In my last two posts, I discussed what Reactive Attachment Disorder is and gave you a glimpse behind the RAD curtain of my former life. Today as promised, we’ll be digging into information that will help you to know what to do. Because while research, science, symptoms, and stories are all helpful things, none of it does much good if we don’t know what action to take. And there is plenty that you can do, as there are several different treatments for RAD.
Treatments for RAD
The treatments and methods for dealing with and helping RAD kids varies quite a bit. Some of them seem logical, some at first appear to be counterintuitive, and at least one that is horrifying – an appalling “treatment” that sadly, resulted in the death of a ten-year-old girl.
That specific awful one aside, both inpatient and outpatient treatments are available, with both types usually offering at a minimum therapy for the child and parents separately, the child and parents together (family therapy), parental support groups, and parental training.
Please note: The two posts dealing with some of the various treatments for Reactive Attachment Disorder are for informational purposes only, and I make no recommendations or endorsements of these treatments. As always, if you suspect you or a loved one may be suffering from this disorder, please don’t wait, and contact a qualified, professional therapist with experience in this area.
There are various types of therapy used in these programs, and what works for one child and her family may not work for another. Some therapists may want to do traditional, one-on-one counseling sessions with the RAD child. Others will say that this is a big mistake, due to the fact that these children are very skilled at manipulation, and when alone with the therapist will often manage to turn the tables and get the therapist to focus on Mom’s frustration, depression, or whatever.
Therefore, they say it is better for the parent or caregiver to attend the counseling sessions with their child, as one of the most important things the parents, counselors, teachers, etc. of RAD kids can do is present a united front, allowing no “divide and conquer” strategy to gain a foothold.
Most of these outpatient programs offer parental support groups and training for parents to continue therapy at home. Some even offer therapeutic respite care, neurotherapy, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy as well (more on these in the next post!).
Inpatient treatment centers offer the various therapies of the outpatient ones, but are more intense and may offer experiential therapy as well, such as equine therapy, adventure therapy, art therapy, nature/wilderness therapy, and others.
There are treatment centers for boys only and girls only. Some may function as a boarding school, while others may place their young patients in therapeutic treatment homes for several months – sort of specialized foster homes with parents who have had years of experience raising their own kids with attachment disorders, and have also had special training.
Teaching the Parents
Many parents say that things like a healthy diet, exercise, a structured environment, and a fairly strict schedule, along with plenty of love, patience, and empathy have been very helpful. These are all very logical and indeed, seem to be no-brainers in the case of all children.
But the parents of RAD kids must ensure their little ones get double doses of this type of strong, efficient parenting. However, these things alone are never enough and need to be combined with other things, some of which may not seem at all logical at first.
For instance, many therapists and parents give the kids “time-in’s” rather than “time-out’s.”
Strange? Maybe, until we remember that RAD kids would much rather be isolated anyway – so making them integrate more when they misbehave can be an effective strategy. Other parents have stated that simply ignoring their child’s fussiness, or laughing at tantrums until they stop, then moving on like nothing ever happened, is quite effective.
And it seems pretty much everyone agrees that teaching the child to make and maintain eye contact is imperative. Which brings me to a controversial therapy.
Hold it Right There
There is a therapy out there called “Holding,” and depending on what you read or hear, it is either helpful or does nothing; is miraculous or produces only marginal improvement; is loving or abusive, logical or crazy.
Holding is where the parent – usually the mother, as she is most often the one taking the brunt of the abuse from her child – holds her child during a meltdown until the child stops struggling. Most of my research into holding at first produced only negative comments from therapists, many of whom called it child abuse, and at first, I agreed.
As I dug deeper however, different versions of holding appeared and it seemed to me that there is holding, and then there is holding. Some of the descriptions I read were the stuff of child abuse nightmares, with mothers (and fathers, or sometimes both) lying on their children for long periods of time, even hours, taunting them and replying “I don’t care” when the child would say she couldn’t breathe.
Lord have mercy.
But then, there were other descriptions I read that were light years away from those chilling ones. Ones where adoptive moms describe holding their babies and toddlers through the kicking, screaming tantrums, sometimes for hours, making eye contact, singing to them, loving on them, and telling them over and over how they would always, always, be there for them.
According to these moms, their little ones were finally able to release the pain and rage they had inside them. One mom used a combination of holding along with an Ergo with her baby, and described how it helped her baby learn to enjoy cuddling.
There is even some evidence suggesting that loving, gentle holding therapy changes the brainwaves, and that it is this change that helps. The brains of children have been observed shifting into 12-15 hertz once they finally relaxed into the hold, which is the frequency that is described as the relaxation response.
Here is a fascinating description of this type of neurofeedback – in fact, the entire paper, though long, is fascinating (except I adamantly disagree with the author’s premise that there are no effective treatments to remediate RAD).
There are treatments for RAD that have proven to help, plus plenty of parent’s blogs out there that back this up. And if anyone should know if something works or doesn’t, it would be the parents of these kids.
But if you want to follow the link and only read the part about holding, then when you get to the page scroll almost halfway down and look for the sub-heading, “RAD is Often Misdiagnosed.” When you’ve found this sub-heading, go up three sentences above it, which is where the author begins discussing holding. This is where you’ll want to start reading.
A brute force, disgusting and barbarous method of “treating” someone who is already traumatized. The idea is to force the child with Reactive Attachment Disorder to re-experience birth all over again, with her adoptive mom in attendance, thus theoretically causing the child to bond with her adoptive mom.
This is done by tightly wrapping the child in a sheet or blanket, surrounding her with pillows and pushing on her in an attempt to recreate uterine contractions. In 2000, a ten-year-old adopted girl died as a result of this “treatment”.
Thankfully, before the trial of those involved was even over, the practice had been outlawed in the state of Colorado, signed into effect as “Candace’s Law.”
Stay tuned for part two of treatment posts in this slightly “radical” series, where I’ll discuss Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, neurotherapy, and one other – although it is not a RAD treatment, it is one I use on myself.