My RAD lesson: The ten most important lessons I learned from reading Dr. Keck’s writings are what I credit with saving our family.
His Writings Saved Our Family
What do you do when your hero dies? I’m not talking about a sports legend or a favorite actor. I’m talking about the kind of man whose research, study and sharing dragged your family from a flaming hell and then gave you the tools that you needed to begin to heal and to help those who had been damaged the most. That’s what I was thinking when I first learned of the passing of Dr. Gregory C. Keck, last Wednesday. I couldn’t think of anything adequate to say or do. I’m convinced that nothing IS adequate. But I think if Dr. Keck could tell me what he would want me to do as a tribute to his work, it would be to share with you the ten most important RAD lessons that I learned from his writings.
My wife and I were in the process of adopting three children from Russia when we learned that our two new daughters, who were biological sisters, had older siblings that we hadn’t been told about. After taking our new additions home, I embarked on a quest to find the others. When I found them, the Russians begged us not to add them to our family. They were too damaged. They had problems… probably, disorders. There was nothing we could do to help them. Well, nobody tells me what I can and can’t do when I have the resources to back me up. We had an incredible and supportive family, including extended family. We had money. We had the entire system that the United States has set up to help people with disabilities (though I was unaware of how willing government employees were to flaunt their refusal to obey laws while hiding behind Professional Immunity). Nothing would stop my family and me from giving two teenaged girls a chance. But we had no idea the difficulty of the path that we had chosen. When things were at their darkest, we didn’t think we could save the family. Then I read a book by Dr. Gregory C. Keck called Adopting the Hurt Child. The ten most important lessons I learned from that work (some of them paraphrased) are what I credit with saving our family. I would like to share these RAD lessons with you.
RAD Lesson #1:
You (as a parent or caregiver of a child who suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder) are not crazy. The behavior of the child who is the victim of this disorder really is as bad as you think it is. You are (probably) not overreacting.
RAD Lesson #2:
You child’s behavior is not a result of you being a bad parent. The conditions that caused your child to have Reactive Attachment Disorder were out of your control at the time that the disorder was set in motion, and while it evolved.
RAD Lesson #3:
These incredibly outrageous behaviors are not your child’s fault. Your child’s behaviors have been set up as barriers to protect themselves from harm that is-or-was very real or at least was perceived by them as very real. Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder simply do what they believe (often subconsciously) will keep them the safest. (And attachment is viewed as emotionally or psychologically unsafe.)
RAD Lesson #4:
Many of these children who suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder are brilliant and street-smart beyond their years. They can put on airs of charm and maneuver with such effectiveness that they can manipulate therapists who are not incredibly astute at understanding their condition.
RAD Lesson #5:
Things get better over time (even if it’s a LONG time). Each setback in the progression of someone who has Reactive Attachment Disorder is generally not as bad as the ones before it and the duration is generally decreasing. Over time, comparing set-backs, things are usually getting better. Slow progress IS PROGRESS!
RAD Lesson #6:
Consistent consequences for good and bad are critical. One of the most important things we can do to help re-train children who have Reactive Attachment Disorder is to ensure consistent consequences for their actions. They must learn that good begets good (as often as possible) and bad begets bad (as often as possible). Consequences must be brutally consistent (and this is even more important…) without being brutal. We must be painfully aware of how easy it is for our children who have Reactive Attachment Disorder to interpret consequences, discipline or punishments as abuse, thereby damaging our fragile attachment rather than nurturing it.
RAD Lesson #7:
Your child really does need you regardless of how much she refuses to believe it, and despises your presence or intervention. Even if your child who has Reactive Attachment Disorder does not do well, in life, if you follow best practices in doing all you can to help her, her life will be better, not worse, because of you.
RAD Lesson #8:
These children who suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder deserve to be loved and cared for. Even on their worst day, during their most outrageous behaviors, these children deserve to have families and to be loved.
RAD Lesson #9:
You need to take time for YOU. This is difficult as parents of children with Reactive Attachment Disorder view their child’s behaviors as so dangerous or outrageous that they are better off to never take a break, and to not subject anyone else to the difficulties (or even abuse). In our own case, my wife and I set aside regular time for us. Sometimes bad things happened because we were away. We had to deal with them when we got home, and sometimes, long after. Even so, because we took time for us, recharging our batteries, we always had enough juice to get to the next recharge (though the “low battery” light was blinking more often than not).
RAD Lesson #10:
You are not alone. I couldn’t even type that one without shedding a tear. As my oldest daughter came home and got more and more involved in school, church, and the community, I felt more and more isolated. People believed the lies she told about me and other members of my family. Psychologists who were supposed to be treating her were counseling her on how to deal with her outrageous father and counseling me on how to calm down because things could not possibly be as bad as what I said. Dr. Keck taught me that there were other parents of children who had Reactive Attachment Disorder. He taught me that they experienced the same fears, dangers, frustrations and anger, that I did. The greatest thing I learned from Dr. Keck’s writings was that I wasn’t alone. I will never forget what that did for me, the strength that it gave me and the comfort it made me feel.
Thank you Dr. Keck for your life of service and for giving us back our lives and saving our family. I will think about you and the RAD lesson s I learned from you every day for the rest of my life.
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.
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