Q: A reader asked mie to offer suggestions on how to break the "RAD" cycle beyond the normal parenting techniques like interrupting with silly things, re-directing, etc. This reader shared the following:
"I have a foster (now adopted) preschooler who is "RAD"ish. My husband and I have noticed that she seems to go into a defiant, manipulative (RAD) behavior when I (mommy) leave the house. She has overcome so many RAD things, but this is one we are having troubgle with. I'm sure it is related to her past - feeling abandoned...insert typical foster care story...but I don't know how to help her "reset".
A: In all honesty, I'm not the best qualified for handling RADlets, but I tried to give you my experience in last week's FPF post. To give you a REAL answer to this question I've asked a guest - Laurie from Adopting Special Needs - to join us this week to share her expertise with you. Here's what Laurie has to say:
One common piece of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) in children from trauma is Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). It is so common in children from trauma, that most people consider it redundant to add OCD to a RAD diagnosis.
The more dysregulated a child is, the more ODD behaviors the child will exhibit. Hence, the first step in tackling ODD behaviors is setting up the environment to help the child stay regulated. There are several components to consider when doing this:
- Physical Environment: A child with RAD needs an organized environment with a minimal amount of stuff. They regulate themselves better, and as a bonus, it makes it easier to pick up quickly when something is stolen or destroyed.
- Physical Activity: A child with RAD needs regular activity. In good weather, climbing, biking, running, scooters are great activities. In the summer, we schedule regular pool time. When the weather is not good, we have hula hoops, a mini-tramp, a balance beam, and a swing. The playroom has space for jumping jacks, gymnastics, and dancing. Physical activity needs to be scheduled throughout the day. For example, before homework comes out, twenty jumping jacks enables the child to sit down for homework. It can also be used as an option with time out. Given the choice of sitting for eight minutes or jumping on the mini-tramp, most of the time they choose the mini-tramp. This is a win-win situation because they have choice of consequences and the more physical activity, the better their self-regulation.
- Coping Strategies: The more strategies the child has for self-regulating and the more you practice with the child when they are regulated, the easier it will be for the child to use these strategies when they need them. In my house we use:
- Strong sitting: is a technique used to calm the brain and help center the child. Check out this video by Christine Moers . My girls strong sit regularly. I find that when my RADlet is struggling, strong sitting three times a day is necessary.
- Controlled Breathing: We used controlled breathing exercises. We breathe out slowly, threee times like a snake, three times as if we were blowing out a candle, and three times saying "shhhh". I think the pattern and predictability is what helps them reset.
- EFT or Tapping: Also called the Emotional Freedom Technique. You can use one of the scripts already on the web or customize the script for what yourparticular child needs. A good starting place for tapping can be found at my friend Lisa's blog.
The more consistently these techniques are used, the better the results will be.
I hope these techniques are more helpful than my therapeutic purge from last week. If you are a foster/adopt parent or are considering joining the world of orphan care, I highly suggest you read-up on attachment disorders, particularly RAD, so that you are as fully aware of what you could be getting into before you find yourself in a therapeutic parenting situation unexpectedly. RADlets and other hurting children need families too and I appreciate people like Laurie who are dedicated to advocating for children who need families. For more information on RAD, check out www.RADkid.org and another post by Laurie here.
Thanks for joining us here today Laurie!