Posted by: coachingparents | March 25, 2010




© 2010 By Deborah Beasley, ACPI CCPF

It is known as Reactive Attachment Disorder or Attachment Displacement.  R A D is a diagnosis given to children from infancy through age 15, who display either an inability to attach to a caregiver (inhibited), or who will inordinately attach (disinhibited) to just about anyone.  The traumatic causes from physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse and neglect are well documented.  The manifestation of symptoms is bewildering to parents and professionals alike.  These symptoms are most often severe and well known to leave shattered hearts and families in their destructive wake.  I have often equated this diagnosis to children imprisoned within themselves.  The intense fear and trauma of life experience has caused harm to their minds as well as their bodies.  They walk through life with broken hearts and fragile wings.  They see the sky, can feel the air, and long to fly.   These are children with the same needs, desires, and rights to be loved, to be safe, to be healthy and strong, to play, and to be happy, as every other child.   Could it be possible?  Can these little birds learn to fly?

RAD is often misunderstood and undiagnosed.  I could find no statistical numbers of children with RAD.  It is often diagnosed as a combination of other disorders, including, ADHD, CONDUCT DISORDER, PDD NOS, SELECTIVE MUTISM, SENSORY INTEGRATION DYSFUNCTION, MOOD DISORDER NOS, BI POLAR, INTERMITTANT EXPLOSIVE DISORDER, OPPOSITONAL DEFIANT DISORDER, SEPARATION ANXIETY, other anxiety disorders, and PSTD.  I know this because my daughter has had most of these diagnoses.    Somehow, it keeps coming back to trauma and RAD. 

There is a need for propriety and urgency to help those loving, caring, and living with children who have histories of trauma and RAD.   These are the most vulnerable families.  These are the most fragile nests.  In the midst of the raging storms , and violent winds of dedicating their lives and exhausting their energy and resources to caring for and trying to heal their children I have seen , not babies, but parents fall to the ground.  That is not to say their young don’t fall with them.  These are tough old birds, but the stress and anguish proves too great to endure even for them.

 Although adoptive parents and caregivers are not the cause of their children’s severe mental health disabilities, they are too often unwittingly caught up in being suspected or blamed, even legally charged for the tremendous aftermath of their child’s disorders.   In reality, they are just parents like you or I.  They are just parents,

  • who decide to adopt a child that perhaps no one else will adopt  
  • who want to add to their families 
  • who love and care for children
  •  who are more than willing to take a child under unknown circumstances 

Many parents are not adequately prepared for what this decision could mean to their future.  Perhaps if they had known the possible truths they would have changed their minds.  Perhaps not, since no entity can make that pre-determination other than the prospective parents.  Perhaps with the right information, parenting education, and the promise of unlimited commitment of supportive services from federal, state, and local agencies, these parents will remain strong in the nest.  Families will have a greater chance of remaining intact.  Out of home placements will be fewer and farther in between.  Adoptions will not be dissolved, placements will not be disrupted.   

After all, these parents are not the ones to blame.  These parents, while perhaps not perfect, are those that are dedicated and determined to sacrifice all for the good of their children.  These parents are heroic in their actions and unconditional love toward their children.  Who sees that?  Does anyone see?  Is anyone looking?

Some children with RAD may consistently reject a parent’s affection over the course of many years, be hyper sensitive to and/or defensive of touch and textures, become easily aggressive, violent, dissociative, defiant, destructive of property or hurtful to pets.  They may whine and cry a lot, be extremely needy and dependent even at older ages, exhibit periods of emotionally regressive behaviors, are thought to be controlling and manipulative, show wide ranges of sudden alterations of moods, and are stubbornly inflexible to the slightest changes in immediate environment.   Whatever they are, THEY ARE STILL CHILDREN. 


Children with RAD will also be beautiful, brilliant, often academically successful, sweet, caring, talented, helpful, empathetic, darling, cute, and accepting of your genuine love.  With the right care and proper supports they are capable of growing both intellectually and emotionally.  With a basic understanding of brain function and the affects of trauma on a child’s brain, parents ARE able to create optimal environments for their children.   With strong supportive and not harsh or punitive care, children with these diagnoses can make great forward strides toward healing and promise. 



Deborah Beasley, ACPI CCPF, is a certified Parenting Coach, presenter, and adoptive parent.  She is the author of From Foster Care to Adoption Navigating the Emotional Journey, A Parent’s Guide to State Adoption, and founder of Together At Last Family Support in Southern New Jersey. Contact Deborah through her website at: and from her blog site at:

Tags:  RAD, Reactive Attachment Disorder,  child mental health,   parenting mental health,  special needs, children’s disabilities, trauma, childhood trauma, heroic parenting, Deborah Beasley.

Categories: Mental Health, Child Mental Health, Parenting Special Needs, Reactive Attachment Disorder, trauma.


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