Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a little known, and even less discussed condition in the special education world. According to the Mayo Clinic, RAD develops when an infant or young child doesn’t develop a healthy, stable relationship with his caregivers.
This rare, but serious, diagnosis is typically associated with children from Eastern Europe, mostly Russia, who have been placed in orphanages, then subsequently adopted. But this condition can exist in children from any number of situations:
- placement in a children’s home/orphanage
- frequent transitions between foster homes
- inexperienced parents
- extended separation from parents due to illness/other cause
- a mother diagnosed with postpartum depression
- part of a very large family, so that parents have limited/unequal time to spend with each child
Children who develop RAD as a result of the above risk factors have a hard time building and being open to building healthy, long term relationships, especially with caregivers/adoptive parents and any siblings. Over time, she has learned that care will come occasionally, will be offered with indifference, or will not come at all. She has learned to be self-sufficient in any way that she can, even when placed in a more stable environment. This can result in aggressive refusal of help or love, failure to smile/show emotions, depression like symptoms that are not otherwise explained, and not engaging in social interactions.
Often, when placed into a more stable home with proper stimulation and parental support, the condition will fade. But many children and their families continue to deal with RAD over a lengthy period of time.
Should the problem continue or escalate, there are options. Family counseling, therapy, and parenting classes are all recommended by the Mayo Clinic.
The most important thing to remember is that there is help out there. This diagnosis is not a reason to hide, or to be ashamed. These are things that are more than likely beyond your control, created by a system that you may not have been a part of at the time. As challenging as it may be, love your child. He is yours, and with help and time, he may begin to respond to your love and commitment to him.