Educating the world about Reactive Attachment Disorder through experience, hope, humor and love.
(Warning: nothing here should be taken as medical advice)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pregnant? Relax - it's good for you and your baby....

Although RAD can frequently be tied to early childhood trauma, there are other things that can cause behavioral problems in children, including RAD-like traits. One of the biggies is stress during pregnancy. When my RAD was being diagnosed, that was one of the things they asked about – how much stress was her bio-mom under while pregnant.

My answer? “A lot”. We didn’t know she was pregnant when we moved from California to Virginia. Starting fresh in a new place where we didn’t really know anybody is stressful enough, but about 3 months in (after we found out she was pregnant), we also learned that HER mothers breast cancer had recurred and spread throughout her body. Over the next 9 months bio-mom made 3 trips back and forth to California to be with her mother. The stress of being pregnant and having her mother dying of cancer was pretty intense and led to orders of bed rest for the last 4 months of the pregnancy. Of course, it’s not like she listened very well considering her mother was bed-ridden herself, and she had an older daughter that she needed to take care of as well. One can only wonder how much affect that had on RAD.

There is also the question of whether RAD was exposed to meth in-utero during those visits. I suspect she was, which would certainly not help matters any. Drug/Alcohol use during pregnancy is another leading cause of future behavioral problems. But I'll touch on that some other day.

This isn’t to say, of course, that just because you’re pregnant and stressed your child is doomed to behavior problems. Researchers have found that two or fewer stressors are not associated with behavioral development, but as you increase that number, you also increase the likelihood of future problems. And they aren’t talking stressors such as what gift to buy your niece for her birthday, or sitting in traffic trying to get to your doctors appointment on time, they are referring to major stressors such as financial and relationship difficulties, a complex pregnancy, job loss and issues with other children. Major life stressors could also include a death in the family or other catastrophic events.

So what can you do? It’s not like you can just put off those major stressors when they come your way. Telling Uncle Bob to please not die until after you have the baby isn’t exactly going to help any either. Instead, if you find yourself feeling stressed while pregnant, try to find ways to minimize that stress. You can:

Try deep-breathing exercises, yoga or stretching.

Get regular exercise such as swimming or walking.

Eat healthy – this isn’t good just for you but your baby as well!

Go to bed early. Think about how hard your body is working to nourish your baby – take care of it and give it the rest it needs.

Put off chores if you can. Take a nap or read a book instead.

If you have sick days or vacation time, take a day or two here and there just to rest and relax.

If you find yourself facing a particularly stressful situation, find a support group if you can. Sharing your burden with others in the same situation can reduce the stress, and the benefit of getting support from others in your situation can be invaluable.

At your breaking point? Find a therapist who can help you minimize your stress and work through it. There’s no shame in asking for help.

Hopefully if you’re pregnant and reading this, it’s not stressing you out. Keep in mind that even if you have two or more stressors doesn’t mean that your child will automatically have issues. A survey by Australian researchers found that more than 37% of women experience two or more stressors during their pregnancy, and a majority of those children turn out just fine.

So go have a cup of tea, put your feet up, and tell hubby it’s his turn to make dinner – your baby will probably never thank you for it, but you’ll know.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Budget cuts suck

Ugh.. Living in California definitely has its advantages. Temperate weather, beautiful scenery (at least in San Francisco), just wonderful all around in almost every way. Except for the cost of everything – things here are far too expensive. Apparently, that includes the cost of helping children with mental and emotional issues. Beginning next year, AB3632 has been cut from the state budget. In a nutshell, California Assembly Bill (AB) 3632, passed in 1984, ushered in an era of entitlement to mental health services for schoolchildren with serious emotional disturbances.

It is precisely because of AB3632 that my daughter has been able to attend her current day treatment center, as well as her summer camp, at no cost to us. This center has really turned things around for her, and she continues to make breakthroughs the more they work with her. For the center to lose this funding means many children who need the help will be thrown back into mainstream schools where they will get lost, slip between the cracks, and fail to get the help that they need. Yet another short term fix with no thought for the long term consequences for our children.

I can’t begin to tell you what a lifesaver this center and others like it are, not only for our children but for us parents as well. It’s definitely nice knowing your child isn’t lost in a larger school where they aren’t emotionally and/or mentally able to handle it. Certainly takes a lot of the stress out of the every day!

It’s my understanding that they are going to fight to keep the center open, perhaps staffing it with volunteers and interns, but it won’t be the same. Without seasoned staff to handle the RADs, it’s certainly not going to be easy for them.

Perhaps things will change before then? Who knows…

Friday, August 26, 2011

Tossing your childs room

One of the (not so) fun things about raising a RAD is trying to stay one step ahead of them at all times. Actually, you need to be two steps ahead if you hope to keep any semblance of sanity. Since RADs can be ever so sneaky, they are masters at hiding things they don’t want you to find. Of course, this applies to any teenager, not just RADs! One of the things we’ve had to do on a regular basis is go through our RADs room looking for contraband. Think about all the wonderful hiding places there are! So, in order to be helpful I have put together a list (with the help of other RAD parents over at the Attachment Support Forum ) of hiding places that our RADs have used. Some of these weren’t surprising to me. Others? I never would have thought about them! Some of these parents put prison guards to shame..

So without further ado, here is a list of places to check when tossing your childs room:

Bed frames, any hollow part of a head or foot board
Look for slits in the seams of a mattress or box springs,
between the mattress & box springs

also look for the lining of the box springs to have been loosened to
provide a hiding place

In boxes or storage bins under the bed

Check the "legs" of plastic storage modules or cubes

Look in shoes, especially the toes, and again, especially if under the bed

Look in dirty socks left around, or if stuffed in shoes

Check pockets of clothing in hanging in the closet

Check to make sure a baggie isn't hung on the hanger with a clothing item hung over it

Check to make sure moldings haven't been loosened and contraband hidden
behind them

Check drawer bottoms by removing the drawer completely and ensuring
nothing is taped to the bottom

also check the inside of the dresser unit with the drawers removed, as
well as under the dresser and behind any mirror

check lamps. Some have a paper or felt bottom that easily comes off and
is not noticed as the lamp sits on it. Inside of some lamps this area is hollow.

check to make sure screws are tight on switch boxes, outlet boxes and
lighting fixtures as they make a good hiding place

Check to make sure smoke alarms in bedrooms have the battery in place, and not something else.

Check inside electronic devices, especially those that can run ac/dc and are plugged in. The storage compartment for the batteries or alternately, the cord, are great stashes. Also check to make sure the device isn't "cracked" open. Inside them is a great stash

Look for "Strings" coming out of openings. Pull on the strings to see
what is attached

Check inside chapstick containers or Altoid and TicTac containers.

Make sure TicTacs ARE Tictacs

Check M&M, Skittles and PEZ or other candy containers to ensure that they in fact hold candy and not pills.

Check makeup and especially lipstick containers. Empty ones are often
used as stashes

Check bottles of cologne or lotion to ensure they don't have booze in
them, if you find an empty shampoo bottle in the bedroom, or mouthwash
bottle, sniff for booze rather than shampoo or mouthwash

Check trash containers for "lumpy" wads of foil or tissue that can contain pills, powder or gummy tarry substance

Check inside the clothes hanger rod if it's hollow

Also check the inside of closet ceilings for taped envelopes etc

Check that books are actually books, and not been razored out of the
middle of the pages to create a stash

Also check behind rows of books in the book case.

check that tampon carriers actually have tampons in them, also check
feminine "supply" boxes to ensure they have only supplies in them

If you find Eye drops, nose spray, or Hemmoroid ointment or suppositories,
suspect "sniffing" or "huffing"

If your child has "Whiteout" or "Canned Air" or any kind of spray can in their room, especially if they go through it quickly suspect huffing.

Check "tool" kits and makeup bags as well as art supply and craft kits to ensure they're what they appear

If you find blackened spoons, or blackened aluminum foil, look closer for evidence of other uses.

Make sure that Pens have ink cartridges in them and not a joint or pills or a "rock"

cdplayers....pills can sit quite nicely on a loaded (pun?) cd disc......

Make sure that all meds in the house are kept in a locked box or cabinet and that only the parents actually have the keys. Many times, kids get their drugs from the bathroom medicine cabinet

In bathrooms, check all liquid containers to ensure they contain the
labled liquid. Any clear booze such as vodka with some scope or Listerine in it takes on the appearance of mouthwash

Also watch for nite time liquids or vanilla extract bottles due to their alcohol contents

Check the toilet tank and tank lid for stashes as well as under any seat cover as nobody thinks to look there

Money can lie flat taped under a toilet lid...only works for stolen money

Check the toilet paper tube. Most are two pieces with a spring
inside, leaving plenty of room for a stash

Towel rack tubes are another stash as many are hollow

Make sure and check heating and air vents and cold air returns. If the
grills are loose or screws are missing they might be used as a stash

Also, make sure that carpet is stretched and tacked down, if it's loose or has "cut" places, usually under a bed or piece of furniture, the pad can be removed and a stash can be under the carpet and in a cut out section of the padding

The arms/legs or even heads on baby dolls (and action figures) are often
removable - revealing a hollow body inside.

Also any stuffed animal toy that has moving parts. There is usually a
battery compartment. When the moving parts stopped working, child threw
those away and used the extra space inside the stuffed animal to stash
things. These are easily identified by velcro closures.

Hand puppets have large cavities inside with nooks and crannies to hide

Tissue boxes. The rectangular ones. They take out the tissue and add
thngs then put the tissue back on top. It does not matter if the opening is on the top or down the side both work.

Inside of picture frames, between the pages of a calendar. CD cases, inside computer towers.

Look along the top of door frames and along the bottom of any door in the room as so many are hollow or can easily be carved out.

Gloves or hats are another favorite along the inside brim or in the fingers.

The tops and bottoms of venetian blinds. You can pull of the
little end tabs and hide stuff in the bottoms.

A 6 ft bookcase can be emptied silently and moved silently to find things underneath it.

*** Do not oil squeaky drawers. Squeaks are your friends at 3 am.****

Tucked between the layers of folded clothes. Inside pockets of folded
clothes. Some jackets have hidden inner pockets. Inside the coat or
jacket lining.

Unused pads. They can open them, put pills in and reseal.

At the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper, under the dirty clothes.

In hall closet behind stored items rarely used; back of closet under the
'cubbies', in storage containers that you rarely look in e.g., holiday

Be sure to search your OWN stuff. Your purse hanging besides you makes a great place for someone to slip stolen candy into at the store and then retrieve it while you're busy putting groceries away.

Behind your own dresser. All child has to do is discreetly bend down and
grab it as they walk past the bedroom door.

School folders or binders with pockets or that are covered in plastic.

Tied into hair.

The hems of clothing. It's very easy to take a couple stitches out of the hem on the underside of a skirt or pair of pants.

Your plants...the stuff will be wrapped in a plastic baggie if needed and shoved down into the dirt.

Contact lens cases.

And Last but not least…

You will be AMAZED at what you find in the inside and on the outside of
your car. There are a zillion places to hide stuff in there. The ash
trays, the pockets, the space between the back and the seat, there's a
hollow space that can be pried off and used that surrounds the lock and
window controls, storage spaces built into the floor, there's light covers in there, floor pads, underneath the carpeting, in air freshener containers, in magnetic key containers that can be filled and then attached underneath the car (always get suspicious when kid drops stuff on the ground and has to kneel by the car to reach what looks like beside/under it), stuff shoved under the handle of the outside door, stuff wedged into the small bit of open area around the glass of the sunroof that you can feel into when you pull back the cover to expose the glass roof.

Is there anyplace we've forgotten? If your child has a favorite hiding place that isn't listed here, please share in the comments section below!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Warning: Parents may appear hostile

Understandably, a recent story about a mom feeding her son hot sauce on the Dr Phil show has garnered quite a bit of attention, much of it negative. If you look at the comments on Facebook or other sites, both parents and non-parents (who frequently tend to be the most critical of other peoples parenting) are up in arms about what a horrible mother this woman is. And while I can't condone what she did, my first reaction when reading about that story was "that poor woman". I posted the article to a RAD support group and the reactions were all similar to mine. Nobody condoned the actions, but almost every comment was along the lines of "I can totally relate to that poor womans frustration".

For starters, the child was adopted, which put him at risk right there for some level of RAD. Given the mothers' statements such as "When [he] gets a cold shower, I am at the end of my rope" and "Nothing's gotten the results that I want.", I can 100% sympathize with where she's coming from.

Few things are more frustrating than knowing your child needs help and not only not being able to get it for them, but then having to try and deal with it all on your own. Before I began really studying RAD and how it affects the brain, I frequently felt the same way. Well-meaning people would give all sorts of advice, swearing up and down that it would solve the problems, but it never did. Nothing conventional that we tried made much difference at all (and when it did, it was short-lived). So yeah, I've felt this mothers' frustration, I know where she's coming from, and apparently so do many of the other RAD parents I've spoken with.

The help IS out there. But very few people/agencies are willing to give it up easily. I know from personal experience how hard it is to get people to recognize that there are bigger issues going on that your child needs help with. I knew for years that my RAD was depressed and the root cause of almost all of her problems were due to her mother. But it really did take years of pushing before anybody really listened. I had to kick and scream and flood peoples email boxes, I had to take time off work and demand face to face meetings, I had to push through all the bureaucracy and resistance to get her the help I knew she needed. And I had to do all this while dealing with the frustration that nothing I was doing was working and my RADs behavior wasn't changing. It felt like I was being attacked from both sides when all I wanted to do what help my RAD get better.

"Parents appear hostile" --- us RAD parents might as well make t-shirts with that on em. Because at times we do. We appear hostile towards our children, we appear hostile towards the agencies that think they are helping us. We appear hostile towards the entire world at times because we have to. We can't sit back and wait for help to come to us because it won't.

Let's hope this poor woman can now get the help she needs to deal with her sons issues before her frustration pushes her over the edge and it's not just hot sauce next time.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Disposable income? yeah right!

During a recent camping trip I was looking around at all our ‘neighbors’, noticing all the trucks/jet skis/boats/etc they had. Being a friendly guy (for the most part) I spoke with several of them and they don’t make a ton of money or have a large inheritance but they can afford all of this stuff. So I got to thinking... I make more money than many of them and yet there’s no way I can afford this stuff. So where does the money go? Granted, we live in San Francisco where it’s really expensive, but we rarely eat out, we don’t go to amusement parks, or plays, or the opera. We do, from time to time, take smaller day trips but that doesn’t really add up to much. That’s when I realized where much of my disposable income goes – medical costs!

I have pretty good insurance (thankfully!) but that doesn’t cover 100% of everything. I sat down and roughly guestimated what we spend out of pocket and it comes to somewhere in the neighborhood of $400+ per month when you average it out over the year. That includes prescriptions, medical tests, co-pays, therapeutic care, eye and dental care, etc. It’s scary how quickly all those co-pays add up. And that doesn’t include the larger, occasional expenses such as surgeries, inpatient care, braces (oh yeah, ODD is due for those too), and of course Vet bills (did I mention we have 3 cats and 2 dogs?). Of course, compared to many other special needs parents, this is nothing more than a drop in the bucket - I've spoken with some who pay thousands per month easily. But, we do it for our kids so to me it's worth every penny.

But... there goes my new truck and jet ski. I wonder if my doctor will let me borrow hers? After all… We paid for it!

Friday, August 19, 2011

RAD Monkeys?

Oddly enough, I was reading an article yesterday about a study done on monkeys that linked anxiety and anti-social behavior with the stress of being separated from their mothers at a young age. Sound familiar? Sure does to me.

Sadly, the poor monkeys that they studied never fully recovered from the trauma.

In both humans and monkeys, stress releases the hormone cortisol which is used to mobilize energy stores and aid survival, but prolonged increased levels can lead to developmental impairment of some regions in the brain and actually results in lower levels of cortisol later even after several years of living a “normal” life. And if that isn’t bad enough, cortisol is linked to the immune system and is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Adults with a history of childhood maltreatment have elevated inflammation levels, which is one of the key factors that contribute to conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes and dementia.

So while we can slowly work on (but seemingly never cure) the mental and emotional problems caused by early childhood trauma, science has yet to figure out how to fix the physical damage.

Does this mean our children are doomed to lives of poor health and an increased likelihood of horrible diseases? I certainly hope not. If there is one thing I tried to take away from this article, it’s that science is now aware of the physical damage in addition to the mental/emotional, which means they can find ways to repair (or at least minimize it).

Can’t they?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

More on Cause and Effect....

My dogs are pretty cute (to me anyway). They are also pretty smart, but they have animal brains and, although trainable, they seem to lack solid cause and effect thinking. They can learn to sit, come when called, and even dance, but they can’t quite figure out that if they corner the cat it WILL claw them. So they do it over and over and over.

RADs are the same way. They have a severely diminished ability for cause and effect thinking. Which makes sense if you think about it – if a baby cries and gets fed one time, then ignored the next time, then yelled at yet another time, it never knows what to expect. Since the brain learns via repetition, the brain never grasps the concept of cause (I cry) and effect (I get fed).

This is one reason why typical parenting methods such as charts and rewards don’t work (no matter how many times people say it will). The brains of traumatized children tend to run on a heightened state of arousal and stress, which inhibits their use of the cortex by funneling that energy to the lower, more primitive, parts of the brain. Their brain state makes them unable to consider the potential consequences of their actions. For these children, immediate reward is the most reinforcing – delayed gratification is almost impossible. Without input from the internal regulating capabilities of the cortex, the brainstem acts reflexively, impulsively and sometimes aggressively to any perceived threat.

It is precisely this reason that it does absolutely no good to use the “normal” methods. When a RAD is dysregulated, they aren’t in their “right mind”. They aren’t able to reason, they aren’t able to think logically, they aren’t able to do much of anything except slip into survival mode. In his book The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, Dr Perry states “fear, quite literally, makes us dumber”, and if you think about it that makes total sense. Even the smartest person isn't concerned with how s/he is going to make money when faced with a life or death situation.

So if you have a RAD in your house, or if you are caring for a RAD, don’t bother trying to reason with, or discipline, or hope to make any difference in future behavior when the child is dysregulated. You have to get them regulated first, before anything you say will sink in. This is the premise behind Heather Forbes’ Beyond Consequences method, which seems to be one of the preferred methods among parents of RADs. If you are a caretaker of a RAD – no matter how infrequently – you owe it to him/her (and yourself if you want to keep your sanity around a bit longer!) to at least give it a read.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Diabetes Management and RAD....

There's one thing I don't think I'll ever understand. I mean, I do understand on a deep level, but at the same time I don't understand. Make sense? Neither does my RADs actions when it comes to diabetes management. And yet they make perfect sense.

In addition to RAD, she also has type 1 diabetes which means she has to take insulin to control her blood sugars. Anybody who has a RAD knows that they have a deep rooted need to be "in control". Which makes sense since they had to be that way in order to survive when they were younger. But when that need for control becomes potentially life threatening it's a whole new story.

Let's take a typical daily schedule - test blood sugars when you wake up, get a shot to correct sugars and cover breakfast carbohydrates. At 10am test again and correct sugars if needed so that when lunchtime comes around, your sugars aren't too high for you to eat (when she eats with sugars in excess of 175 the insulin is FAR less effective and she just remains high the rest of the day). At lunch, since the sugars should be normal, simply cover the carbohydrates you're going to eat and then retest/correct in the mid afternoon to prepare for dinner.

Sounds simple, no? One would think. But for some reason, RAD insists on correcting in the morning and covering breakfast (a good start to the day!) but then neglects to do a mid-morning test and tends to have sugars in the upper 200s or higher at lunch. Of course, being a teenager she's hungry so rather than waiting for her sugars to come down, she eats anyway and shoots her sugars super high. That requires an extra large shot in mid afternoon, which then drops her low by the time she gets home. Granted, this isn't all her fault. The school nurse *should* be coming in the morning but she doesn't (that will be addressed in the IEP next month), and the doctors orders she is working off of *need* to be changed so she's getting less insulin in the afternoons (that appointment is next week). But in the meantime, she continues to avoid mid morning testing and her sugars are so high at lunch that we suspect she's eating soon after she leaves the house in the mornings (that is the only plausible explanation we can think of for why she consistently "forgets" to do her mid morning test).

When we approach her about it, she gets really dysregulated and keeps saying "I get it", but she certainly doesn't seem to. We don't want to nag her about it, but high blood sugars now == organ failure later and no parent wants that for their child! Then there is the issue with the low blood sugars. Low numbers are more dangerous than high numbers - they can cause more immediate problems such as confusion, seizures and even death. We even had one instance where her sugars were low, she got confused, and ended up getting on the bus home in the wrong direction. We always tell her to carry raisins with her since they are a fast acting sugar source, but again - her need for control sometimes makes her "forget" those.

Thankfully her Day Treatment Center is way more on top of these things than her last school was, but we still have a long way to go. It's not easy trying to coordinate different agencies (i.e. diabetes clinic, school, etc) especially when you've already been triangulated against (as was the case with her last school when they called an ambulance for high blood sugars and refused to cancel it even after we were onsite because they believed we were abusive towards her - we're still fighting that $1,100 bill). The diabetes clinic doesn't listen to us because they, too, believe we are horrible parents. So they write up orders that we know won't work yet they think they know better, and the school nurses have no choice but to follow those orders (although we have asked them to call us because our word overrides the doctors, but in general they tend to follow what's written).

So we get to deal with this double whammy on a daily basis, with everybody pointing fingers at everybody else while RAD bounces up and down (both with her sugars and with the attention this brings her). It honestly wouldn't be so bad if she would just work WITH us instead of against us, but the RAD in her won't allow that.

Thanks RAD - I hate you (not the daughter, the disease).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fractured Families

I am an early riser. Always have been. Even when on vacation I get up long before everybody else, and this past vacation was no different. It was maybe 7:30am when I was standing in the lake up to my waist, with a cup of coffee in my hand, enjoying the beauty and quiet when I realized it really wasn’t all that quiet. Jet skis were zipping around like flies and the ski boats were starting up. That’s when it hit me – society has come a long way from the “simple days”. Don’t get me wrong – I like boating and riding a jet ski as much as the next person, and this isn’t an anti-fun posting, just an observation that was triggered by these.


View of the moon rising over our campsite

“It takes a village to raise a child” – people often regurgitate that quote without really realizing just how true it is (although I personally prefer Christine Moers' quote "It takes a village to keep a special needs parent from jumping off the roof"). People have always been nomadic, but they used to travel in groups and everybody would help raising the children. The trend these days is for families to split apart with people moving in all different directions. Which is great, until you have the over-stressed parent who has to work because the family needs the income and he/she can’t adequately care for her child. Since the family is nowhere nearby, they can’t help out and the child potentially misses out on critical bonding / care which is needed during the early years. Don’t get me wrong, there are some wonderful caretakers out there, and many people ARE capable of raising a happy/healthy/well adjusted child even with both parents working and no family around. But there will always be those children that, for whatever reason, simply don’t get the attention they need to develop those brain connections. This doesn’t even have to be work related – it could be the stay at home mother with post-natal depression, or a single father with severe emotional or mental issues, or any other of a number of reasons the baby doesn’t get enough bonding time.

Please don’t take this as bashing women who work, or stay-at-home dads, or anything else of the kind. Every family situation is different and people do what works for them – unfortunately, there are those who have to do what they have to do, and even with the best intentions, their children can suffer for it.

So what is the answer? I don’t know. I don’t have the answers (sometimes I feel like I don’t have any answers at all!). However, it does strike me as coincidental(?) that as The Family becomes more fractured and mobile in our society, the incidences of child mental health issues is on the rise. I just sometimes wonder if our “progress” is really that or just the opposite….

Monday, August 15, 2011

First day of school jitters...

Ahhh the first day of school. I don't care if you're 5, 10, or 15 - the first day of school as I remember it, was always full of excitement and apprehension. It is certainly no less so today. Both RAD and ODD head back to school today and I think RAD is more excited about it than ODD. RAD wasn't looking forward to school because her and her boyfriend had broken up and she didn't want to "face (boyfriend) and (case worker)". Not sure why she had a problem facing her case worker at her school, but she seemed more apprehensive about that than facing the boyfriend she just broke up with. Regardless, it appears she has made up with the boyfriend.

ODD on the other hand doesn't seem to be taking the return to school well at all. At the end of last year most (if not all) of her friends turned on her and she spent much of the summer alone. I did double check and neither of the girls she dislikes the most will be in her homeroom so she's happy about that. But after her grades plummeted last year from A's to a C average, we're looking at getting her into some better after school tutoring. Usually it's RAD who has trouble with transitions and that may come up over the next week or two (especially since she just returned from grandmas yesterday), but I guess if our kids were totally predictable we wouldn't be having so much fun, right?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Vacation over.....

Somehow we survived. RAD returns today (yay!) and ODD is still sleeping. Sunburned and sore we had a great time, and while I missed RAD the entire time, it was nice to have a break from the diabetes management. Hopefully she won't return without ODDs birthday present from grandma. Nothing could be worse. ODD is convinced grandma likes RAD better - even though grandma tries to talk to ODD and ODD won't come to the phone, refuses to do anything with grandma, etc - making it really difficult for grandma to establish a relationship with ODD. I don't know how to get it through to ODD that you can't really ignore/blow off/be mean to somebody and then complain that you don't think they like you. You'd think at her age she would get that but she seems to feel she can treat people as nasty as she wants and it's their duty to go out of their way to show her how much they like her?

Thankfully she isn't like this (much) at school. Oh wait.. actually she is - she has trouble keeping friends because... well... I don't know why - all I know is that she takes every little slight personally, even when it has nothing at all to do with her.

And school starts tomorrow. This should be fun!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Vacation Time!

Hooray! Today my youngest returns from a week-long trip visiting her auntie. I must say, it has been very quiet at home with her away and no RAD vs ODD competition for.. well.. whatever they compete over (which seems to be just about everything at times!). But as quiet as it has been, I’m excited to have her return. Next week is RADs turn to be gone so we should enjoy another week of relative quiet before school starts. Of course, this being the final week of summer before school starts up again, I am off to spend it in the mountains (RAD doesn’t like camping which is why she’s going to grandmas) where I can recharge. All parents need to recharge from time to time – that IS why we have grandparents isn’t it? RAD parents are no different as you can see from the photos below:

A typical RAD parent at the beginning of the day

Typical RAD parent by the end of the day

So anyway, this will be my time to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature so I this is going to be my last post until I return. Enjoy your summer wherever you are.

And enjoy your kids – this is the last time they will be this young.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A RAD Adventure #1

Ah yes, the wonders of RAD never cease to amaze me. My RAD is a master at manipulation and triangulation, and when she combines it with other symptoms it can get quite fun at times. Ok, perhaps “fun” isn’t the right word, but it’ll work for now. Let’s take stealing for example. One of the biggies for RADs is they will steal something even if they can have it just for the asking. Ok, so maybe I can get it if I take a moment to pause and reflect on how their brain works. After all, they got used to fending for themselves and learned that asking for things didn’t get them the results they needed. So they look out for #1.

At one point, the stealing got so bad at home that I decided to do what many parents would, and took her to the local police station. This was before I had any grasp of the concept of RAD and how these kids worked so I didn’t realize I was walking into the lions den.

Mistake #1: Taking her to the police station at all. A scary place for most kids, especially when they know they are going to get a “talking to” by an officer for something they did that they know is wrong. But for a RAD? What’s the point? Taking a child who lives with an undercurrent of fear to begin with and purposely putting her into a fear-filled situation is certainly no way to gain the trust needed to make headway in the long run, and in fact actually makes the situation worse as this pushes them further down into their mammalian brain and away from the cortex where logic is processed.

Mistake #2: Allowing the officers to speak with her alone. Here I thought perhaps they could gain some insight into her thinking and pass that along to me if I wasn’t there to stifle her. I figured she would be more open and honest without me in the room since we had already spent 30 minutes or so not getting anywhere. Boy was I wrong! If there is one thing I’ve learned about RADs, never ever leave them alone with an adult in any position of authority. They will triangulate and play the pity card like you’ve never seen.

Cool abalone shell? nah, just my empty coffee cup...

Needless to say, I have no idea what transpired in that room that night. All I know is when they walked out of there 45 minutes later, both officers had given RAD their direct phone numbers with instructions to "call anytime" she wanted to talk. What did I get out of it? Nasty looks and derisive stares as though I was some sort of evil monkey. Not just from those two officers either. By the time we got to the front door, it seemed like every officer in that station was shooting me daggers from their eyes.

Ah yes… I didn’t understand it at first when people ‘in the know’ told me that when it comes to parenting a RAD, you have to take everything you’ve learned about parenting and turn it around, upside down, and inside out if you expect to make a difference.

I just wish somebody had told the cops that.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

They Are Out There....

So I’m getting off the elevator at work and I run into a coworker who works from home. He has his son with him, who I never knew had Down Syndrome. This got me to thinking. There are far more children out there with special needs than we, as people, have any idea about. I don’t know the statistics for other special needs children, but while researching attachment issues I did run across these according to the Adverse Childhood Experiences study by Kaiser Permanente & the CDC:

11% emotionally abused
30% physically abused
20% sexually abused
13% witnessed mothers being battered
23.5% exposed to family alcohol abuse
18.8% exposed to family mental illness
4.9% exposed to family drug abuse

While I’m sure there is plenty of overlap between the groups (i.e. children who witness their mothers being battered are likely physically abused themselves), the numbers are still pretty startling to me. Of course, not all children in those situations will grow up with attachment issues – far from it in fact. But children who do NOT grow up with such exposure are much less likely to develop issues.

I was reading some other statistics that claim approximately 50% of adopted children suffer attachment issues to some degree, and they are joined by 28% of the children in foster care. I don’t remember where I saw those statistics but regardless, the point is they are out there. Chances are you’ve met them. If you haven’t met them, you likely know their parents but just don’t know it.

So if your child does have attachment issues, rest assured you aren’t alone. If yours doesn’t have attachment issues, you’ve most likely met one (or his/her parents). If you think you haven’t, think again – most children with attachment issues appear just as normal as other kids to outsiders. Remember, RADs can (and frequently will) appear superficially charming to strangers and are often so manipulative the adult will never know what hit them (we call it ‘RADsnacking’ since they are so adept at chewing you up and spitting you out when done with you).

My point? If you know of a parent whose child(ren) seem out of control, offer your support. Don’t criticize, and don’t judge. You don’t know what they are going through. Perhaps you can offer to babysit for them (All RAD parents need respite!), or just go help with shopping or whatever. All special needs parents who are able to occasionally step back and regroup are in a far better position to effectively parent their children, which benefits us all in the long run.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hugs n Stuff....

Last Friday my wife came home really upset over some things that had happened at work. And I think anybody would have been upset – if we could afford for her to stop working, I would tell her to quit right now. But we can’t (yet), so she has to try and push through it.

But that isn’t the point here. The point is what happened next. She was sitting at the table when RAD came over and gave her a genuine hug. A truly genuine hug with no ulterior motive. If you don’t have a RAD at home, this may seem like nothing special to you, but for those of you with RADs.. well… you know what I’m talking about! It’s rare moments like these that give us hope and the strength to carry on with what sometimes seems an impossible task.

I’ll admit. There are times when I see other happy families out and about, with happy children who hang on / hug / hold hands with their parents and I have my moments of jealousy. These parents who take such things for granted while us RAD parents struggle for any glimpse of empathy or emotion at times. If they only knew how good they have it! But then I look at my girls and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Every family has its good and bad times. It’s just that with RADs, the bad times have this naughty habit of outnumbering the good. But then my head clears and I can step back and realize just how GOOD we do have it. For non-RAD parents, a hug is just a hug. A hand hold is just a hand hold. But for us, it’s an amazing event. It’s so unexpected and unusual and means soooo much more if it happens only once per week. Much like when you’re on a diet – that slice of chocolate cake that you allow yourself once a week seems to taste just that much better. So it is with our RADs holding our hands (regardless of whether they are covered in chocolate or not!) or giving us a hug.

So the next time your child comes to give you a hug, hold them a little longer, a little tighter, and appreciate the gift you’re being given – I know I cherish them... Every. Single. One.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Love from afar

I have to admit - I don't usually pay attention to the "celebrity news" although from time to time I will scan it when I've run out of other things to read on the train in to work. I never have understood societies fascination with celebrities and the pedestals they put them on. I did the musician thing back in my teens/early 20s and had my groupies, and to be honest they were more annoying than anything. So maybe I'm just different.

But... this morning was one of those mornings and the first article was about how Amy Winehouse was getting ready to adopt a girl from St. Lucia. OK, I don't know what kind of mother she would have been, but if she was willing to adopt then more power to her. All children deserve a loving, stable home. But it wasn't the fact that she was going to adopt that caught my eye. It was that the girls dad was still alive (albeit in Germany) and had given permission for the adoption to proceed, being quoted something along the lines of "well it's ok with my mum so it's ok with me".


OK, so there are some things I will never understand. A parent not doing everything they can to keep their children being one of them. I know from personal experience how that can affect a child, and it's heartbreaking to watch them as they struggle to understand why "my mommy/daddy doesn't love me enough to be with me", which of course quickly turns into "I'm not good enough to be loved". My daughter has gone through that with her mother and it breaks my heart (although not nearly as much as it does hers). Certainly if you are in no position to care for your child, that's one thing. But even then you owe it to your child to explain it to them in an age-appropriate way so they don't take it all on internally.

Even if you can't care for your child, you can still pick up the phone. You can still write letters. You can still maintain a connection. You can keep their little heart from breaking over you.

So if you're estranged from your child, treat yourself and call them today if you can. If you can't, write them a letter. You'll feel better for it, and I can't begin to tell you what a difference such a simple act will make in their life.