There is an underground world of RAD moms and they are more frightened than ever this week. The Reactive Attachment Disorder facebook groups are lit up with information and worry about the Florida shooter. It's coming up because the shooter was adopted, the police were at his home multiple times as he grew up, and then to top off his trauma, his adoptive parents died. These RAD moms are saying: "This will be my kid someday." and "This is why my child with RAD needs to be somewhere safe."
We don't yet know what Nikolas Cruz's early years were like, and may never know as his adoptive parents are deceased but there are a lot of similarities to the life we know.
New York Times:
In the hours after the shooting, people who knew Mr. Cruz described him
as a "troubled kid" who enjoyed showing off his firearms, bragging about
killing animals and whose mother would resort to calling the police to
have them come to their home to try to talk some sense into him.
Broward County Mayor Beam Furr said during an interview with CNN that
the shooter was getting treatment at a mental health clinic for a while,
but that he hadn't been back to the clinic for more than a year. "It wasn't like there wasn't concern for him," Furr said. "We try to keep our eyes out on those kids who aren't connected ... Most
teachers try to steer them toward some kind of connections. ... In this
case, we didn't find a way to connect with this kid," Furr said.
Gordon Weeks, another attorney representing Cruz, added,
“When your brain is not fully developed, you don’t know how to deal
with these things. That’s the child I’m sitting across from. The child
is deeply troubled and he has endured significant trauma that stems from
the loss of his mother.”
As RAD moms, we wonder, "Does Nikolas Cruz have RAD?"
What is Reactive Attachment Disorder or RAD?
A quick and easy description is given by the Institute of Attachment and Child Development: A disorder in which children’s brains and development get disrupted by
trauma they endured before the age of 3. They’re
unable to trust others and attach in relationships.
Unfortunately, it's so much more than that quick and easy description.
RAD is often thought of as only a mental illness that adopted children suffer from but this is not true. I know children with RAD who are step kids, bio kids, foster kids, and adopted kids. This isn't an adoption issue, this is a trauma issue. As children from severe trauma often end up in the system and are adopted, RAD is most often found in the adoption world. However, not all adopted children have RAD.
• cannot give or receive affection
• no empathy
• extreme manipulation
• long arguments over ridiculous things
• often engaging and charming, but only superficially
• nonsense questions and unrelenting chatter
• “mad peeing” (peeing all over the house when angry, years after potty training and up into teen years—this can happen with feces as well)
• crazy lying and stealing
• little eye contact
• no cause and effect thinking
• poor hygiene
• parents (particularly the mother) seem hostile and/or confused
Severe RAD symptoms are the above and also:
• threatening behavior, particularly toward the mother and siblings
• hurting or killing pets
• abusing mother and/or siblings--physical, emotional, verbal, psychological, sexual
• false allegations
• threatening harm to self or others
Again, these behaviors all stem from early childhood abuse and/or neglect. Children with RAD are angry and they have every right to be.
If Nikolas had early childhood trauma, from losing his
birth mother and/or abuse or neglect, then he could have undiagnosed
RAD. As we all scroll through facebook and watch the news we are faced with judgements aimed at the adoptive parents of Nikolas:
"He needed more discipline."
"A good spanking would have fixed him."
"Where were his parents?"
"Maybe this wouldn't have happened if the parents would have spent more time with him."
"Why wasn't he in therapy?"
The mere thought of this riles RAD moms. We work hard to get help for our children with RAD, we learn therapeutic parenting skills, we beg for help but are more often than not met with misunderstanding and simple parenting strategies. "Try a sticker chart!" we are told. "Hug them more, spend more time with them. They just need more love!" We are not believed when we tell the truth, "My child is trying to harm her brother." We are surrounded by ignorant (not stupid, but ignorant) "professionals" who have very little, if any, trauma training.
We need and want help but there are so few resources out there and the good ones are often private only. No insurance will cover them. If RAD parents are able to get their child in, these resources can work on the children with less severe RAD.
But what about the children with severe RAD?
These are the kids who have killed their pets and the parents are not believed.
These are the children whose parents have had to defend themselves against physical attacks, have been listening to their child with RAD tell them she wants to kill them and then they find the knives she's been hiding in her bedroom and the parents are not believed.
These are the kids who have tried to maim and/or kill their siblings (please read about glass children!) and the parents are not believed.
These are children who rape their younger siblings and the parents are not believed.
These are the kids that no one knows how to help. Yet. Some of them can live in super structured group homes where people care for them but do not love them. As surprising as that seems, the "care not love" can help. Love is much too frightening for children with RAD. Love triggers them and creates the violent behaviors. This is hard to believe. It took me years to realize the truth. To get an inkling of how this works, read the bottom paragraph of this post. Others end up in prison for the things they do. Still others continue to be in their adoptive homes and the entire household lives under video cameras and terror.
What You Can Do
As a nation, we know we need better mental health services but what can you do, right now, today?
Be kind. Suspend disbelief. Reserve judgement. Listen. Find out more. Be supportive.
The next time you hear about a troubled child, don't immediately jump to the conclusion that the parents are at fault. When you hear about a mom who has found a group home, an RTC (Residential Treatment Center), a boarding school, or a wilderness camp for their child with RAD and you think, "How could she?? I could never!" please remember she isn't talking about children like yours. She's talking about a kid who could easily be the next mass shooter. She's not being a drama queen, she's lived through things you might be thankful you don't know about. Her search for a safe place for her child with RAD, is to keep her family safe, her loved ones and friends safe, her community safe, and her mentally ill child as safe as possible. We don't want our child with RAD to have the opportunity to hurt others. We don't want to be the parents of the next mass shooter. If you know someone who is making a decision to place a child she loves outside of the home, support her. Then, hold your healthy children close and be thankful for what you don't know.
Join The Underground World of RAD facebook group.
I'm Julia and I'm a trauma-informed certified Equine Gestalt Coach, Reiki Master, and
artist. I combine my skills to create an individualized care plan for
each client. As an adoptive mother of two (one healthy and one with
RAD), I am intimately familiar with the trials and tribulations RAD moms
and their glass children face as they navigate the muddy waters of life
with a mentally ill child. While I see many types of people in my
practice, my heart and my specialty is the health and healing of RAD
moms and their glass children.
Learn more at The Mother Ranch.