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Specific types of residential treatment programs work with teens who struggle with RAD. As these teens exhibit complex problems, the specialized schools need to be prepared to work with the RAD teen's issues. Does your child exhibit any of the following behaviors?
Reactive Attachment Disorder Awareness: Does Your Teenager Struggle With Any of the Following?
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Their home, Sandy Hawkins says, had become a fortress under siege from within.
The enemy? Their daughter Courtney.
Sandy and her husband, Pat, hid all the scissors and knives from Courtney. To keep their other children safe from her, they installed motion detectors in the home. If Courtney headed upstairs toward the others' rooms in the middle of the night, the alarm would sound.
Today, the Soldotna, Alaska, couple are sleeping easier - and praying that when they see their daughter next, she will be different.
Courtney was admitted to Cedar Springs Behavioral Health System in Colorado Springs last November. She is a patient in Connections, the hospital's new residential program for the treatment of reactive attachment disorder.
Reactive attachment disorder, often referred to as attachment disorder, is at the severe end of a spectrum of attachment issues marked by difficulty forming emotional bonds. RAD kids, as they're known, feel they can depend on no one but themselves. And so they defy parents and other authority figures, engaging in antisocial, even violent behavior.
"Failing to bond means failing to trust, and failure to trust means refusal to accept anyone else's authority," explains Dr. George Creswell, medical director of the Connections program.
The death of 10-year-old Candace Newmaker three years ago in Colorado cast a light on some of the more controversial aspects of attachment-disorder therapy.
Candace suffocated during a "rebirthing session" in which she was covered in blankets and pillows meant to simulate the womb.
The state has since banned rebirthing therapy, and therapists largely have abandoned other restrictive holding therapies. But bewildered parents seeking help for their troubled child will find there's still no agreement on the preferred treatment - or even on the prevalency of the disorder.
Reactive attachment disorder is recognized by the American Psychological Association and listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. But some therapists may be too quick to embrace that diagnosis.
Diagnoses go in and out of fashion, says Danelle Meyerle, program manager of in-clinic child and family services at Pikes Peak Mental Health. "In the '90s and currently, RAD appears to be the trendy diagnosis."
Attachment disorder, though, can be confused with bipolar disorder, oppositionaldefiance disorder and other conditions. Some children have a combination of disorders.
Pikes Peak Mental Health often sees children who have been misdiagnosed, Meyerle says. "A truly reactive-attachment disorder child is very rare."
But Terry Levy, a psychologist and co-director of the Attachment Treatment and Training Institute in Evergreen, believes attachment disorder is a sizable problem. Of the million or so confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect in this country each year, about 80 percent will result in serious attachment disorder, he estimates. And that doesn't count children adopted from orphanages in distant lands, who make up a good chunk of attachment-disorder cases, adds Levy, co- author of "Attachment, Trauma & Healing."
"Some will diagnose it quite readily," says Sharon Blake, a Pikes Peak Mental Health clinician. "Others may say it doesn't exist. It's important to have an open mind."
Trouble starts early in life
Attachment disorder results when a child fails to establish an emotional bond with parents or primary caregivers early in life. It is most common in adopted children; nearly all the children in Cedar Springs' program are adopted. But a disruption in the bonding process can occur in many ways, from abuse and neglect to a lengthy stay in the hospital at a critical time of development.
Courtney, now 17, was 8 when she first entered the Hawkins home as a foster child. By then, Sandy Hawkins says, "Courtney already had been to hell and back." The girl had been abused by her biological parents and bounced from one foster home to another. The Hawkins home was No. 9.
After serving as foster parents for Courtney and her two younger brothers for four years, Hawkins and her husband adopted the three in 1996. The two also have a 3-year-old girl they adopted as a baby.
"We didn't know how over our heads we were with Courtney," Hawkins says. Although they realized she had problems and have had her in therapy since age 8, it wasn't until she hit puberty that her behavior became increasingly disruptive and violent.
Children with RAD often are superficially engaging and charming with strangers. "You would look at her and think that this was the sweetest, most innocent person," Hawkins says of Courtney. But at home such kids may lie and steal and fight for control over everything.
"These children often do a 'come here, come here, go away, go away,' " says Meyerle of Pikes Peak Mental Health. "They'll want the closeness to the parent, and then they feel that and it scares them and then they'll do something very negative to push the parent away."
Author: Bill Radford, The Gazette (Colorado Springs), Mar 31, 2003
(For additional information relating to RAD Schools, see: Attachment Disorder Adoption, Attachment Disorder Treatment Centers, Attachment Disorder Treatment Options, RAD Programs, RAD Schools, RAD Treatment, Reactive Attachment Disorder in Teens, Reactive Attachment Disorder Therapy, and Reactive Attachment Disorder Treatment)
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