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Teen Help: Reactive Attachment Disorder

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)

Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is commonly diagnosed with children that have been adopted.

Especially during the puberty (tween and teen) years the behavior of a child with RAD can escalate into oppositional defiance disorder (ODD).  These are the times when parents feel like they are going to pull their hair out!

ODD is not only with teens that are experiencing RAD, many teens will go through a period of defiance – testing their boundaries.  However with RAD children it sometimes can be more extreme.

Finding help

Treatment of ODD involves therapy, training to help build positive family interactions and skills to manage behaviors.

In many situations parents have exhausted their local resources, including counseling and outpatient options and are faced with considering therapeutic boarding schools, residential treatment centers or other teen help programs.

Although your first instinct is to search for programs that specialize in all RAD students, we caution parents that consider this.

Since 2001 we’ve been listening to parent feedback — it’s the programs that have experts on staff that specialize in RAD (such as therapists that have an expertise in RAD), yet also have other teens that require emotional growth that can be better suited for young people struggling with these issues.

Why residential?

Residential therapy can give you long-lasting results. When you reach this point, you have exhausted your local resources.

Why shouldn’t you consider an all-RAD program?

As parents of RAD students have explained in decades of feedback, when they placed their teen in an all-RAD program — they went in with one set of problems and typically came home with with an entirely new set of issues. They found the kids were fast to feed off of each other, rather than support each other. Or as a few parents explained – it was how they supported each other.

It makes sense to find a quality residential programs that offers specialists in RAD however has other areas of behavior modification.

Throughout the country there are excellent therapeutic boarding schools and residential treatment centers that will interview you and will have a population of RAD students on their campus. This makes a well-balanced program. It’s why we educate parents to talk directly to an owner/director or clinician of a school. It helps you determine what is in the best interest of your child.

Will sending my teen create more abandonment issues?

There is a fear that they might be feeding into an abandonment issue, but parents need to understand that they will be giving their child an opportunity for a healthy life.  Living with the rage, anger and stress is not beneficial for anyone.  They have to learn how to handle their negative impulsiveness and sometimes that means being removed from their environment.

These programs are trained to understand RAD students, as well as work closely with their families. The family is part of the recovery process. For years (decades) these professionals have been helping adopted teen’s through their difficult times. There will be bumpy times, however as you work together through this journey – will see come to realize it was done with love.

As we share in Helpful Tips, this is another place where it’s extremely beneficial to speak with *parent references that have been there before you. When you select a school (or two) ask for 3-5 parent references of adopted families that placed their child there. It’s beneficial if you ask for the same gender and age. Find out how they are doing — if they would do it again, or if you can speak with their teen, that is always helpful.

*If a program doesn’t give out parent references, in our opinion, it might be a reason to consider another program.

Read more about RAD in an essay written by a parent,(Ballad of An Adopted Teen)  with an adopted teen.

If you want to learn more about residential therapy for teen’s with RAD or struggling with ODD, contact us.

For support groups for parents of adopted children, visit Adoptive Families Circle. If you’re struggling with financing these programs, learn more about financial options for residential therapy.

Contact us today if you are interested in residential therapy that specializes in RAD.

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P.U.R.E. does not provide legal advice and does not have an attorney on staff.
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