When you get “that” phone call…

It took about two weeks most years for me to have the phone number of August’s school memorized so that when it appeared on my phone I knew who was calling. And you all know that feeling. You may be shopping, working, at the gym, anywhere when you get “that” phone call. And your breath gets tight and your skin crawls and you think just a bit about whether or not to answer. Right?

I confess, I have not answered more than once. Just to have a couple minutes to collect myself. And then called back and apologized. Because I just couldn’t get hit with whatever “it” is. Maybe I’d go sit in my car if I was somewhere in public, just in case. But I didn’t want to be blindsided always by whatever was on the other side of that phone.

So what could happen when you get “that” phone call? Well it could be anything like the simple, “Your child forgot their lunch” or, “Your child isn’t feeling well.” But with our RAD kiddos there is an equal likelihood that it’s something way more complicated. With August it was the interesting things he chose to bring to school like the pocket knife and the water bottle full of vodka. Or the behaviors like looking in the women’s restroom or run-of-the-mill anger. Then there were some bigger issues like the stolen cell phone or when he ran away from the residential treatment center.

So what do you do when you get “that” phone call? I think there were days when we immediately would have sided with our child and blamed the teacher. Or sided with the teacher and blamed the child. But those of us with RAD kiddos know that nothing with our children is that clear cut. Ideally, you have established a close relationship with your child’s teachers so that when situations occur, communication is easy. And hopefully, your child’s teachers have an understanding of their behavior and can put the incident in that context.

The key here is this is where all your work at the beginning of the school year pays off. And if it hasn’t been done yet, now is the time to get it done. For example, I was working as a substitute teacher a couple of weeks ago in a high school social studies class. There was a student who was giving me a lot of back talk from the moment I walked in. Now I’m not saying he was a RAD kiddo, but he did remind me a lot of August. This kept up until he asked to go to the bathroom. I said yes at which point he took all his books and left. I asked the class if he was coming back and they said probably not so I notified the Dean who let me know later they had him.

At the end of the day he came back to the room and apologized. He said he knew he wasn’t doing well so he left. He apparently has medication that he takes and he knew he needed some. I told him I understood and that I had a son very much like him. What I wish I’d been able to suggest but couldn’t is why didn’t he have a behavior plan that gave him the opportunity to leave without the chance of getting into trouble. The class knew him as a trouble-maker. There was no information from the teacher. He didn’t have any “out” to help him. I was pleased he knew himself enough to remove himself from the situation but I wish he had some support to make it easier for him.

Hopefully when you get “that” phone call you will already have the relationship that will allow you to process whatever prompted the call in the context of RAD and your child’s unique behaviors. If not, consider this your open door. One of the reasons we moved August between third and fourth grades was that he was labeled in his prior school by a teacher who wouldn’t work with us. Getting teachers informed and knowledgeable about RAD generally and your child specifically is critical to a successful partnership in handling behavior.

Of utmost importance is for the teacher to understand that you know RAD doesn’t excuse your child’s behaviors; it explains them. And you’re not using this illness to let your child get away with anything. Here’s a very good article for teachers on how to deal with a traumatized child. It may be a good reference for starting a conversation with your child’s teacher. Don’t be afraid of the phone…it’s all part of the process.

Until next time,

Shannon