Tuesday Topic: When RAD Interferes

This week’s Tuesday Topic comes from Lori who asks,

Our son has been home for just over two years and has been diagnosed with ADHD as well as RAD.  He also has an extremely high level of anxiety.  (He sees a therapist weekly.)  We have had so much difficulty with discipline.  Our son’s way of coping is to be under the radar.  He does not act out, throw tantrums, be aggressive or angry.  His tools are manipulation and deception.  That makes discipline so very difficult.  We rarely catch him in the act – we usually find out what he has done later.

We have tried pretty much every parenting and discipline strategy we can think of (or have read about or advice from the therapist), but they don’t work with him because he has no relationship with us due to the RAD.  He doesn’t care.

I’m wondering if anyone dealing with a kid like this has some ideas about discipline/training for us.  Do you just end up ignoring certain behaviors (stealing/lying) and focus on working on attachment?  Of course, attachment is our main goal, but we also want to teach our son how to interact appropriately with his family as well as in the world.  We are at our wit’s end!

This is a great question that I know many of us have had to ask. Please take a moment to leave a thought, suggestion, or word of encouragement for Lori.

If you have a Tuesday Topic you would like me to share, please email it to me at lisa@onethankfulmom.com and put “Tuesday Topic” in the subject.  I always look forward to getting more questions!

Thank you for being such a wonderful, supportive community.

Encourage one another,

Lisa 

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

21 Comments

  1. Heather Snyder
    April 30, 2013

    I highly suggest Karyn Purvis. She incourages "Correcting while connecting". It's done wonders with our kids. Her book is The Connect Child. You can also check out Empowered to Connect.

    Reply
  2. Keisha
    April 30, 2013

    Lori…
    If I didn't know any better…. I would have sworn that I wrote this! We've been home for 3 mths. This sounds like our son. I have absolutely NO suggestions.. as nothing has worked for us either. Thankfully we've had a good week …so far…..
    We TOO struggle with this very thing! We "believe" our son is ADHD & has R.A.D. We are having him tested for ADHD. But, we are almost POSITIVE! We live in a SMALL town.. where I know a few adoptive families… but, none have experienced what we are experiencing… We just PRAY.. and Thank GOD for each good day!
    Right there with ya! Hang in there… God called us to these Precious children and I am CERTAIN He will make a way for us to learn "how to" discipline these boys.

    Reply
    1. Brianne
      May 1, 2013

      This probably doesn't apply to a child adopted from foster care, and I'm not sure what your son's background was like…but at 3 months in, I felt like my son (post-institutional) had half a page of diagnoses. At least. Some scarier than others. As his language increased and he settled in, we saw a huge decrease in negative behaviors. What looked like extreme ADHD was most likely a combination of his inability to organize himself/attend due to lack of practice, an auditory processing impairment and anxiety. My kiddo still has attention issues and he can be hyperactive in unfamiliar or stressful environments, but it's not nearly as bad as it was in the beginning. If I had to do it over again, I would try not to predict what the future would look like based on the present behaviors, because what I imagined and what IS are two very different things.

      Reply
  3. Vicki
    April 30, 2013

    I could have written this post about my 5 year-old son, home for exactly a year and a half, tomorrow. His behavior is exactly what you've described. We haven't pursued an official diagnosis but I do see obvious signs of attachment disorder. The difference is that he IS attaching to us on some level. He's affectionate without any hidden agenda, loving, remorseful when he's done wrong, and generally, a very joyful child. BUT…he has SO much anxiety. Most people see a very carefree child – he is anything but. And the incessant chatter – that's a whole other issue. I love this child with everything in me and I'm at my wit's end trying to parent him. I know what I should be doing – and sometimes I get it right but more often than not, I know that I'm parenting from my emotions and doing it wrong. How do you continue to parent in a healing manner when you don't see any change in behavior? NOTHING seems to be working! I know change doesn't come overnight and we are in this for the long haul but I'm so weary of addressing the same issues day in and day out. Any advice is welcome, please!

    Reply
  4. Shannon
    April 30, 2013

    Our oldest has diagnoses of RAD, ADHD and OCD as well as high levels of anxiety. It's a very tough mix. I don't have any advice, unfortunately. Therapy, trial and error, the right mix of medication if you choose to go that route and lots of patience. We are very fortunate in that our son has formed tight bonds with us, but unfortunate in that he does struggle with aggressive tendencies. Be sure you are getting the support you need as well. Blessings to you and your family.

    Reply
  5. Kara
    April 30, 2013

    Oh, friend. I’m walking with you. The only comfort I can tell you is that we find peace, my husband, son and I, in reading the book of Isaiah aloud over him. We too have therapists and have read every RAD book. I would say the best ongoing tool is to keep my son next to me all the time. Less opportunity for misbehaving and pro attachment. It does take a toll on me. Hugs and prayers.

    Reply
  6. Laila
    April 30, 2013

    I would focus most on attaching with him. When we did this with our adopted/RAD daughter, her behaviors lessened, but it takes time. We work on "filling her up" with our love, hugs, having her sit on our lap… Our counselor helped us realize that a lot of her behavior is fear based. So when we changed our perspective on her behavior, things started clicking. I know how these kids act, it is hard to take. We want them to act appropriately. It is hard and embarrassing for us parents but we must remember healing the trauma these kiddos went through takes time. They need our love so much even if they act like they don't want it. I get help from books/websites from Nancy Thoms, Dr. Karen Purvis, Brian Post. Hang in there!
    Laila, Momma to C. home 5 years from Vietnam, adopted age almost 5.

    Reply
  7. gwenmj
    April 30, 2013

    I agree with Kara – pray over him. Have others pray for him. Read words of life and affection when you tuck him in or if he won't let you – when he is sleeping. When our littlest was younger he was small enough we held him for an hour (set the clock) but I realize this will only work with really little ones but as he is older we can snuggle in when he is sleeping.
    I would also suggest buying books like" I love you forever" and read them to him often. There is no magic cure and every day is a fight but sometimes something clicks.
    One thing we have learned (and forget often) negative reinforcement never works. We most reward good behaviour not take away things for inappropriate behaviour.

    I'm sorry for your struggles and I hope you find some peace 🙂

    Reply
  8. Carmen
    April 30, 2013

    I don't know if this will help you or not- Our son has anxiety as well, and one weird thing that has helped him a lot is going gluten-free. I don't understand all the science behind why it works, but anxiety in children can often be linked to diet/allergies. Here is a link to an article about it- http://www.livestrong.com/article/94154-gluten-ad
    There are lots more similar articles if you do a search. Going gluten free hasn't totally taken away his anxiety, but it is much more easily handled, he can remember school work better, he doesn't get as frustrated, doesn't get headaches like he used to, etc.

    Reply
  9. Jennifer Kayla
    April 30, 2013

    I don't have any experience with RAD but we were having behavior issues when we brought our son home. I had a friend suggest researching the color dyes in food. I thought she was crazy but as I began to research it and more importantly look at all the food we had been feeding my son, I was shocked. Just about all his snacks had some form of dye in it. We have removed all dyes from his diet and I am happy to say, his behavior has improved tremendously. A diet change could at least help you with ADHD as the research I have seen is showing a link between the two. Prayers to you on your journey!

    Reply
  10. Linda
    April 30, 2013

    Pray! Not only for his behavior, but for strength for you to get through this time in love. You will learn just how wonderful God is to love us, despite our constant sinning.

    Yes, focus on attaching. The most important thing for him to learn is to love and learn to be loved. Behaviors, no matter how annoying, are secondary. It's better to have a child who can do things out of love, than a perfectly obedient one who can't. Of course, he could never become perfectly obedient anyway, so why try.

    Do not set him up for a lie. Do not ask him if he did something. Just have him "fix" it. So if you find a mess in the closet, give him the cleaning supplies and watch him as he fixes the mess. Do it with him. It can become an attaching time. If he complains that he shouldn't have to fix it because he didn't do it, tell him that you didn't say he did it. You just need for him to help you fix a problem. Oh, and do it with a smile or at least calmly.

    Don't let the unattached child set the mood of your house. This is where you'll need a lot of help from God, because the kids know how to get people in an agitated state. If you find yourself getting angry, say a prayer, count to ten, and practice all the relaxation techniques the therapist tries to teach your child, but don't work for the unattached kid.

    Time ins work better than time outs. If he misbehaves, don't send him to his room. He doesn't want to be with you anyway. It is much more effective for him to be in the same room and within arms reach if possible. Talk to him lovingly during that time, describe every task that you are doing, even if he doesn't listen. I know, you'll be chattering just like he does, but if someone has to fill the airwaves with noise, it's best if it is you telling him how much he is loved, or why the sky is blue, or that you are planning to make pizza for him for dinner.

    Find out what his triggers are, and try to help him with those. My son was extremely sensitive to touch, light, and noise. I had to cut out tags from his clothes, give him seamless socks, and give him sunglasses and earphones in stores. My daughter couldn't go one minute of being hungry or thirsty, kind of like an infant, even though she was nearly five. She would have a tantrum as soon as she felt the least bit uncomfortable. At first I let her have a water bottle and a snack at hand at any time. We slowly worked her to wait thirty seconds, one minute, two minutes…so that by the time she went to school in six months, she was able to function well in a class.

    It does get better. You will survive. Your son will survive. You are not alone.

    Reply
  11. Dianne
    April 30, 2013

    We discovered that our son also has ODD: oppositional defiance disorder. I urge you to check into this. With behavior therapy and medicine for anxiety and ADHA we have more good days than hard ones now. He even wrote my husband a sweet letter for his birthday gift about how he loves to spend time with him now. 🙂 With 3 children with very different health needs (type one diabetes, Asperger's syndrome, ADHA, anxiety, ODD to name a few) I know how frustrating some days can be. I hope that all who have posted here know that they are not alone and that there are other parents wishing the best for you.

    Reply
  12. Bridget
    April 30, 2013

    Oh Lisa — I totally understand where you are coming from. Our son was adopted at 14 and he had everyone on the outside fooled. He was a master at manipulation, deception, and not feeling guilty. Slowly, his behaviors were ripping our family apart. The problem was that our son didn't make decisions the same way we do — if he wanted it, he took it. There was no thought for consequence, only the immediate fulfillment. I had to come to realize that he learned this "survival" skill long before he came home. He learned to steal to survive. He learned to lie to avoid getting beaten (or worse). He learned to "not care" to avoid dealing with years of sexual abuse and abandonment. I had to focus on skills that would help him be a successful adult. Skills like personal care, cooking, doing his own laundry, etc. I had to accept that it would take YEARS of in-depth counseling for him to learn the critical thinking skills he needed to learn that choices have consequences and that those consequences could have long term effects that he would not like. HUGS to you. I wish my son's story had a happy ending — unfortunately, it doesn't and he's learning life the hard way.

    Reply
  13. Kathy
    April 30, 2013

    So wonderful to hear from all these amazing adoptive mommas! So much good stuff! It was so hard for us to learn that we had to totally change how we parented in the past. Our 3 new teens did not fit into our "tried and true" parenting mold. "Beyond Consequences" by Heather Forbes was a life saver!! She even hosts on-line seminars to help tired mommas find hope again!

    Reply
  14. Cici
    April 30, 2013

    A couple things not yet mentioned, GABA is a natural supplement that helps tremendously with anxiety. 5htp is a supplement that helps with ADHD. My son takes both daily and I have to say it changed our world. Also there is tremendous benefit from high doses of Vitamin C and daily exercise. There is a facebook group called parenting with connection where we discuss ideas and issues. I will also strongly recommend Bryan Post. And the book Lost at School by Ross Greene has great information whether your child attends school or not.

    Reply
  15. MomNoMatterWhat
    April 30, 2013

    We have three healing from RAD and PTSD, with some other issues thrown in. Our middle child is the under-the-radar flier. Our kids' behavior is a reflection on the amount of fear (terror) they are experiencing. We have to do most of the work with that at home, but our kids are also getting help from an EMDR/Somatic Experiencing therapist, in-home direct supports who help them build skills and regulation, therapeutic horseback-riding lessons, church youth group, etc. We also use in-home respite to help my husband and me have a little time to gaze lovingly at each other without someone melting down in the background. We also use the "Beyond Consequences, Logic & Control" approach. Many times, discipline is aimed at scaring kids out of misbehavior by giving them consequences they don't like. Our kids are already terrified and we can't scare them out of being terrified. When they feel safe, they act out less and are easier to be around.

    Reply
  16. Lori
    April 30, 2013

    I really appreciate all of your comments. Every single one! It does help to know that there are others who can relate to our circumstances with our son.

    I think one of the main things that my husband and I are finding out is that we are having to think completely different about parenting than we have done for the last 23 years. That is hard! Especially when we aren't sure what the "right" way is to handle his behavior. It is hard to see what the underlying issue is that needs to be addressed rather than the behavior.

    I agree with the advice to make sure that we protect our marriage relationship as well as our other children. We work pretty hard at that. Sometimes, I will admit, our son's behavior dictates the tone of our home.

    We do pray a lot! I know it is just going to take time and patience. Thank you everyone for responding. I am writing down all your suggestions.

    Reply
  17. Tricia
    May 1, 2013

    My best suggestions are work on the relationship/attachment first with the help of a therapist. And have you and your husband work on your own "stuff" with a therapist. Biggest difference made here with those things. Hang in there – this is HARD work!

    Reply
    1. Lori
      May 1, 2013

      You are so right Tricia. Thank you for the encouragement!

      Reply
  18. Melissa
    May 2, 2013

    We also have a child with severe attachment issues that we brought home at age 6.5 from Ethiopia three years ago. In addition to many of the things you all have suggested, I bring a couple more things to the table that we have seen some success with. One is a program (that you can do on-line or if you live in CA or CO, you can do in person) called Brain Highways. It has helped with raging- and rebuilding brain connections that were severely underdeveloped before in her lower brain. Also, I am almost done reading a PHENOMENAL book called Adoptive Parent, Intentional Parent by Stacy Manning. SO PRACTICAL and reassuring that we are doing the right things- and of course, have plenty to work on in order to keep building our child's safety net. Last thing that we are going to pursue this summer: neurofeedback. I have heard great things about it helping children with RAD (and ADHD) to learn how to regulate themselves and it looks like a good step to take for our daughter. I also just ordered the book Zones of Regulation, which I have heard great things about but I haven't tackled just yet. After reading and learning from Brian Post, it seems that self-regulation is the first step toward attachment. And, since our child has hardly been regulated in 3 years, her attachment is also extremely limited. So thankful for this space to share resources!!!

    Reply
  19. alice
    June 7, 2013

    Keep it up ladies. Parenting is tough. But there's a light at the end of the tunnel

    Reply

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