Treatment of RAD

Reactive Attachment Disorder, or RAD, occurs when the bonding or attachment process between a child and its mother or primary caretaker is disrupted or absent. Whether it is through neglect, unavoidable separation or constantly changing caretakers, children with RAD miss out on the crucial formative process of bonding that sets the stage for trust and future healthy attachment to family and friends. Reactive Attachment Disorder is not considered common, but by the time it is diagnosed, the damage is considered irreparable, although the symptoms can be managed through early intervention and behavior modification therapy.

Symptoms of reactive attachment disorder most commonly involve aggression, anger, lack of empathy or conscience, consistent need for control and an aversion to physical touch and affection. These behaviors can be very stressful and frustrating for parents and caretakers and it may seem as though none of their efforts are successful. However, between patience, consistency and positive support, the work will eventually pay off in the form of a healthy adult.

Support Yourself - When treating a child with RAD, one of the first things a parent or caretaker needs to do is make sure that they have the support they need. This type of parenting is not for the faint of heart and it can be helpful to have a therapist, family member or even a parent support group to fall back on when you are overwhelmed or need help staying positive.

Stabilize the Environment - Because a child with RAD is so distrustful of their environment, they constantly keep their guard up, which also prevents them from accepting or trusting the love and affection they do receive. Loving but consistent boundaries with consequences and a regular routine will help a RAD child know what to expect in his world and help them feel control in a positive way. This will also gradually reinforce trust as they begin to learn to count on you to do what you say.

Remain Calm – Remaining calm in the face of misbehavior helps show a child with RAD that feelings are manageable. Pre-establish consequences and then follow through without shouting or extreme emotion. Although children with this disorder will try to push every one of your buttons in order to control the situation, you will enhance their unsafe feelings if you become emotionally charged.

Remain Available - Conflict is particularly concerning for children who are insecurely attached. After disciplinary measures, be immediately available to reconnect as soon as your child is ready in order to reinforce love and consistency. If you were in the wrong, apologizing to your child and admitting your mistakes will show them by example how to appropriately react when they make mistakes.

Utilize Professional Therapy Services – Reactive Attachment Disorder can be tricky to treat and it should not be attempted without the assistance of an expert. Depending on how advanced the disorder is, there are a variety of options, both full time and part time to help you and your child learn to manage the symptoms and effects of RAD. These can include individual therapy, family therapy, special education services and full time rehabilitation facilities.

If your family is struggling with RAD, contact us at Liahona Academy for a free consultation on the treatment options that are available to you. We are a full time residential facility and we have a variety of therapeutic programs targeted toward helping teen boys with RAD learn to manage their disorder and reestablish healthy relationships. Call us today at 1-800-675-8101.

Tyler Clark is the Online Outreach Coordinator for Liahona Academy. Liahona Academy is located in Utah and specializes in behavioral management for teen boys. 

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