Monday, June 25, 2012

RAD Kids: Working with Your Support System, Finding the Weak Link and Breaking the Manipulation Cycle

by John and Diane.

Once you have gone through the honeymoon period (Read, “You and Your RAD Kid: The Importance of the Trust Building Honeymoon Period”: June8 2012) and you have built up enough “carrots”; memories and things that he or she likes and reasons that the child will want to stay in your home, you can begin to treat the child like less of a guest in the house and more like a family member. You’ll know when to do this, as the child will ask you to.  Don’t give them that “honor” too soon, make them earn it.

To further build on the trust you have established continue to spend as much time with the child as possible. I spend 24/7 with the child when they first move into the group home because I am retired.  RAD kids or kids with trust disorders need you to be there.  By being there and taking care of their needs you begin to build attachment.

Remember in order to bond with kids with trust disorders, you have to take them back basically to birth, so getting them to the “trust age” of about a 4 or 5 year olds will take 2 or 3 years. If it happens in a year and a half, you are lucky. If they have learning difficulties on top of the trust disorders, it could take longer. Basically, the more complex issues they have, the longer it may take.

Your Support Team

You can’t do this alone. I am part of a home-based team consisting of counselors, caseworkers and a psychiatrist. We all meet on a monthly basis, and communicate on a near daily basis. .  The caseworkers, counselors and I talk daily.

When you sit down with this group you come up with a plan of attack. First we came up with a plan to create and build Situational Trust.  Basically, it means that you, the main caregiver, gains the child’s trust. The child must learn to trust that you make correct decisions on his behalf and generally know what is best for him or her. (See “The RAD Child, Situational Trust and Safety Zones: Part 1.” May 4 2012)

Then, you want to “transfer” that trust to the other members of the team.  You show the child that you trust these people, and therefore you want him or her to as well.

RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) kids will try to manipulate team members and pound wedges between them.  This is typical behavior for RAD kids. So you must protect yourself and share all information about what is going on with the child with team members.   The child does not want you to do this and will get really angry because they are finding that their normal ability to manipulate others won’t work.   You have to work through this with the child and they must know that the team is cohesive. Team members must support one another and the decisions that are made regarding the discipline and allowances for the child.

Sometimes there may be a weak link on the team. You will be able to identify the weak link by seeing who the child wants to talk to or turn to when they are not getting their way.  The weak link might be a teacher, counselor or even a parent, anyone who the child feels they can manipulate or who tends to go off of the agreed upon plan and fold to the child’s demands.  The weak link must be addressed and must agree to hold true to the agreed upon rules for the child. Only by doing this can the child begin to trust all the members of the team.

Addressing the Great Manipulator

RAD kids like to create an imbalance and chaos amongst caregivers and team members. They seek out the strongest member of the team and try to build an alliance. Then they seek out the weakest members and try to manipulate them. They do this to distract you from making them do what they need to do: schoolwork, chores, etc. They would rather make chaos in your life and that makes them feel empowered. They will do this whether you have a team of professionals or your team consists of extended family, teachers and friends.

How to correct the behavior:

When they try to create the wedge, you call them on it immediately.  For example, they may say, "You want me to do this, but Anne says I don’t have to.”

In this example, you would call Anne immediately, in front of the child, to clarify the situation, knowing that the child is lying and trying to manipulate.

The child will see that the group is cohesive and you break down his ability to lie and manipulate the group. RAD kids hate being called on the carpet and being seen as liars.  Eventually, the manipulative behavior will become less frequent and stop.

The key to this working is again, a strong team where everyone is clear on the goals and rules. With this kind of support, great strides can be made to break the RAD cycle of behavior.

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  1. My sister has had a deaf child with RAD since age three and basically since it was a private adoption and they are public servants a teacher and a policeman they could not give her back. She has been basically locked in a room at home for years , she did attend school but would not do the work. She turned 18 in Feb, they waited until June when she was out of school and then were going to put her in a homeless shelter. I have placed her in low income housing close to me that she can afford on SSI but I don't know how best to help her. They have her taking Hadol which is an anti physcotic but I am waiting to have her re- evaluated. She seems to be doing well. Is there help I should be seeking for her now.

    1. Wow. That is a very sad story. If only she had had the correct type of intervention when she was a child she might have had a better outcome. My heart really breaks for all involved, and for your sister, who thought that that was her only option back then. Her story is not a rare case, which is also very sad.
      At her age, I am not sure what you can do for her, but here as some resources you can look towards:
      Read this:
      It sounds like perhaps there is more than just RAD going on here, so without all the details its hard for me to help, but start there, and see what the evaluation comes up with. I would get involved as much as you can with the facility where she is housed, try to get her perhaps in adult foster care where she can be monitored and cared for... it sounds like there may be enough mental issues that she should qualify for some kind of monitored live in care.