Your child is heading back to school with Reactive Attachment Disorder. If you’re like me, that’s good news and bad news. My kids that have RAD feel just like I do. We love each other. It has been a good summer but a long one. It’s not that vacation wasn’t fun… Wait, yes it is. Regardless, we’re all ready to get back to the regularity of school and the schedule it demands. Consistency is good for my kids. Consistency is good for kids with RAD, in general. School can be very good for children with RAD, but parents need to do the prep work before the kids get on bus. Parents need to plan for success.
Things to do with your child: Before they go back to school with Reactive Attachment Disorder
- Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder are big on worst case scenarios. It’s hardly a surprise. Most of them have lived worst case scenarios. As your child takes another step away from home and goes back to school with new teachers and faculty, there is a good chance that he will start shopping for that next new parent. Go over worst case scenarios with your child to let him know that plans for worst case scenarios have already been made. That isn’t his job. Address what the home and family situation will be; where the child will go and who he will live with if his current parents die or are otherwise unable to take care of him. Reiterate that parents are parents and teachers are teachers; each have their own jobs. Even in a worst case scenario, neither the child’s teacher, nor anyone else at school, will become their parent. Have your child make separate lists of the jobs of teachers/faculty and jobs of parents.
- Reiterate that rules at school have not changed from the year before. Go over the rules with the child and make sure that she remembers what is expected. (As school begins it is likely that the child will test these boundaries. Parents and teachers need to address infractions of rules right out of the gate so that the child understands that there really is consistency. Remember, your child comes from a very real world where consistency is not normal. She is watching for this world to return.)
- Discuss child’s concerns, no matter how unrealistic. Create a list of “If-Thens” to address concerns before they have a chance to take hold. Return to this list and add to it as necessary. Make sure that things like “secret safety words” and back-up plans for things like home and family emergencies or missed busses are in place and understood.
- Set aside a specific time for doing home work and discuss it with your child. From beginning to end of the school year, if the child claims not to have home work, give him assignments of your own. (An internet search for your child’s grade level and the subject matter should produce examples.) Make it so that lying about home work does him no good. There is a certain amount of time spent studying whether or not the child brings home their home work.
- Express confidence in your child and let her know you believe in her. Reinforce your feelings for her, as a person, even during times of difficulty. Make her feel secure in her current family.
Things to do at the school: As your child goes back to school with Reactive Attachment Disorder
- Meet with your child’s counselor and home room teacher. Discuss your child’s condition, strengths, difficulties and triggers. Provide a history of your child. (This will allow the people who work with your child at school to become familiar with your him, his successes, and his potential difficulties, without putting a label on him.)
- Discuss possibility for IEP (Individualized Education Plan for children with Special Needs) or a 504 plan (behaviorally based plan). Make obtainable goals and change objectives as necessary.
- Help the teacher and counselor to understand that behavior and consequences at school and home need to be kept as separate as possible. This allows for more opportunity for the child to feel like they aren’t failing everywhere at once. It allows for fun times even if they are struggling in another area. Help the teacher and counselor to understand what types of consequences work with your child and which ones only make things worse.
- Put a system in place for constant and consistent communication between the parent and the teacher. Having constant communication helps to keep the child on track and helps build trust and understanding that both teacher and parents are working together for the good of the child. This also helps with keeping relationships in proper context. You should also help the teacher to understand the difficulties that children with RAD have with respecting relationship boundaries.
- It is possible that your child’s teacher is one of the hard cases, who refuses to accept that Reactive Attachment Disorder is real. Teachers and counselors like this typically write off everything as simple bad behavior. If you find yourself in that difficult position, it’s time to advocate for your child. Your child needs a different teacher (and/or counselor, and/or school).
Your child is going back to school with Reactive Attachment Disorder. You knew it would happen. You know that progression with RAD is followed by setbacks. More progression follows the setbacks, and you continue down that path with your child. It takes longer and is unconventional compared to typical progress with other children, but it is progress. You just need to measure unconventional progress in unconventional ways. As your child goes back to school with reactive attachment disorder, I wish you success. I hope you’ll do the same for me.
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