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  • Todd Unruh

a message on the thing called RAD

good evening folks!!!

For the ones interested, here is an article I typed up on RAD.


My heart is bursting with enthusiasm, for I know I'm going to tell you something I'm becoming increasingly passionate about. My goal is to share what I have learned, in hopes that more awareness will be spread on this sensitive topic.

And that topic is reactive attachment disorder, also known as RAD. When I arrived here a month and half ago I knew there was a thing called RAD and I also knew it was a sticky, challenging thing. But boy o boy! I had no foggy idea what it all consisted of. I naively stepped into a world that consisted of RAD children. As a result, my eyes were rapidly opened!! However the life of a RAD child is extremely complicated and complex. So far I have learned only a teeny tiny tip off of this gigantic iceberg. And I'm certainly excited to continue to not only learn what is all visible to the eye but also what is all underneath the water. With that said, I would absolutely love to share with you what I have learned thus far. As I continue to learn I want to continue to share it all with you. We need more awareness on this topic. We need more people to step into this kind of work. And most of all we need more of the church to realize what RAD is, for we need their support and help. Okay, let's start off with what exactly is this thing called RAD. At conception, bonding begins. During the pregnancy, the babies honestly DO KNOW what the mother is thinking and feeling. When the mother of that unborn child consumes drugs or alcohol, has maternal stress, does not want her baby, suffers with depression, or is abused (physical, sexual, or emotional) it causes damage to the developing child in the womb, which often leads to a reactive attachment disorder. After birth, they're still at a risk of developing RAD. The next 36 months are crucial. If the baby is exposed to any one of these, they will be at a high risk of RAD: ...poor parenting, ...neglect ...abuse (physical, sexual, or emotional) ...sudden separation from their primary caregiver. For example the baby becomes severely ill and it results in intense hospitalization. Or if their mother is exceptionally sick, or if she passes away. ...poor care ...repeated moves such as failed adoptions, or foster care ...continuous physical pain. Such as undiagnosed medical problems. Inside their tiny yet powerful mind, a baby will have a deep sense of knowing that their needs are not being met, therefore they develop an extreme need to control. They completely lose the ability to love and trust. The baby refuses to let anyone control them and they develop little to no conscience. It gets worse. A whole lot worse. As RAD children continue to grow, their rage and manipulation does too. If no one steps in to help in a correct way, they are bound to absolutely destroy their life as well as many other lives. These children will turn to whoever and whatever to control. Below, are a list of symptoms of a RAD child. ...overly engaging and charming, especially to complete strangers. ...intrigued and involved with fire, blood, and gore ...violence to animals ...lack of ability to receive and give affection ...extreme controlling behaviours ...harmful to self and others ...learning disorders. ...unique eating habits ...stealing ...unhealthy relationships, especially with peers ...demanding and clingy ...inappropriate affection to others, especially strangers ...minimal eye contact. This is only some of the behaviours. Are you thinking ''Yikes! That is so sad.''? Yes! Absolutely it is. But these children do not need our pity. They will snatch up that pity and use it against you to control you. Here are several things I have learned about RAD that I found exceptionally interesting. It was a chilly morning. Ms. Lora asked one of her girls to bundle up, for she wanted to go outside to create a snowman. She came out of her room wearing crocs and a light sweater. Since these children are not in tune with themselves, they can not feel the cold. To these kids, control is more important than air to breathe. These dear children feel worthless if they think of their past or feelings. To avoid addressing what is happening inside of them, they will start jabbering a blue streak of unnecessary, critical nonsense. That's when it's our job as authorities to tell them to be quiet. Once they are quiet, they are forced to face whatever is stirred up in their heart. And that is when they can heal. Side note.. I about lost my cool when I first got here and I heard the authorities telling the girls to be quiet. I was like ''what??!!? These kids need to talk!!! and here you are telling them to be quiet!??!!'' But then Ms. Katie explained it all to me. And it made complete sense. Quietness is crucial for these children's hearts and minds to heal. RAD children will do the unthinkable. It's really important we don't react to it in shock or horror. It takes 12 hugs a day to heal. So here, hugs are common. The child and the authority need to have both our hands flat on the other one's back. Since love is painful to them, these children will sometimes purposely hurt you while they are hugging you. It's happened numerous times now where I will be hugging one of them and they will inappropriately squeeze me. That is not okay. They are controlling at that moment. So, I immediately will let go of the hug and look them in the eye and say, ''let's try that again.'' and so we try it again. On the topic of physical touch. We authorities are in charge of physical touch. Since often these children have been sexually or physically abused, they do not know what healthy touch is. That is why we are in control of touch, so they can learn what appropriate physical touch is. Side note... I grew up asking a friend, ''hey can i hug you?'' or ''do you need a hug?'' before just wrapping my arms around them. So at first, I did the same to these girls. But it was explained to me, that by asking these girls, I was giving them the ability to control. I needed to be in control. Not them. So I had to retrain my mind and word pattern on that one. To them love is weakness and abuse. Their caregivers/parents who abused them apparently also loved them. So it makes complete sense why they are so against it. These children need to feel safe. They won't heal if they don't feel safe. To build trust, we don't tell them what's happening next or where we are going next. RAD children need to first respect, then trust, and then comes love. We have three rules here at RHR: be respectful, responsible, and fun to be around. In conclusion, these kids are not disgusting, or wicked, they are simply broken. They are not their actions. They are precious souls who have endured extreme trauma and abuse. They are so desperately in need of a strong caregiver who will completely step in and take them in. They need boundaries. They need security. And they need structure. I already deeply love these girls here at RHR. I sense a passion for RAD children rapidly growing in my heart. I have no idea what God is all planting in my heart, but I do know it was no mistake that He placed me here now. If you want to listen to one powerful DVD, I encourage you to order the DVD titled, More Than a Thread of Hope by Beth Thomas. It is one of the best things I have ever watched. Thank you all for taking the time to read this article. I hope that together we can learn about and spread more awareness on this topic that absolutely deserves more attention and conversation.

Written by Miss Jera Doerksen, a volunteer at Raising Hope Ranch

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