Thursday, April 05, 2012

RAD Reappears

I mentioned in my post yesterday that Joshie is heading into another episode with RAD, and clearly that is what is happening.  I always try to share here about our experiences with Reactive Attachment Disorder for a couple of reasons.  First of all, the media tends to highlight the worst cases, and folks tend to make assumptions about a child with that, Josh has not tried to burn the tail off of cats, nor has he stood at the foot of our bed with an ax in hand.

And yes, the potential was absolutely there.

Those who know only the Joshie of today certainly must think I am exaggerating with that kind of statement, but believe me, I am not.  RAD is nothing to mess with, it is a soul killer.  If the child I encountered in infancy had been left to his own devices and had we lived in denial saying "Oh, it'll all be OK...we'll just love him through it!" we would have a very, very different child in front of us, probably one I would be afraid of at 9 years old.

Another reason I try to openly explain what we are going through is because there are very, very few folks who do.  You hear about the extremes, and yet you seldom have parents who blog or write much about what happens long term with children who are healing from RAD.  We know what they are like as infants, and we know what they are like as teens, but what about those who have made progress?  What happens after those terrible toddler years?

For some reason, parents are embarrassed and ashamed to share, as if they created the problem, and consequently no one has the opportunity to learn from them. They end up judging themselves unfairly for being unable to create a loving relationship with a child whose ability to do so is terribly damaged, for they fear it reflects on them.  So I have continued to write, to keep the blog public, and yes, our children know I write about all we have gone through.  Believe it or not, they are supportive and encourage me to do so, for as Kenny put it recently "Mom, maybe someone can not be as frustrated as you have been.  Maybe someone can learn about kids like me and it will be easier for them with their child.  It's like having a secret that can save someone, and you won't share it.  I am proud of you for telling our story because its a good one and it helps other people."

So, here we sit, 8 years post adoption with Joshua, who at 9 years old is bright, funny, tender and very connected.  He also harbors great fears that come out in an almost cyclical timetable, and I had just told someone this week that he was doing great and I was surprised as we are sort of "due" for a flare up,  Next time I am shutting my mouth.  That very night I came home and Dominick told me "Josh is starting to freak out over the dog, he is afraid Sunny will get lost and has asked over and over again tonight where she is."  the next day, Joshie asked no less than a dozen times where the dog was, was she safe, and he couldn't settle in without actually seeing where she was.  He, who is Mr. Stable most of the time, had a melt down over school work when there was no pressure at all and he was merely writing a story.  He also panicked when we were at the park, and Dominick and I moved the car to get the kids...the other kids reported that he immediately got scared even though we moved just a few parking spots over while he was watching the car.  I am betting we have some night terrors arise over the next week or so, and probably bed wetting again as well, for he is literally terrified in his sleep as he cries out "Mommy...mommy...don't leave me!"

And this is 8 years later, and he was only 11 months old.

Yea, I know, no one believes it.  I hate that we have to.  He has incredibly supportive siblings who all care and understand that he can't easily get rid of those emotions that creep up.  They nurture him, they love him, they soothe him and reassure him as best they can.  It helps.  But the only thing that really would have helped is if he had never been abandoned in the first place.

Thankfully it is not constant, thankfully he feels as fully connected as he ever will.  Sometimes I wonder if he will ever, ever really shake it off, or if he will spend his entire life with this lingering insecurity.  All we can do is continue to support him, to point out how strong he is growing internally and help him tap that strength, and to be there as best we can be.

We will see what the coming weeks bring, maybe he'll only be obsessing over the dog for another couple of weeks...or maybe a couple months.  At least he won't be washing his hands raw, nor is he currently plucking his eyelashes constantly.  Yes, a little OCD in the mix as well :-)

With Team LaJoy, there is never, ever a dull moment.


Anonymous said...

Oh Cindy, my heart is full many things. Sadness for Joshie but also thankfulness that you are all there for him and with him. Every time he goes through this allows for so much healing as he is embraced by the completeness of the love he gets from his family. His siblings experience such growth as well as they see how the unity of their family, how each of them, has such value. I feel YOUR pain as you endure the hardest thing a parent can do - watch their child suffer. Remember what you recently reminded me of? The depth of pain endured, challenges faced, allows for even deeper joy. You are providing Joshie with exactly what he needs. Will he ever forget? Will he ever understand it fully? Likely not. But he will know that he has all the LaJoy love forever and always. I wonder if this is all a miracle of sorts unfolding - through the pain, the tears and the fears. We know it takes more than "just love" to meet the special needs of children who have lost so much, experienced such trauma. That is different than LaJoy Love! LaJoy Love wins! Thanks for all you share! Love to you all! Miss Joan

Anne Birdsong said...

Sorry your son is going through an episode. Very glad to see you writing about it, though. Like you said, people are aware of the worst-case scenarios (courtesy, media), but are generally unaware of the middle-ground kids like yours and mine, as well as being unaware that kids adopted as young as a year or less can still fall victim.

I just recently started writing a weekly series on RAD on my blog. If anyone is interested, you can find it here:

Keep us posted, Cindy!

Kimberly said...

We have a Joshie too. I love that name. :)

You know, I have gone back and forth on what to blog about regarding my kids and all their challenges. I think you have to know your kids. I am not ashamed or feel responsible for what they go through but I know that our Joshie would FREAK OUT if he knew that people were reading about him. Part of his anxiety issues are what other people think of him, at 5. I am very thankful for people like you who do share so openly.

Let's add "talk about RAD" to the list for next week!

B.A. said...

Cindy, I would sure like to know more about what you did to help Josh in the early days. I have a 6 yr old adopted 3 yrs ago and we are struggling terribly. I'm trying to use the methods in the Beyond Consequences book by Heather Forbes. My daughter is seeing a play therapist. But I know we need to be doing more and i don't know what that is.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cindy,
Sorry to hear Joshie is going through another bout of insecurity. How wonderful for him to have parents who are aware and proactive in helping him through it. We too see RAD rear it's head in a cyclical nature. In fact, every Feb and March are 'interesting' in our house. A little different to Joshie, we see more pushing of boundaries and pulling away than anxiety - but as you state, each child is unique. Each year the symptoms become smaller and less apparent but it saddens me to see the issue continue to appear. We have other cycles, but none as obvious and all-encompassing as the "new year" one. The good news is I think we're almost out on the other side of this one for now :)

To B.A. above, I know I don't know you or exactly what you're going through, but after 5 years of RAD (age 7 coming home; age 12 now and doing really well most of the time) and 3.5 years of attachment therapy, I would strongly suggest that if your play therapy does not include you as the mom being present and actively participating, to look for an attachment therapist. Most traditional play therapy that I know of does not include actively building the parent/child relationship, which is the missing piece for these kids. I'm not saying play therapy is not useful, I'm just not sure it's as effective for RAD situations as targeted attachment therapy. This is based on my experience and that of other parents of adopted kids I know. Please don't think I'm criticizing anything you have done so far; it's just that we were in a very rough spot before finding our attachment therapist and we have come so far, I tend to get vocal when I think I can provide helpful advice for others in similar RAD-related situations :) Again - each child is unique and no-one knows your child better than you. If you do end up looking for an attachment therapist there are some lists at and also at Wishing you all the best!