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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Reactive Attachment Disorder: Confessions of a Mother

This is my first post in a while...I wish I could tell you that I had been on a yacht in the clear blue ocean or in a cabin up in the mountains enjoying nature.  I wish I had a cutesie little graphic at the top so that you could pin this article.  Maybe I will make one at some point, but for right now, this is the most I can do. 

 Instead of spreading cheer to children everywhere, I have been admitting and visiting my child in the children's unit of our local mental health hospital.

Do you know what it is like to have to leave your child in the hands of strangers, knowing that he/she isn't in touch with reality?  That he/she is suicidal?  That you call to see how he/she is doing you hear the screams from 'the quiet room' <aka the padded room>.  That he/she "feels dead"???  That we may have to take him/her to residential care to live indefinitely?  What if your child came to visitation without shoes, or most recently, with zip ties for shoe strings because the shoe strings have been taken away because of the threat of self mutilation or death?

I do, and it hasn't been fun.  And it has been dreadful for my child.  I have gone through all sorts of emotions and feelings, from "How can we continue living like this?" to "How can we not continue living like this?"

What we thought was an episode of "another manic Monday" turned out to be an outreach from a child that is hurting worse than I could ever imagine.  Who knew that Reactive Attachment Disorder, or RAD, as it is called looked so much like a Bipolar diagnosis and ADHD??  Who knew that these three diagnoses could look like triplets?  I knew he/she had RAD as he/she has had the diagnosis for about 5 years, but no one told me it was the most important.  I have read about it, worried about it, and I have asked about it, but I never thought it would be this diagnosis that would dictate the life my child would lead.  Or dictate the life my family would have.  I am a mom...a teacher...I have three different teaching degrees.  How could I miss this?  How could I not know?  How could I miss the textbook characteristics that are rearing their ugly heads.  I could literally go down and check off the list that I am about to link here and nod in agreement with the therapists and physician in charge.  HOW DID I MISS THIS?

As a mom, my heart is breaking....and I have been told that it will get worse before it gets better.  The amount of stress we are feeling as a family is ginormous.  But, the good part is, we are facing it as a family.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins and some close friends have been called on, and are praying. The youngest sibling has grown up so much in the last week and is learning to reinforce 'parental vocabulary' at the few limited visits we have had.  Who would have thought that would have to happen?  Need to happen?  

I have been very careful to protect my child's privacy.  I know one day it will be no big deal and we will charge head on into dealing with it with our 'public' friends.  But is so deep...that we feel like we need to have that added layer of protection for the child that has no close friends, has no one to hang out with, has no deeply seeded relationships.  

If we tell our friends about it will they keep their kids away from mine?  Will they warn there children to stay away from 'the teacher's kid'?  Will there ever be a deep friendship--a friend that can be called on?  A steady, positive influence?  Or will we always be worried about the types of friends that are collected?  Who will take on the role of care giver when we are not around? Will they be understanding?  Forgiving?  What will the future look like?

The forgiving...I am going to have to ask for a load of that.  I have been told that other teachers admire me for staying so calm in the classroom.  I am thankful they have not seen me in action at home.  I have punished my child for being mentally ill and didn't realize it.  I have made her go to her room.  Spanked her.  Had to restrain her.  Wanted to make her eat broccoli, which she hates.  I have chastized her and threatened her because of her grades.  I have cried over her homework with her because it was a punishment to me, too.  Or at least felt like it.  I just had no idea.  But what do I do now. How do we go on?  What am I going to have to learn and change?  Will I get the chance?

Because it is so ingrained in me, I have to think about RAD in the classroom.  Have I had a student with RAD before?  How did I cope?  What happens if I get a student with RAD?  Do any of my friends have kids in their rooms that could have RAD?  What advice could I offer when I have failed so badly with my own child's progress?

I am at an impasse.  I am going to have to relearn behaviors, go to therapy, learn better parenting, learn what to look for.  As I close, I will leave you with these links:

Children's Mental Health Disorder Fact Sheet

Reactive Attachment Disorders for Teachers 

An Open Letter to Educators


  1. Though I don't know you in person, I can feel your pain. I have walked in your shoes, and I still walk. Hugs, and God be with you and your family!

  2. Jenn, You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. Please do not be too hard on yourself. It is often the person who is the closest who has a hard time seeing something. Just love on your daughter and get her the help she needs.

    The Resourceful Apple

  3. I am keeping you and your child in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you for taking the time to provide us with these 3 informative links. Please do take time to care for yourself so that you may stay strong for your child.

  4. I'm so sorry you're having to walk through this...I'm glad you don't have to do it alone. Many prayers for you and your family!

    Teach on a Limb

  5. I am praying for you. I have three younger adopted siblings. Two of the three have RAD. My mom ended up having to relinquish them back to state custody because of safety concerns and because she was told it was the only way they could tap into the mental health resources they needed. It is a long and difficult road. I also have wondered how teachers can help kids with RAD. I think overall we need to raise awareness of attachment issues. I am praying for your family.
    ~April Walker
    The Idea Backpack

  6. Oh my dear goodness! I am extremely sorry that you and your child are going through this. Sending you and all your loved ones thoughts and prayers. May God ease your pain soon and that you may all lead a joyful & safe life together.


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