Editor’s Note: This is part three in a first person series about RAD. For information about Reactive Attachment Disorder, please stay tuned for an informative piece following the conclusion of this series.
There weren’t a lot of links on RAD, but there was one that caught my attention. This one had a checklist. I love checklists. I filled it out. And, then I cried. I stayed up until almost 3:00 am reading and crying. RAD, THIS IS IT. The more I read the more I knew it was what We were facing. Some of the main symptoms Jacob exhibited were;
-Avoids or resists physical contact
-Superficially engaging and charming (such a wonderful child)
-Manipulative or controlling
-Oppositional, argumentative, defiant
-Unable to cry (except when forcing themselves)
-Destructive to himself
-Lying about the obvious
-Lacks cause and effect thinking
-More disobedient/argumentative/defiant towards the mother figure than the father
-Obsessive, repetitive, and violent play
I showed my husband the list. He wasn’t completely convinced it was RAD because he hadn’t seen him do these things. It was then that I realized that my son had been hiding all of this from everyone: teachers, counselors, doctors, nurses, and even his own father.
I asked my husband to go home for the weekend and to leave me there, alone with Jacob, so I could record him. Jacob had a complete breakdown that weekend. He told me if I ever had a baby he would kill it. He screamed over nothing. He told me he hadn’t put his clothes on backwards, even when it was clear they were on backwards. Jacob bounced off the couch and into the wall, hard, repeatedly. And, of course, threw up everything.
Once my husband returned, I showed him the videos. He was shocked! He literally had no idea THIS was how Jacob acted around me. From that moment on, my husband was 100% on board with the concept that Jacob might have RAD.
The Monday that my husband returned, we went into the hospital and told our family therapist that we believed Jacob had RAD.
She told us, “RAD is not something that is often diagnosed, and you are not qualified to make such a diagnosis. No, I do not want to see the videos because he is under duress, and not himself because he was in the hotel alone with his step-mother.”
That was the final straw. We asked to have him discharged, which was another two week process. In all, our son was there eight weeks, and as a family we were there six weeks. Our son was consistently throwing up, telling us we have to be nice to him “because his mommy died,” and weighed exactly a half pound more than he did when he was admitted. We left with a warning from the psychiatrist that I should not be alone with Jacob because HE doesn’t feel safe with me.
Back home we were put in touch with the MFLC (military family life counselor), and kept working on the process of moving with an EFMP (exceptional family member plan). Our son needed specialized follow-up care for his ED-NOS that was not available in the small town we were in.
My husband and I met with the MFLC before she met our son. We told her our story and that we thought Jacob might have undiagnosed RAD. She nodded and listened, she did not judge. This was something that I had not experienced before. When she met him, my son said his usual introduction:
“Hi my name is, Jacob. I am seven years old, and my mommy died.” “Nice to meet you,” she replied.
At this point Jacob looked confused.
“Aren’t you going to tell me that’s sad?”
“I don’t know, is it?” she said.
I will NEVER forget his face. He was shocked, and did not know what to say. I realized all the other therapists had TOLD him how SAD it must be that his mommy had died.
We worked with her three to four times a week every week for the next six weeks while our EFMP move was pushed through. She helped us with his control issues. In his particular case Jacob’s control issues had manifested in an ED-NOS. She also got him to talk about his birth mother, and how she had abused him. Jacob’s biological mother had beat him for dressing himself. She had told him to never grow up, and forced him to wear diapers. She had refused to feed him if he was hungry while she was watching TV. My husband never knew any of these things happened because she had convinced my son that “what happened when daddy was at work was a secret.”
After six weeks my son was starting to eat an average of 15 of 21 meals a week, he gained three pounds, he no longer slammed himself into the wall, he no longer had bathroom accidents, and the chronic lying was slowing down. We received our orders to move, and were ready to get to our new duty station. In the short time that we worked with the MFLAC we learned a great deal, and were armed with behavior charts, food charts, stickers, and rewards.
Next Time: Improvement