive attachment disorder develops because the child's basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren't met and loving, caring attachments with others are never established. This may permanently change the child's growing brain, hurting the ability to establish future relationships."

CAUSES OF RAD from Mayo Clinic

"To feel safe and develop trust, infants and young children need a stable, caring environment. Their basic emotional and physical needs must be consistently met. For instance, when a baby cries, his or her need for a meal or a diaper must be met with a shared emotional exchange that may include eye contact, smiling and caressing.

A child whose needs are ignored or met with emotionally or physically abusive responses from caregivers comes to expect rejection or hostility. The child then becomes distrustful and learns to avoid social contact. Emotional interactions between babies and caregivers may affect development in the brain, leading to attachment problems and affecting personality and relationships throughout life."

CHARACTERISTICS OF CHILDREN WITH RAD (most common characteristics from multiple sources)
  • Superficially engaging and charming
  • Indiscriminate affection toward strangers
  • Lack of affection toward parents on their terms
  • Little eye contact with parents, on normal terms
  • Persistent nonsense questions and incessant chatter
  • Lying about the obvious (crazy lying)
  • Stealing
  • Destructive behavior to self, others, material things (accident prone)
  • Abnormal eating patterns
  • No impulse control (Frequently acts hyperactive)
  • Lags in learning
  • Abnormal speech patterns
  • Poor peer relationships
  • Lack of cause and effect thinking
  • Lack of conscience
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Preoccupation with fire, blood, gore
  • Control issues


  1. We adopted two sets of siblings from foster care. RAD is a very very tiring hard road isn't. Though she has been in our family for 10 years going down that list above again I could still say yes to so many of the issues. That makes me sad. Blessings on you and your family.

    1. It is tiring and it is hard. I'm worn down just this week from dealing with the control issue. It also always seems to feel like one step forward and two steps back. Sometimes I think we've overcome something and then it just surfaces again. That's when I feel like crying and giving up. Please, if you ever need to chat contact me in my private e-mail Praying for you and yours.

  2. I thank you for writing this post, all of them. You see I know in my heart before I die I will be adopting. Not that God has not blessed me, he has with 5 amazing children 4 biological and one step. The reason, I was adopted. God did send me to your sight. How, looking for information on lap book for our government. I was very amazed when I saw you speak of RAD I have never heard of this. I was 6 months when I was taken by the state, until I was 2 I was with a couple of foster homes. Growing up as a child I was told I was not a kid who was easy to love on. Strangers could hug me and kiss me but my family could not. Kisses or hugs something so easy to give or get. Some years back, after getting in a argument with my adoptive parent this was told to me and that I was the same way with my children. I am in my 30's now and my hole life I trusted no one. Sadly, that included my husband and my children. My children,I still felt that they to would hurt me or not love me. The only think I did trust was my dog, Sassy. God gave her to me in the first grade. She lived for three years of my marriage she lived a long 13 years. I was lost when she died, come on she was a dog most people think. In my mind she was my family, she was there by me and never left my side. We would play she would let me swing her. I would talk to her about everything. When I read how your son would go through the trash and keep thing it hit home with me. I could not throw away anything. I had stickers from when I was 6, I would not peel the backs just tape them to a paper. I would keep some wrapping paper from Christmas if my sister would put a toy that broke in the trash I would take it. The list would go on. For me I think it was more of a memory thing, then keeping thing so it would never be forgotten. I had boxes of things from my childhood. I was so mad when my husband called it junk, I cried. I said it was not junk it was my history my life. After having kids, the same thing I did not want to throw anything of there's away. When they played with something and it broke I would freak out. Now, with a lot of prayer and asking God to find myself and renew and fix what I had that was lost I feel like I have been freed from a black cloud. I now can love on my kids, hug them, and kiss them. If you do not understand this problem you will never understand how it feels to be trapped in it. God bless you for all of your struggles and the reason you do this. So many have given up, God bless you for not.