Every child has their own triggers and pressure points. It’s hard to know what will set them off. Your RAD kiddo may have completely different “freak out” points than my August. And probably does. So when it comes to what happens at school, there’s no telling what’s going to be the thing that breaks them. But developing a school crisis management plan can go a long way toward being prepared for any situation.
August had a variety of different crisis plans over the years. And they dealt with a variety of different situations that would set him off. We have always worked with both his teachers and administrators to set up plans that would benefit him but not be disruptive to the class. Because the goal was to help August stay calm but also to make sure the classroom can function.
The conversation always took place with me, the IEP teacher (or even better the whole team), his primary teacher and someone from the administration (Dean, Principal, counselor). It helps to get all angles on the issue and to make sure we are doing what is allowed. My job is to explain August. What will set him off, how will he react, what might work to diffuse any situations.
With August it was a couple different things. He had ADHD on top of the RAD so his energy had energy. And sometimes his anxiety over being cooped up for long periods would get the better of him. We made a plan with his fourth grade teacher that when that happened that he could sign out just like he was going to the bathroom and go run the track. Now this was made much easier by the fact that his classroom that year was in a trailer. He could go out and the teacher could see him on the track. And being outside was also very calming for August in addition to burning energy. And no one knew he wasn’t in the bathroom!
The other thing that set him off were substitute teachers. He developed bonds with his primary teachers and subs didn’t know him. Plus all the students in his classes were louder and more rowdy when there was a substitute. And we were finding that he was getting in trouble a lot when there was a sub. So we gave him an “out”. If he felt overwhelmed, he was allowed to tell the sub he wanted to go to the office. That would remove him from the environment that would tempt him to act out. Then he could spend whatever time he needed in the office doing work or just reading.
Middle School was more difficult. It seemed to be harder to get something that worked. We tried a lot of things. One of them was a “blue card” which was just a simple laminated blue card. He kept it with him at all times and any time he was feeling overwhelmed or like he was about to lose it, he could just put the card on his desk. Once the teacher saw it, he could leave and go to the office and see the counselor. That way there didn’t need to be a big conversation or argument, the teacher couldn’t say no (that was HUGE) but August wasn’t allowed to abuse the tool either.
Expectations in high school were such that it was harder to put a system in place to handle any meltdowns. I explained (again) what reactive attachment disorder was all about and why it was different than other disorders. Also why it needed different considerations. He was allowed to wear a rubber bracelet (thinking Live Strong) to help with anxiety and we did implement the “blue card” system we had used in middle school. They were just less willing to accommodate “out of the box” behavior at that age.
As with everything when it comes to your RAD kiddo, you know them best. Don’t be afraid to suggest whatever you think will make it easiest on both them and the teacher. Make sure the teacher understands you are trying to keep the classroom calm as well as your child. And if your child is of an appropriate age, bring them into the conversation. I also included August’s psychiatrist in a call with the Middle School team at one point. I needed him to help explain RAD when I wasn’t getting my point across. Once trouble starts for your child at school…at least this is what I experienced with August…it seems like it follows them from grade to grade.
But find something that will work and help your RAD kiddo manage the times when their minds get the better of them. And continue to work with them to develop better coping skills of their own. Celebrate every quarter or semester that the “escape valve” doesn’t need to be used as a moment of growth and maturity! And hopefully over the years you won’t need it at all!
Until next time,