Monday, September 2, 2013

RAD is not just a slang word anymore.

I was an 80's child, which means I grew up saying things like "awesome", "wicked", and "rad". But when I was a kid the term "rad" meant something was really cool. For example, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were totally rad! Please keep in mind I was my oldest child's age (nine) when this word was a part of my vocabulary. I stopped using the word along the same time many other early 9o's fads and fashions became passe. (Though I know there are still some embarrassing pictures from that time period floating around somewhere.)

But the word, as words sometimes do, changed with the times. Once upon a time your "gay" auntie just meant that your dad's sister was a very happy person. Now days it probably means your dad's sister is actually a drag queen and your uncle. And now days when the word "rad" appears in my vocabulary it doesn't mean really cool. And it is always capitalized R-A-D. This is because nowadays the word stands for Reactive Attachment Disorder.

The Mayo Clinic defines RAD as a rare but serious condition in which an infant or young kid doesn't establish healthy bonds with parents or caregivers.

So there you go, a concise and clinical explanation for the disorder that has devastated my family and hijacked my oldest child. But what the hell does that mean really? How rare? And what EXACTLY is their definition of serious? 

In my opinion they can take that nice clinical explanation and shove it up their six! Because the word serious doesn't even begin to accurately define how traumatizing, scary, rage inducing, stressful, overwhelming and painful this disorder is. Not just for the people living with this condition but for the people who live with them, love them, and are trying to help them.

We heard the term RAD used in this context for the first time this summer. After years of asking for help for my oldest child. Trying to explain to those who used the term brat or behavior problem for him that discipline and rules were not lacking in our house. As well as trying to convince others that the sweet, intellectual, and charming child they saw was not just misunderstood. No one it seemed could figure out how to help him or us. I would get almost daily calls from his school as his behaviour there spiraled out of control. I was politely informed by my otherwise agreeable boss that my constant emergencies were jeopardizing my ability to do my job. I had a hard time finding after school care or even just the occasional baby sitter. My self-esteem and mental health took a suicide dive from which neither has fully recovered. I spent money hand over fist dealing with the fallout from it all.

Like many others would I became fixated on finding an answer. And for some reason I thought by having a name for it would make things better. That getting a name would be the answer. After all when you can give something a name it makes it less scary, you can call it out. It's not the dark that you're afraid of per say but the zombies, werewolves, vampires, spiders, etc. etc.

So this summer we finally got a name for it. We drove 80+ miles to go to a child psychiatrist who told us "I think your son suffers from ADHD and RAD." The diagnosis of ADHD wasn't a surprise, as many tried to pin that label on him over the years. I'm still unsure about it myself, I don't fill it fits him. But RAD? What is RAD? Reactive Attachment Disorder? What the heck is that? No, I've never heard of it! To me the word rad is slang for cool. I haven't heard that word since I was ten!

It turns out that having a name for it, wasn't the answer I was looking for at all. It just lead to more questions; many, many more questions. And so I begin this journey looking for more answers. The most pressing of which is how can I help him, us, and our family? 

1 comment:

  1. I finally got a chance to read through the whole post. Some suggestions on where to look for parental support, maybe talk to foster or adoptive parents. This is a common condition in under those conditions. As I mentioned, my brother was diagnosed. He is a brilliant young man,an honor student through high school attending college happily married and fairly successful for a 22 year old, despite all the crap he's gone through in his life. I only have some knowledge of RAD I gained in college though my early childhood classes so I probably know just as much as you. But you are doing a great job remember that always!