Amazing Parents

Sometimes it\’s AMAZING. Sometimes it\’s just A MAZE.

When Love Is Not Enough

Six years ago a little toddler came into my home. He was shy, quiet, curious, and creepy. He didn’t play with his toys, laugh at jokes, or do the things the other kids his age were doing. He wanted me to hold him, but when I picked him up he rebelled against the affection. He would dig his chin into my shoulder until it hurt when I hugged him. He would cry for literally hours at a time for seemingly no reason whatsoever. If he got hurt, he most likely wouldn’t cry much at all and then wouldn’t let me touch him or offer a band-aid.

Everything in me knew that this was wrong….but….

The counselors, the “experts”, the teachers, members of our church, our family, our friends….they ALL said the same thing: “Just love him.” So, that’s what I did.

We got rid of our TVs, focused in on our baby, and tried to get settled into our new lives together. We sat and read one book after the other day after day after day with him. I held him even when he didn’t want me to. I tried to teach him nursery rhymes and lullabies. I even bought a baby sling and carried him in it almost 12 hours every day for that first year. He watched the world from my body, feeling my heart beat, feeling my sways and steps.

But at the end of that first year, he turned 2,and he wasn’t “better”. His temper tantrums were in fact much worse. His defiance was almost uncontrollable. His crying fits turned into screaming fits. He wouldn’t eat hardly anything, although we were finding food hidden in his bedroom, rotten and gnawed on. Still, the whole wide world just chimed together, “Just love him“. And so I did.

By the time he was 3, we had spent so much one on one time together every day that I really thought we were building a bond. It seemed as though he was starting to listen to me, pay attention to me. He not only knew the alphabet and all thier sounds, but he was beginning to read short books. He could count and add numbers on his little chalk board and I thought that maybe he was starting to change, starting to really take me into himself.

But after 3 came 4, and I wondered if he would even be ready for kindergarten. He might have been progressing academically, but emotionally he was still like a little baby. He could not follow the basic commands of ‘Come here’, ‘Sit down’, ‘No’, etc. He still could not stay within simple boundaries that we’d set. He couldn’t leave my sight without panicking, much like a 12 month old displaying that typical seperation anxiety would be. But when I returned from the bathroom or the laundry room, and I hugged him and told him, “See, I’m still here,” my comfort didn’t stop his panic. The crying and the screaming would not stop. But by now, Tyler was 5 and had lived in a loving, stable, predictable home for 4 years straight. We fed him, held him, never left him. Shouldn’t he be better by now?

Everyone said, “Look how far he’s come….Don’t forget how wounded he was….Look at what his mother did….Just continue to love him.” Their words were meant to help, but by now nothing anyone said helped us. Instead of us feeling empowered and comforted by the people we turned to for help, we felt helpless and weak. And as the years went by nothing anybody ever said made any sense. “Just love him” held no value, since we’d tried that for years with no results. Telling us to “Just love him” was now an insult to our parenting, to us as people. Just love him? He is our boy, our child, our son. We fought for him in court. We sacrificed everything we had to get him. I quit my job, I quit school to help this boy. We’d literally rearranged our whole life for him and given him 200% every day for years. We DO love him! We have tried that! Don’t you think we’ve tried to love him!?

Then there were the other types of advice that people loved to offer. At first these suggestions seemed helpful too, but eventually anything anybody said left a sour taste in my mind and sometimes the so-called advice would literally turn my stomach. I began to see everyone as uneducated and rude. The “Maybe he needs more structure,” and the “Maybe you’re too strict” — neither went over well with me. I’d often get those two suggestions on the same day, during the same outing, by 2 members of the same family we’d been to dinner with. It was days like that, that my heart would break so much. It was advice like that, that left me feeling hopeless for Tyler’s problems. Which way should we go, how should we handle this, what should we do? Are we too strict? We were too loose? Well, which was it?!!! And somebody tell me NOW before my child gets worse, before my heart breaks completely, before I lose sight of what it means to be a mom.

Six years ago that toddler came into my home. He grew into a boy who never got better, despite anything we tried. We waited six long, exhausting years before something someone said made any sense at all. A wise woman eventually asked me, “Have you ever heard of Reactive Attachment Disorder?” I naively answered, “No.” I’ll never forget the things she said that day. Would I someday find the light at the end of the tunnel? Would the maze end up navigable? Will my child be ok afterall?

For the first time in six years, I had a strange feeling in my gut. A feeling I hardly recognized. That feeling was hope. And that hope made me feel surprisingly safe.

The words that that wise woman spoke that day led us to getting Tyler a Psychological Evaluation. The results showed that Tyler did indeed have the terrible disorder known as RAD. He, like many of the RAD kids, also has Oppositional Defiant Disorder.  He also has signs of FASD and he was definitely drug-exposed in utero.

When I got those diagnostic papers in my hand, I think I literally started running with them. I started researching and researching all day long for months. I read everything I could get my hands on and I listened to every word the psychologists said. I had finally found something that actually made complete sense. I was so relieved to know that all along my gut instincts were right. That what all the well-wishers had advised me for years, to “Just love him”, was not enough. My child’s problems were, in fact, not my fault. We had in fact done so many things absolutely right. His tantrums weren’t because I didn’t give him structure. His defiance wasn’t because we were too strict. His crying wasn’t because I didn’t love him afterall.

With a child with attachment challenges, there’s no such thing as simply telling the parents to “Just love him.” That is a very hard, painful realization for a mother to grasp, especially a heart-broken, desperate mother, who has already tried that for years to no avail. Yet one that, for me, made total sense.

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March 15, 2006 Posted by | RAD Education | 1 Comment

Helen Keller

The fact that RAD is a public health concern is evidenced by the long list of people we can rattle off who were known to have had RAD.

Some famous people who had RAD were: Adolf Hitler, Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, Saddam Husein, Edgar Allan Poe, Jeffrey Dahmer…….

Is the hair on the back of your neck standing up yet? Mine is.

RAD IS AN ISSUE OF CONCERN TO EVERYONE.

One famous person who had RAD, but who was treated in time, was Helen Keller — one of the world’s greatest humanitarians who ever lived.

Helen went deaf and blind at the age of 19 months from a rare disease. Thereafter, she lost complete connection to her parents, and to everything else she’d ever known. She lacked the words to process her terror and her world came crashing down on her tiny heart. She was terrified and must have perceived herself as being all alone in the big, wide, scary world.

Her parents experienced the symptoms of attachment disorder with Helen. She ate food like an animal, stealing scraps off of others’ plates. She screamed and tantrumed with deep, deep rage. Many people considered Helen to be a monster. Many recommended that she be institutionalized.

Although well-intentioned and ready to love their daughter, Helen’s parents lacked the proper parenting techniques that would have saved Helen’s attachment at that time. Exhausted, confused, angry, and heartbroken, they sent her off for help at the age of six. That is how Anne Sullivan met Helen. Anne endured until the tantrums ebbed, the terror faded, and love began to finally prevail in Helen’s life. This is when Helen Keller healed.

To read more about how children with RAD can heal, click the “Helen Keller” link and read about the life of Helen Keller in more detail. She will inspire you to reach towards these hurt children, instead of staying afraid and away.

March 11, 2006 Posted by | RAD Education | 2 Comments

A Public Health Concern

Approximately 2% of the population is adopted and it’s been said that up to 80% of such children have attachment disorder symptoms. These children often have long histories of maltreatment, such as psychological neglect, phsyical abuse, and sexual abuse. These children have likely developed Reactive Attachment Disorder.

That’s a whole lot of children out there who are unable to accept love from their own parents.

But not accepting love is just the tip of the iceberg with Reactive Attachment Disorder (known as RAD). The real problem is what happens because of that lack of love.

Many of these children are violent and aggressive throughout childhood. They create havoc within their homes. They have continual academic and behavioral problems through school. As adults these children are at risk of developing a variety of psychological problems and personality disorders, including antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and psychopathic personality disorder.

But that is not all. Children who have histories of abuse or neglect are at significant risk of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as adults. The risk of anxiety disorder in adults doubles for those who have been traumatized by sexual abuse as children. Their risk is more than 3 times higher than average of developing major depressive disorders. They abuse alcohol 2.5 times more often, and abuse drugs over 3.8 times the average of their non-abused peers.

This is what non-treated RAD kids have to look forward to. As if what they’ve gone through already is not bad enough.

Effective treatment of such children is a public health concern.

(Information borrowed from Arthur Beckman-Weidman, Ph.D. in a research article entitled Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy.)

March 10, 2006 Posted by | RAD Education | Leave a comment

Attachment Disorder Symptoms

1) Superficially engaging & charming

2) Lack of eye contact on parents’ terms

3) Indiscriminately affectionate with strangers

4) Not affectionat on parents’ terms (not cuddly)

5) Destructive to self, others, and material things (“accident” prone)

6) Cruelty to animals

7) Lying about the obvious (crazy lying)

8 ) Stealing

9) No impulse control (acts hyperactive)

10 ) Learning lags

11) Lack of cause and effect thinking

12) Lack of conscience

13) Abnormal eating patterns

14) Poor peer relationships

15) Preoccupation with fire

16) Preoccupation with blood & gore

17) Persistent nonsense questions & chatter

18) Inappropriately demading & clingy

19) Abnormal speech patterns

20) Triangulation of adults

21) False allegations of abuse

22) Presumptive entitlement issues

23) Parents appear hostile & angry

March 10, 2006 Posted by | RAD Education | Leave a comment

Support Group Needed – McMinnville, Oregon

I don’t know much about writing blogs or list serves, or really about accessing information on the internet. I really don’t know anything at all about computers (which my brother can attest to) or about starting a support group of any kind. And I’m slow in the ways of anything remotely sophisticated whatsoever (as everyone else I know can attest to).

I live in Sheridan. I think that pretty much sums it up.

But I do know a little something about living with a difficult child. And the pain and the fear and the hope that goes along with that journey. I have so many questions, so many ideas, and I wonder how many other people out there have them too?

That is what this blog is all about.

I would like to share my experiences with other parents in my area and hopefully be able to offer some insight and advice into this strange world of foster kids, attachment problems, and endurance. All three go hand in hand. And all three require a safety net of love, understanding, and knowledge to back you up along your way through the maze that is our lives — sometimes it’s amazing, sometimes just a maze.

For our family, it has definitely been a rocky ride. A very bumpy ride that has been full of many successes.

I hope over time that I can build that safety net for myself, for my family. A safety net, to catch us, woven together by people from within my very own community who understand what my family has gone through, what we continue to go through every day. A safety net where together we can rejoice in our successes, no matter how small, interchange information, and hold each other up with a united strength. But most imoportantly, with a hope that someday our children will heal and learn to take in our love more fully.

Please join me as we ride together through the maze of attachment disorder.

March 10, 2006 Posted by | RAD Education | 1 Comment