Figuring out if your RAD kid is developing an attachment to you, or to anyone can be difficult. At times it may seem like they are making friends, bonding with siblings or foster brothers and sisters and showing empathy for caregivers, at other times it seems like they could walk away from it all without a care. It makes it hard for a foster parent to gauge whether or not any of the hard work, the unconditional love and dedication you have given is making a dent in the complex condition that is attachment disorders.
I have noticed however that there does seem to be an indicator. I was watching a television show with a few of my foster kids once, two of which had attachment disorders. We'll call them Sue and Mark. The show featured a theme about friendship and sacrifice, where a man had sacrificed his life for his friends, and the friends had tried to save this man, and had also perished in the effort. It was a heartwrenching show about friendship that brought me to tears.
Mark, a pre-teen boy I had been working with for over 5 years with RAD was also moved to tears. Sue, who was also RAD, was not.
I discussed this difference in passing to my co-author Diane, who is a therapist. We discussed the fact that I wasnt sure about Mark's ability to attach and although he seemed to be attached to me, his caregiver and Father for all purposes, he also seemed to be able to walk away from me and consider being adopted by another family pretty easily.
He had recently begun making friends and joined some sports teams, and was beginning to understand what it meant to be a friend and to have friends. We began to wonder if that is why he was able to relate to the show and was moved to tears. He was making attachments in real life and that was proven in his reaction to the shows themes.
Sue, on the other hand, had recently experienced bullying in school, continued to have difficulty making friends and her ability to trust in her therapists, counselors and caretakers was at an all time low. Although she was doing better and was beginning to show empathy and caring towards me, her main caregiver and towards pets, her ability and understanding of friendships was not really developed. We theorized that her lack of an emotional reaction to the show was a measurement of her inability to understand the meaning of friendship on an emotional level and that it proved that she had not experienced that level of attachement as yet.
I have seen this over and over again, thinking back on it now, and I wonder if, those of us with RAD kids, could use this somehow to get a handle on where are kids are at in their attachment development. We all wonder from time to time if they are progressing and it can be hard to tell. If watching what might normally bring a child of a particular age to an emotional state (Charlottes Web, for example) and you get no emotional reaction, could it be an indicator of continued lack of attachment?
What do you think? Share your thoughts with us.