Friday, December 14, 2012

Can TV Test A RAD Kids Attachment?

by John and Diane.

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.

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  1. Interesting. I may try this with future placements to try to gauge early on if there is potentially a RAD issue there or not.

    1. Great, let us know what you think if you try it out...

  2. This is interesting.

    Do either of you know of any research regarding attachment disorders and water therapy? I've noticed anecdotally that in my younger kids reaction to water (bath, swimming, etc.) is directly related to their attachment (to us or elsewhere). This is a logical relationship in that fear of water and trust in a caregiver would go hand-in-hand as would trust in a caregiver and attachment, but that's about all I have on it from a research perspective. I'm certainly capable and qualified to do research on it but would rather let someone else run with it if it's already been done.

    1. Hi Mie,
      We talked about it, and have worked on trust issues with our RAD kids using the pool and swimming etc, but havent seen any research or anything specific about it either.

  3. My son has attachment disorder and is in therapy. He doesn't show emotions when watching DVDs/programmes for children that are to me sad and will make me cry. He's six and was diagnosed in August 20012, we are struggling with his school as they don't believe his diagnosis and he shows no remorse or emotions when at school, just anger.

    1. We have heard this over and over again. He is young enough that you can still turn this around. Don't give up! Please read some of our other posts on RAD kids.
      Here is a link to one about talking to teachers about RAD that might help...

  4. Hi Diane thank you for your reply, we are due to meet with the school shortly to discuss my sons 'issues' further and where he is academically as he is at least two years behind, in the UK children start school at aged 4 so he is at the equivelant level as a child going into their second year of school. We feel that they are still not listening to us or our therapist and the GP has just referred him to a clinical psychologist for a second opinion as school think he has aspergers not RAD. I don't know of any support groups in the UK, it was my step brother who lives in Atlanta that put me onto you guys through facebook. I'm at my wits end and emotional drained too as he has very little time for me or his dad and he definetely doesn't like school,trust them or feel safe.

    1. Hi again, thanks for checking back. That's interesting. We have just started writing more about Aspergers as many people are getting the same story (is it RAD or Aspergers?) Here is something we just wrote about it..
      Check the last week or two of posts as we have been concentrating on it lately. Maybe it can help. I think its great that your GP is getting you another opinion, that can only help. Also maybe read our most current post about being your child's advocate when you see your doctor. BE sure to document all the behaviors you are seeing and get some feedback from the your sons school teachers as well. Do you have IEPs in the UK? (basically a treatment plan for his schooling for kids with behavioral diagnosis)