RAD: Answers?

Editor’s Note: This is part two in a first person series about Reactive Attachment Disorder. For more information on RAD, please visit the Mayo Clinic website or stay tuned for a follow up piece about RAD.


The next day we were referred to an eating disorder clinic at a children’s hospital four hours away from where we live. We packed up our family, and were on the road that evening. Interestingly, Jacob was smiling, laughing, and suddenly eating. He seemed to enjoy all of this attention on him, even though it was negative attention.

The next morning, Jacob was admitted. He walked away, smiling, and holding the nurse’s hand. He NEVER held my hand! The hospital boasted about the excellent team they have, and that most children leave in four to eight weeks. I was hoping we might finally have answers for Jacob. He saw five separate therapists, and our family also saw one of them. Jacob had around the clock supervision. Maybe, just maybe we would find answers for Jacob and our family.

Jacob ate all three meals that day. Even as I wondered why he would eat there, but not at home, I am grateful that he was eating. The next day we saw our family therapist. She told us what a wonderful boy he is, how everyone loves him, and what a great patient he was being. Since Jacob was an inpatient our family decided to head back home. My husband needed to return to his job, and I needed to sort out things with the school, and keep our other son in his daily routine.

Two weeks later, Jacob was no longer an inpatient and our family was living in a local hotel room. Jacob ate all day while he was at the hospital, but would throw up his food regularly at the hotel. The therapists claim he is a wonderful child, and blamed me for being too hard on him. I was being blamed for Jacob’s behavior. Jacob was diagnosed with an Eating Disorder NOS (not otherwise specified), PTSD, complicated bereavement, and ADHD.

Four weeks later, he was no longer eating at the hospital and was throwing up any and every meal he eats with us. Jacob’s therapists called my husband to come in for an appointment without me. At this meeting, the therapists inform my husband that I was the problem. I was being a terrible step-mother and it’s my fault that Jacob is the way he is. My husband was shocked and angered by their accusations. By this time, we were beginning to wonder if this hospital was truly helping our son.

I needed a break. The hotel room feels small; our family has been in panic mode for a long time. So I decided to take a moment and get a massage. Little did I know, this appointment would be the turning point for our family.

As I was laying on the table venting all the past year’s events to a complete stranger, the massage therapist began asking me questions about his ability to be touched and cuddled. I told her he HATES to be touched and doesn’t hug or cuddle “right.” He would either hug you so hard it physically hurts, or he acted like there is a brick wall between you and him. She asked me what his teachers say.

I told her, “They always tell me what a wonderful boy he is, and I am too hard on him and should relax.”

She said, “Do you know what RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) is?”.

I had never heard of this. She told me to go home and Google it. She had adopted her son and he had it, and the two boys sounded very similar. The next night I searched online.

Next Time: Forward Progress


4 thoughts on “RAD: Answers?

  1. So heartbreaking. The process for diagnosing kids is horrible. My cousin was adopted and has some issues — it took many therapists many years to diagnose her properly.

    I’m grateful you’re showcasing this issue on your blog, Meg! It’s so important and I know it will end up helping people. Awareness and the feeling of not being alone is often the first step to a happier life in the midst of (often overwhelming and terrible) troubles.


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