We had no idea how different RAD advocating would be from the norm. Advocating for children with Reactive Attachment Disorder is like no other advocating.
Funny… It Feels Like Prosecution, NOT Advocacy
My younger brother had a learning disability. My mom was constantly at the school, advocating for him. She researched the laws of our state. She went into meetings armed with information about what educators were legally required to provide for his education. Most of those meetings involved at least some persuasion to make some sort of exceptions for him because of his challenges. Often he wasn’t capable of the same things his peers were. Before my children from Russia joined our family, we spent more time than we should have needed to at schools, advocating for our son who has Down syndrome. Advocating wasn’t something foreign to us when children with Reactive Attachment Disorder joined our family. Still, we had no clue how different RAD advocating would be from the norm.
Often, those whose job it was to educate our children became frustrated with us, as parents with what they interpreted as impatience with our children during our RAD advocating.
Educators and administrators (bless them) were saints when it came to sympathizing with our children who had come from traumatic histories. They had no problem accepting that our children were “coming from behind.” They always gave our “charming” children the benefit of the doubt. Often, those whose job it was to educate our children became frustrated with us, as parents with what they interpreted as impatience with our children during our RAD advocating.
Teachers and administrators were accustomed to advocating parents telling them to back off on discipline or consequences. They were comfortable in arguing that children needed to learn that there are consequences in the real world. Those educators were adept at arguing the logic that children were in school to learn about society and what is expected as much as they are to learn the three Rs. When we came in with the completely unorthodox methods that are unique to RAD advocating, we were often viewed as monsters.
To educators, RAD advocating didn’t seem like advocating, at all. It seemed like we were acting as prosecuting attorneys against our children.
The teachers understood that it takes time for children to adjust to a new home. Why couldn’t we? Of course they saw a few behavioral problems in our kids. What did we expect with what they had come from? Why couldn’t we, as parents, show a little empathy? Why couldn’t we be a little bit patient? Why were we so insistent that our kids act like the Brady Bunch? We didn’t want the Brady Bunch, though. We were just trying to avoid Psycho.
To educators, RAD advocating didn’t seem like advocating, at all. It seemed like we were acting as prosecuting attorneys against our children. They naturally drifted to the other side of the discussion, believing that if we wouldn’t “advocate” for our children, they needed to. So… “Advocate…” “to speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly.” That begs the question: Who was “advocating” for our children? Was it us parents, who were arguing for more stringent reaction to our children’s behavior? Or was it the educators who were sticking up for our children against parents who were expecting too much, impatient, or simply “monsters?” The definition as provided above would indicate that it boils down to an argument of semantics. I’m not going there. The bottom line is that our children who have Reactive Attachment Disorder need what they need. It is our job as parents to get them what they need regardless of how unorthodox it seems to those who are not schooled in the disorder. Maybe we need to stop trying to educate those who teach our children about what RAD advocating really is, and that they need to accept our unusual (and seemingly paradoxical) definition of advocacy.
It seems like when we are engaged in RAD advocating that we’re trampling Western Values.
Any of us involved with children who have Reactive Attachment Disorder are well aware that consistency in consequences is the only hope we have of our children learning how to function in a world that seems very foreign to their history. When we get involved in RAD advocating, the first thing we try to do is to help the other side understand the core of the problem: When discipline and consequences at home and school are not consistent, it only reaffirms the child’s erroneous belief that there is no consistency in the world and that the only thing that matters is learning to manipulate each and every situation to get what they want or need.
One of the problems is that the treatment for Reactive Attachment Disorder (the need to establish an understanding and acceptance of consistency) goes against so much in other types of psychological therapy and even our basis of Western society i.e. compromise. Those unfamiliar with Reactive Attachment Disorder don’t understand that with RAD, a compromise is not a deal. A child with RAD just views it as a step to the next compromise, and the next, and the next. Before you know it, we are compromising about how many homicides will be allowed per month. Even then, negotiators will be forced to increase the allowance the next month. Since it is in the best interest of our children who suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder to learn consistency, we have to stop their warped understanding of compromise in its tracks. This makes others uneasy. It seems like when we are engaged in RAD advocating that we’re trampling Western Values.
As we enter our RAD advocating mode, perhaps, rather that arguing about who is trying to help the child, we need to thank the educator for caring enough to advocate for our child.
Maybe we need to be less concerned about people admitting that we, the parents of children with Reactive Attachment Disorder, are the good guys. I think that if we are careful with language, we will accomplish much more in getting educators to help us in the way that we need them to. Remember; when they are making us out to be the bad guys, they honestly believe that they are advocating for our children. As we enter our RAD advocating mode, perhaps, rather that arguing about who is trying to help the child, we need to thank the educator for caring enough to advocate for our child. Let’s give them credit for caring that much. Let’s give them the title of advocate rather than fighting to take it back.
Once our RAD advocating attitude can let go of the altruistic claim of title, we can focus on getting help for our child. Let the educator be the “advocate” and then help them to understand that our children’s needs are different than most. Then, once they have the understanding of how this strange disorder works, they are already accepting of their role as an advocate for the child. After that, the educator will continue to champion our child’s cause and help us in educating others who misunderstand.
Often, readers receive as much help from other readers in the comments section as they do from the blog article, itself. Please be generous with your thoughts and experiences in the comments section. There are lots of people who need what you have to share. This is your chance to help them.
Read more blog articles by John M. Simmons about Disorders/Mental Illness
Return to John M. Simmons’ Blog
Ensure you don’t miss anything when you sign up for notifications. This is all you need to be qualified for occasional giveaways like the Kindle Fire that Kristy Goulart won in July!