Friday, May 4, 2012

The RAD Child, Situational Trust and Safety Zones: Part 1. The Bedroom

by John and Diane

As I make my way through a larger text on working with kids with RAD, I wanted to share my techniques with you on how to build a safety zone with a new (in my case at least) foster child with RAD.

The best way to help a RAD child adjust to his new environment is to start building what is referred to as “situational trust.”

The first way to do this when they enter your home is to consider his or her new bedroom the center of his universe, and the center from which all other feelings of safety and security will build. His or her bedroom will be the place where the child can go when he feels scared, anxious or insecure.  As discussed previously, each child should have his or her own room. No exceptions.

Depending on the age of the child and his history, they may ask for or require different things in their rooms to make them feel safe and secure.  I usually dress each room up prior to a child’s arrival with a stuffed teddy bear on the bed to greet them, but some children may want a lot of stuffed animals, blankets, items that they brought with him, drawings, photos, or anything else that he or she may have brought along from their old life.

Children with more complex issues may ask for alarm systems, motion detectors, and locks on the doors.  Although this sounds like a lot, it is important for the child to feel like he has control over his own safety.

Today’s technology makes it easy to peel and stick a motion-detector to each side of a doorframe to “alarm” when the door opens.  An easy solution that quells some dark fears. 

You may be asked to paint the bedroom a different color or rearrange furniture (over and over again).  It seems like you are rearranging your entire life for the RAD child, but you do have to take extreme measures early on to build your foundation of trust.

Once you have set up the safety-zone (the bedroom)  you can begin working on building trust between you and the child. He has his safe space to retreat to when conversations or interactions get too much to handle.

As you work with the child you’ll also notice many of them display compulsive behavior… repetitive actions (like needing to make numerous phone calls) and collecting items. Collections (or hoarding to the extreme) make RAD kids feel like they are in control.

I use what I call a  “saturation” technique whereas I allow a child to have as much of whatever it is they want (within safe amounts of course.) So, for example, if they have a compulsion to buy locks and keys, I use that to help promote other growth. I will use keys and locks as rewards.  By my acceptance of the impulsive and compulsive need to have the keys and locks, and embracing it, the NEED to have them goes away.  Once it is accepted, it goes away.

 Of course, then the child may move onto something else, but with each new obsession, you may be learning something new about the child’s mental health.
For example, A child that feels the need to collect locks and keys may be expressing his fears and insecurities, later, he starts collecting dishes, which could express his desire to build family, put down roots and “nest” as it were.

(Really, it has been my experience that everything, all the behaviours point back to safety issues. They may exhibit this by hoarding food, urinating in the closet, locking every door in the house, and stealing things they do not need.)

Once the child begins feeling comfortable in his environment and you feel as though you have some trust building between the two of you, he will expand his area of safety by spending more time in common areas and interacting more with others. This is where having House rules helps maintain the feeling of safety throughout the home. 

The RAD child may begin to bring his decorations outside his room and begin to decorate other areas of the home. This should be allowed to help him expand his circle of comfort and security (within reason, of course.) This is a good sign.

To be continued…. 

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