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eBOOK DYNASTY: TOPICS: The Truth about Reactive Attachment Disorder by Linda Petersen
 
The Truth about Reactive Attachment Disorder by Linda Petersen
   

 

I witnessed a conversation with the sister of a boy who had been adopted at the age of two after being abused by his biological parents. As an adult “he has always been in trouble with the law and has been in jail”. Upon hearing this, a deep sorrow enveloped me. I have such empathy for that child, having three of my own adopted at a later age. It was with a sweet naiveté that I had them join our family, believing that love can cure all. Despite our family’s best efforts, love did NOT cure all. To pretend that it did does a disservice to all of those families living with similar children. As brightly as I may portray our family (and they ARE wonderful children whom I have never regretted adopting), they have serious disabilities when it comes to social norms. They have reactive attachment disorder.

To quote from Wikipedia, “RAD arises from a failure to form normal attachments to primary caregivers in early childhood. Such a failure could result from severe early experiences of neglect, abuse, abrupt separation from caregivers between the ages of six months and three years, frequent change of caregivers, or a lack of caregiver responsiveness to a child’s communicative efforts... The AACAP guidelines state that children with reactive attachment disorder are presumed to have grossly disturbed internal models for relating to others”. (Editor's Note: AACAP is the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.)

I have worked hard to form attachments to my three youngest children, and, while I like to think that I am a “normal” mom to them, I have to admit that they may have difficulty controlling lying without remorse, stealing just because they want something, or acting out if they do not “get their way”. My son who has autism and RAD has always acted out, kicking the occasional hole in the wall or breaking a window. Such behavior can be tolerated as a child, but when that child becomes a young adult, such behavior is considered “domestic abuse” and “vandalism”. My youngest daughter with RAD sometimes would see something she likes in Walmart and slip it into her pocket, thus necessitating a trip to the manager to give it back. I like to think that such life lessons have sunk in, but I cannot guarantee that, as a adult, she wouldn’t resume just taking things she wants.

My kiddos with RAD are chronic liars. I can tell they are lying by the vast amount of details in their stories. They didn’t just lose a school book on the way home, a masked man followed them all the way home, hid out behind the maple tree, jumped out at them when a car drove by and stole their book to use as material to start their fire. Their stories, which they steadfastly stick with, are creative and imaginative and complete lies, and lying is a typical behavior of a child with RAD.

I am convinced that their brains are wired differently. As infants and toddlers, they were not able to form emotional attachments with caregivers in order to feel secure. When their little brains were forming, and those energy cells which would turn into concepts of how the world works, theirs determined they could not count on anyone but themselves. They can be self-centered, unfazed by conventional ideas of right and wrong, and often willing to do anything to get what they want.

Dealing with such children is a life long challenge. I have done a fair job of instilling right and wrong in my children, not because they really believe in right and wrong but because, by habit, that is how we behave in our family. Yes, they love me, but let another “parent” come by who offers them a kitten, and their love will quickly switch. (True story… my daughter almost went to live with a couple who promised her a kitten!) Having the social skills to have real friends eludes them. RAD is a devastating disability which affects all aspects of their lives.

My heart goes out to all of those children out there who were unloved in their early years. It is NOT something they can just “get over”. I see people on TV who are arrested for this and that, and I hear their stories. Nine times out of ten, they were abused or unloved as children. I am convinced the loss of that initial security forever causes a permanent rift in the psyche that is contrary to the “norm”. To expect them not to be affected is naive.

Consequentially, a large percentage of people in prison were abused or neglected as young children, and I grieve their loss of “normal” lives, forever damned to seclusion from society as the result of their initial inability to form secure relationships in a loving family.

I apologize… This post is so unlike me, but I felt the need to discuss the issue. Please join me in listening to my favorite song, “Love Me”, by J.J. Heller. It is a song that addresses this very issue with a love that I feel in my heart. I hope you feel it also…I have included the words. It never ceases to bring tears to my eyes…

“Love Me”, by J.J. Heller

He cries in the corner where nobody sees
He’s the kid with the story no one would believe
He prays every night, “Dear God won’t you please
Could you send someone here who will love me?”

Who will love me for me
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me
‘Cause nobody has shown me what love
What love really means

Her office is shrinking a little each day
She’s the woman whose husband has run away
She’ll go to the gym after working today
Maybe if she was thinner
Then he would’ve stayed
And she says:

Who will love me for me?
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me?
‘Cause nobody has shown me what love, what love really means

He’s waiting to die as he sits all alone
He’s a man in a cell who regrets what he’s done
He utters a cry from the depths of his soul
“Oh Lord, forgive me, I want to go home”

Then he heard a voice somewhere deep inside
And it said
“I know you’ve murdered and I know you’ve lied
I have watched you suffer all of your life
And now that you’ll listen, I’ll tell you that I…”

I will love you for you
Not for what you have done or what you will become
I will love you for you
I will give you the love
The love that you never knew

 

(Editor's Note: This article was original published in Linda Petersen's blog, "Raising Five Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane".)

 

   
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