‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Time For A RAD Check-in

Anastasia, just in from playing in the storm!

Over on the left I have a list of some typical RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) symptoms. All of my fellow RAD mom readers will be all too familiar with these. And for you RAD moms -- can you remember the days before this list was familiar territory? Your life before RAD? Like me, you probably can't! However, in the nearly four years she has been home, Anastasia is slowly exhibiting signs that some of these symptoms are on the backburner now. Not to say I'm naive and thinking they will never rear their ugly heads again, but....well....I wanted to acknowledge where we've come from on this journey and where we are now.

I'll preface this by saying that the changes I have witnessed in her are due to a very multi-layered approach to parenting and, obviously, to my daughter's own ability to learn and grow. Here is what I attribute the changes to, in no particular order:

~INTENSE attachment parenting for four years.
~ Practicing the BCLC method as often as possible
~The switch from schooling to homeschooling and, finally, to unschooling.
~ At least an hour EVERY day of close one on one contact (i.e. cuddling!)
~ Co-sleeping for four years.
~Pet therapy via our three pets! She has benefited SO much from their unconditional love.
~Dream Talk - we stay in bed and discuss her dreams every morning, as they usually hold alot of her anxiety. She likes figuring out what they mean.
~Allowing Regression: baby talk, bottle feeding, feety pajamas, whatever she gravitates towards and not putting a limit on how long she needs it.
~ Psychotherapy: only 8 months this far, but helpful
~Medication: 20mg celexa has provided a HUGE relief from her anxiety and defiance.
~Letting go of the typical timetable: she may not 'graduate' at 18, but who cares? She may not learn to drive or get a job for a few more years...who cares? Not me!
~ Keeping the Love Unconditional. I promised her that I was her safe place FOREVER, no matter WHAT she did or failed to do. I stand by that. She still needs reminders weekly, and STILL thinks she will be sent back to Russia for the smallest infraction, but I just keep gently reminding her of my promise and doing all I can to prove to her it's forever.

Here is the list of symptoms, and which ones have changed for us (and which ones are still an issue):

~Exhibits need to control everything and everyone: lessened, but still an issue
~Constant chatter, manic behavior when dysregulated: now only before big transitions, like a trip
~Fascination with violence, blood & gore, or fire: MUCH less, though fire is still a bit of an issue
~ abnormal sleep patterns/chronic insomnia: still a daily issue: unchanged.
~Attitude of entitlement or self importance: lessened, but still evident
~ Food issues, such as hoarding, gorging: bit of hoarding, intermittent gorging. We are working on this one every day!
~Trouble understanding cause and effect: hasn't changed much.
~Frequent rage, often over trivial issues: MUCH better, happens infrequently - used to be every day.
~ no empathy/ difficulty with empathy: BIGGEST change. She definitely experiences empathy, especially with animals and children under two.
~Developmental/learning delays: not sure if this will ever go away.
~Destructive to property or self: Almost nonexistent now, unless extremely dysregulated
~ Fear often manifests as anger: still her M.O. This will take many years, I think.
~Argumentative, defiant: yes, but more like a typical teen now.
~Triangulation of adults: lessened, but still evident when I am with my brothers.
~Poor impulse control: getting better every day
~ Hyper vigilant: still happens in new situations, but to a lesser degree ( i.e., it doesn't happen at the supermarket like it used to -- EVERY week!)

So, all told -- huge changes. I'll try to do this check-in every six months and see how things continue to develop over time.

If you're a RAD parent, please add a comment and let me know what things have been most helpful for you in dealing with RAD. Of course, so much went unmentioned above. I give God (in whatever form you wish to call Him) the most credit. I know the patience I have developed is His doing. There is no way I could have learned that on my own!


  1. Like you, it hasn't been any one thing that has helped with Tara's RAD. It has been an entire lifestyle change. We have to have our days VERY structured. We have also educated everyone that comes into contact with Tara on what her behaviors mean and the proper ways to react to them. We have tried to make her world very small so that she has to depend on us and doesn't have much opportunity to triangulate or oget dysregulated.

    You are doing a great job with Anastasia!

  2. It sounds like you've made some excellent progess! She is lucky to have you.

  3. So glad you are seeing changes and she's making this kind of progress.

  4. Hmmm...what helps most? A lot of the same things you're doing, but also setting firm boundaries and being very consistant in parenting and accepting kids for who the are and where they are.

    I'm glad to see the hope that comes from families further down the road than we are. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Hi, thanks for checking out my blog! I'm not an official "RAD" mom, but sometimes I wonder--DD has many symptoms that you listed, but that has never been a part of her "official" labeling....It sounds like you have truly put your heart and soul into helping her become the very best she can be!! Sometimes (actually lots of times) I really regret that I have to work so much right now, because I know that DD would benefit so much from the attention, cuddling, teaching....but we do what we've got to do, right?

    I'm excited to learn some things from you--I didn't have much in the line of skills when we first got DD--and I know I'm still lacking sometimes...and with the situation with DH, that makes things confusing for her and tough for me...I'm very sure there are some things I could do that I haven't ever thought of--so thanks again, see you soon!

  6. Your list actually made me realize that Ilya probably has a bit of AD (how can I say RAD when it is minor and not radical??) Anyway - his sleep issues are awful. AWFUL. I find myself wondering if he is afraid of going to sleep at night... He is also somewhat destructive to property. Not in the way one would expect, quite, but he shows no respect for anything. Those are really the only two that I recognize...but they are troubling. I've made so much of a difference with the others - you can see it. But Ilya I still worry about a bit.


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