Awareness for Everything – Except RAD

I get Facebook popups about different awareness groups all the time.  Autism awareness, Down Syndrome, seems like every other day there’s a new group, syndrome, disease or illness that has an awareness group.  People are pretty aware of autism now.  The kid may look perfectly normal, may seem normal to you, but when you are on the playground and suddenly that kid slaps another kid, the mother murmurs, “He’s on the spectrum.”  (And that’s supposed to make it all ok for the kid who was slapped?)  But, it’s accepted, and no longer questioned as bad parenting.  Good or bad, is not for me to say.  Autism awareness seems to have been made pretty well, at least in the USA.

Same scenario, same two kids, same two mothers sitting on the park bench.  This time, the kid slaps the other kid, and his mother says and does nothing.  You are aghast.  How could she let her child be such a brat?  What a horrible parent!

In both these scenarios, the mother does nothing when her child slaps another child.  She doesn’t intervene, get up, remove the child from the situation, nothing.  In once case she’s forgiven because her child is “on the spectrum” and therefore doesn’t know better, or some such garbage.  The other scenario, because no excuse is given, the mother is looked down upon.  The actions of the child were not different in either case.

Let’s take this scenario only the kid who hits is OUR kid.  Our traumatized, RAD kid, who is getting overwhelmed on the playground and disregulated.  We either miss it or hope he holds out a few more minutes, either way, we know a blow up is coming and we’re trying to avoid it.  SLAP!  He hits the other kid.  Every parents’ head immediately turns to look at us to see our reaction.  As a mom of RAD, we know things have now spun out of control and we need to get out of the situation as quickly as possible. We mumble a quick “I’m so sorry!” to the other mom and try to pull our child away from the playground.  We know a rage is coming on, we know things are about to go very, very bad with our child.  Whatever set him off has set him off in full-blown rage.  The minute we touch our child’s arm and say, “Honey, it’s time to go,” he screams as if you grabbed him tightly.  ”Don’t hurt me!” he yells.  You realize you are now the focus of every eye on the playground and the surrounding block at this point.  ”Son, it’s time to go home.  Let’s walk to the car and go home, then we can relax, maybe have a snack.”  Unseen by the spectators, your son gives his “tell”, the movement he makes right before he lunges at your face, trying to gouge your eyes out.  Preemptively you reach out and block his move, in no way hurting him or being aggressive.  To the spectators you just hit your kid, even though you technically didn’t touch him, he touched you.  You met him partway.  No harm was done to either party – BUT – he throws himself down on the ground and starts screaming “you hurt me!”… well, I don’t need to continue this scenario to the CPS, cops, etc. that have now invaded your life.  And suddenly, YOU are the bad guy, the bad parent.  Why? Because you intervened and prevented a bad scenario from happening on the playground, because you did what you needed to do to keep your child from hurting another child… and you are the bad guy because there’s no “easy” button in this case to say, “He’s a trauma kid, he’s making it up.  He’ll be ok in a few minutes, when he’s done raging.  I have to put him in this hold so he won’t hurt himself or someone else.  I’m not hurting him.”  If you had said, “He’s on the spectrum” people would have not thought twice.  But you don’t have that handy dandy little phrase.  You don’t have a button for awareness, or a tshirt, or a day of the month.  You got – nada, zilch, nothing.  In fact, you have less than nothing because you have the opposite of awareness – you have ignorance, denial, even by the “experts”, judgements from friends, family, neighbors, pretty much everybody in your life who doesn’t understand RAD.

And that is pretty much why we all become hermits, stuck in our little caves, afraid to venture out in the world where we’ll be judged and found guilty, the only evidence being a lying, manipulative, damaged child.

But this is also the reason we need to keep informing our friends (perhaps former friends?), neighbors, family, teachers, even the professionals in our children’s lives about this “spectrum” of attachment disorders.  Without awareness, we’ll be stuck in our own little caves forever.  We need to get out of our caves.  We need to see the sunlight.

Don’t give up on the world, or your family, or friends, or the world, just yet.  Keep plugging along.


8 comments on “Awareness for Everything – Except RAD

  1. Some of my friends keep cards like this to hand out in this situation.

    The card might read:
    My children have severe invisible special needs caused by their traumatic past. We are sorry if we have disturbed you and appreciated your patience while we cope with life.

    On the back:
    We are trained and under the care of professionals. You may see a child screaming, harming themself/ others, or being held in a restraint. We are not hurting them. They are not a brat. They are a very brave and strong child that is nervous/ scared. I may seem angry or unemotional. I am doing the best I can. I love this child and they force me to prove it a million times a day. If you want to help, be kind to us and step back.
    Please remain calm.

    Beyond Trauma and Attachment, Inc.
    Support for families living with the aftermath of Complex Trauma

    Liked by 1 person

    • Might help if you and your fellow “trauma mamas” limited what you claim to be RAD SYMPTOMS to the REAL ones. In the DSMV.

      There’s also the little matter that many faux RAD symptoms you claim can’t coexist — like a kid who cannot connect cause/effect who is simultaneously a master manipulator.


      • Thank you for your expert reply. Where did you get your degree? Where did you do your clinical studies? How long have you been in practice? How many kids with reactive attachment disorder have you raised? You have a lot of opinions, that’s for sure. Not sure you can back it up with knowledge or experience.

        You should be smart enough to know that not every symptom of every illness is listed in the DSMV. You should also be aware of the fact that many, many psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and counselors disagree with the changes in the DSMV, and these are schooled, experienced people. You do know that’s only in America, right? Other countries don’t use it? Does that mean that these illnesses only exist in America? According to your faith in that book, YEP. Well that’s good news.

        Instead of judging and pointing fingers at people, why don’t you try reading some books and reading some real research on the subject? There are studies that show the actual structure of the brain, physically, is altered. Science is just learning about how relationships affect our brain structure, the chemical components in our brain. It’s kind of like genetics – the more we learn, the more we realize there’s so much more to learn.

        If you really think that you can fix all so-called RAD children, that it’s just bad parenting, I can hook you up. Because if you do have the magic pill, well hey, that’s great for people in the trenches who are desperately searching for ways to help their kids.

        Your comments make me think of an ugly girl telling the beautiful, perfect prom queen how hard it is to be ugly and judged by your looks. The prom queen replies, “I know! I had a zit once! It was horrible!”


      • My son has an executive functioning disorder along with an attachment disorder. Because of his executive functioning disorder, he has a terrible time connecting cause and effect and is highly impulsive. His IQ is 99, so he is fairly decent in regards to his intelligence. He lives very much in the moment and will say and do whatever he feels necessary to get what he wants. He will lie, charm, perform, etc. A manipulator will do what he sees fit to get the desired result. That does NOT presuppose that he fully understands the consequences of his manipulation.
        Bluejuliej, it is easy to point fingers when you haven’t walked the walk or your experience is just different. Maybe you have adopted. Maybe you have worked with traumatized children, maybe not to either. One thing I am certain of is you have not parented a child with RAD.


  2. Thank you for this. I try not to live in fear, but I know the neighbors hear and see our child raging daily. On the bad days I check the driveway just waiting for the police to show up. It helps to know others are fighting this fight and know we are not alone in this difficult battle.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m going to go look this term up, as I don’t see a definition in your post. As a first time reader, long time mom and parent of an ADD child, the article interested me but it would have perhaps meant more to me, and inspired raising awareness, if you had included the definition of the acronym RAD in it for new readers who are not familiar with the term or the condition. Good read.


    • RAD = Reactive Attachment Disorder, also called Attachment Disorder, is a spectrum of issues in children where either the primary “mother” bonding didn’t happen in infancy-toddlerhood due to neglect, medical issues, orphanage or relative placement where there wasn’t a primary caregiver that stayed the same, or where that bonding was interrupted by trauma, such as death of the mother, medical trauma to child, adoption, etc. It causes physical changes to the brain of the child/infant and can result in permanent, lifelong issues of relationships and ability to live within a society if not treated appropriately and timely.


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