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Monday, September 8, 2014

Understanding RAD

I had many people contact me after I wrote the post on PTSD and RAD, asking for permission to share the article with family & friends who didn't "get it." I am glad I was able to help them out but at the same time it brought back those memories of "the early years." That period of time when we knew something was wrong but had no idea what. I remember sitting on the sofa beside our son while we had family devotions and wondering why I didn't feel the same love and protection for him that I felt toward my other children. After all, how hard is it to love a 2 year old? They are inquisitive about everything, always trying to do what they see mom and dad doing and full of hugs and kisses. I now know that in order to have a relationship the give and take must go both ways. When I cared for Braden, he panicked because he felt that pull of connection. In order to keep that feeling at bay he would push one of the babies or mess up their toys. It was his way of saying," I don't want your help." But since he was only two he needed my help. Imagine how frustrated and scared he must have felt? After kissing his ouchies and attempting to hug away his tears only to have him retaliate, I backed off thinking, this is one strong child, he doesn't need to be comforted when hurt. We got into more and more control battles. If the child refuses to dress, you can dress him yourself. If he refuses to pick up his toy, you can give him a choice, pick it up himself or mom picks it up and sets it away for a day. One thing you cannot do is make a child eat. As one therapist told me, "You cannot control what goes in and out of a child." When your child decides to go on an eating strike because he doesn't want to do something, who gives in? One mom told me that it is our duty to protect these children from themselves as they so need to being in control they will fight till the end. I remember one time Braden was refusing to eat a sandwich, just to be obnoxious and prove his point. I knew his MT (mobile therapist) was coming in a few minutes so I decided not to fight with him and let her handle it. Well she walks in the door and see's my sad little boy sitting dejectedly at the table and asks what is wrong. He told her he doesn't like his sandwich. I explained that he did like it he was just testing his boundaries. So she asked him if he would eat a sandwich if mom made a different kind. Of course he would! As I had my back turned making the sandwich the MT said, "He is laughing at you!" Umm, yes, he is! He just got another adult to side with him against mom! I have since learned to pick my battles and not make an issue out of it. I should have told him, "Your sandwich is in the refrigerator if you get hungry" and walked away. Live and learn.
   There were times when Braden would act as though he had made a huge turn around and be as good as gold. He was so good, I walked on pins n needles because he was too good. You say I am hard to please. Maybe so, but trust me, when you have a child who tries to manipulate you, you get very good at deciphering his motives. I thought long and hard about how to explain how we as parents learn to read our children who have RAD. One day it hit me, how do mom's know when their new born is tired or hungry? By his cry. Dean and I got so good at reading Braden that we often knew what was wrong before he did. See, he couldn't/wouldn't tell us what was wrong when something was bothering him. He would become hyper alert and on edge. By quickly running through the days happenings we could usually figure out what was bothering him.
   Your child will learn very quickly what triggers you and he will push those buttons incessantly. Children with RAD are like a wild animal caught in a trap, their senses are all on high alert at all times. Our brains were not created to live in a world of hyper arousal and the damage is great but I will leave that for another post. Braden had a way of knowing everything, whether we talked about it or not. For instance if we planned to go to Grandpa's some evening, we didn't tell him until it was time to get ready as going away was stressful for him. This was due to the fact that he had so many more people to read and his brain had to scramble to find words/actions so that he would know where everyone stood in regards to their awareness of his feelings. Anyway, he would know we were going to go away, even if there was no visible sign that we had plans. His therapist told me that these children can be in the basement and hear what is whispered in the attic. When Braden was having a good day it helped if we sat down and told him where we were going, who would be there and what he would be doing. We kept him in eye sight as he was much like a toddler in that he couldn't control his excitement level. Picture a toddler running and playing with his siblings, he goes and goes until he ends up crying. Children with RAD are the same way, they cannot "read others visual cues to know when enough is enough. They often end up hurting either themselves or others. Children with AD suffer from an inability to read others facial cues, so if you are reprimanding your child, he may laugh in your face. This is utterly frustrating if you are frazzled to begin with. However knowing why your child does this helps dampen your irritation. Some would say, "your child will never learn to monitor his emotions if he is not given the chance to learn by being with his peers." That is true, however that is a "lesser need" than learning to attach. Before your child can grow emotionally he first needs to learn to attach. A child needs to go through every stage in life and as long as the child does not attach, other emotional things cannot be instilled. God created us to first bond, then grow in emotional maturity.
  If a child has RAD he often has PTSD and will be triggered by sights,sounds and smells. You may be eating a meal and your child smells something that brings back a terrifying memory. Perhaps Dad beat him while mom was making hot dogs. Guess what happens when you make hot dogs? Your child panics and says some nasty words, kicks his chair and pushes his cup over spilling the water onto your lap. If you don't understand PTSD you will be frustrated and quite possibly send your child away from the table. The child then feels like he is being punished for his fear which is not at all what you want. The correct response would be to rapidly run through various scenario's as to what caused this out burst... what did I just do/say that could have triggered this? Then if your child is receptive, you can stand beside him and say, "You are safe, now." "Mommy is safe, Daddy is safe. " Other things to try are slow, deep breathing, standing up and stretching or massaging those tight muscles. You have to figure out what works for your child. Ours all respond differently and it takes trial and error to learn what works best.
   By no means do I have all the answers but after several years of therapy sessions, I have come to understand the basic elements of attachment and a few techniques to hasten that attachment. And as a disclaimer, all children respond differently, what has worked for us may not work for you.
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