A few weeks ago I started our “Beyond The Highlight Reel” series. I started off with a basic overview of some terms, therapies, and diagnosis I would be discussing in later blog posts….One of those terms is RAD. RAD or Reactive Attachment Disorder, was one of the first diagnosis we got for Q. With a name like RAD it had to be cool, right? WRONG. RAD is anything but rad.
The Mayo Clinic says RAD is “when an infant or young child doesn’t establish a healthy relationship with their parent or caregiver.” Basically, when a baby’s needs are not met, RAD can form…basic needs including love, affection, and comfort. When a baby cries, the baby has needs that need to be met. Not only does the baby need their diaper changed, they are looking for a connection like eye contact, smiles, sweet words, hugs, kisses, etc. When this doesn’t happen, the baby doesn’t learn how to connect with the caregiver or parent. Thus RAD. Without going into too much of Q’s past, prior to his adoption, he was in a situation that wasn’t ideal for a developing baby.
Q, at the age of 2.5 had zero words, he was not engaging with us or others, he avoided eye contact, and justifiably so, he didn’t trust us AT ALL. He had this strong need to always be in control. He had fits of aggression when he didn’t get his way. He wouldn’t cry, much less seek us for comfort, if he got hurt. One of Q’s doctors explained RAD to me and told me that the symptoms of RAD often present themselves as symptoms of autism and often times kids get mis-diagnosed with autism or get diagnosed with both. Q received the later.This doctor also explained that RAD is fairly new and not widely known or studied so finding treatment, doctors, and information would prove to be a challenge.
I admit, the RAD diagnosis wasn’t a hard pill to swallow. However, the ASD diagnosis was, though that is a story for another blog post. RAD made sense. RAD seemed like something we could love away. Wouldn’t he see how much we loved him and how much we did for him in just a few shorts months? He wasn’t even 3, so surely he would forget about his trauma past and only remember the good times with us, right? We soon found out how wrong we were and RAD should have been more concerning than the ASD. We couldn’t just show him tons of love and affection and make this go away. Though we don’t think he remembers anything from his life prior to us, the baby’s brain does most of it’s development before age 3 which means crucial time was spent in an unhealthy environment and his brain missed out on a critical need in regards to love and affection.
After a few phone calls and a few months on a waiting list we found a lady who would become one of my most favorite therapists ever. We actually spent 8 months in weekly RAD therapy sessions. Q and myself went every Friday to see our counselor, who is well sought out in our area, for this special “play therapy”. We were able to help Quin, through play, see that I was trust worthy, that he was loved, and that myself and JHub were there to help him. This therapist gave me a little bit of knowledge that still sticks with me to this day…she explained that when Q’s needs were not met as a baby, his stress level rose…now he idles at a stress level higher than those of typical children so when something doesn’t go exactly his way he has fits of anger and aggression because the stress throws him over the edge where typical children could handle a little more “stress” because they idle at a much lower stress level. This simple way of thinking about things has really helped me understand Quin a bit better and be able to give him more grace when situations arose. While the therapy wasn’t the magic cure all, it did help and we saw significant improvements.
It is unclear if RAD will forever be present in Q’s life. I know that JHub and myself have worked tirelessly to show Q that he is safe and loved. We have had to PROVE to him that we are trustworthy. Unfortunately, I think he still struggles with this a little bit with new adults, specifically authoritative figures (teachers, etc.). Q has made some major improvements. He is talking at grade level which was a huge win. He seems to be opening up quicker, which is encouraging. He also seems to be forming attachments to his teachers which is AWESOME. He will look people in the eye. He interacts with children and wants to play with them. He willingly gives and receives affection. He will follow simple instructions. He will actually cry and look to me for comfort if he gets hurt. While he still struggles with things going his way, he is doing better with handling things not being his idea of perfect. The issues we were having when we first brought him home have started to subside, which we think is partly due to maturity but also with the attachments Q has formed with JHub and myself. The symptoms he had that qualified him as ASD are not really presenting themselves anymore which has his new doctors questioning if this diagnosis is still accurate. We have recently swapped doctors and hope to get a clearer picture of Q’s diagnosis and needs in the coming months.
While I realize I was a bit vague in regards to exactly what happened to cause the RAD in QMonster, I hope this post has given you a more in depth explanation of RAD. I am purposely choosing to keep parts of Q’s past to myself as I feel like there are details that are Q’s story and will be his to tell if and when he chooses to. I also don’t want anyone to have negative thoughts about Q’s birth parents as they are some of the strongest people I know and despite it all, JHub, myself, and one day when Q can understand hopefully him too, are so thankful for them. I will focus in on some of the other diagnosis, treatments, and therapies we have encountered in future blog posts. If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to ask–You can use the contact form to reach me.
There you have it, our first diagnosis, RAD. Despite the name, RAD isn’t rad!