The Healing Power of a Good Smell

When I was growing up, we would spend a lot of time at my grandmother’s house. The house where I now live. She always woke up way before we did and one of my favorite memories is of waking up to the smell of bacon. She cooked bacon better than anyone ever. And there’s nothing that will get your day going like that smell! That’s when I first learned of the healing power of a good smell.

As I grew up, it was feeling prettier with a certain perfume on. Or how when you clean something and it has that wonderful lemony or Windex smell. When my son was born it’s of course the new baby smell. Or the new car smell (even if it causes cancer!) Fresh cut grass. Autumn leaves. They all have some wonderful memories associated with them and every time they changed my mood for the better. So I’ve found some essential oils you might want to try so that the healing power of a good smell can help your mood as well.

  • Lavender: This is a well-known scent for both alleviating anxiety as well as a sleep aid. It has been used for centuries so there are many products available that contain this pleasant smell. Try an evening bubble bath with lavender bubbles after the kiddos are in bed to help balance your mood.
  • Citrus: As I mentioned, the lemony smell helps us feel good and perks us up. But it can also reduce high amounts of stress and anxiety. A whiff of lemon, lime, orange and bergamot can create a sense of calm.
  • Peppermint: Are you a stress eater? Grab something peppermint! Lighting a peppermint candle, eating a peppermint candy or some peppermint oil will help reduce cravings. It’s also good for stress-induced migraines!
  • Coconut: If the smell of coconut immediately sends you to the beach with palms trees and the sound of waves, then you get the power of coconut! I hate the taste of coconut, but love coconut body butters and lotions! The smell can lower our heart rate and soothes agitated nerves.

These are the most popular and common scents that you can find in a lot of products. But if you’d like to try some that are more unique, check this article out. I keep a candle lit a lot of the time while I write. I don’t always pick the same scents. It depends on my mood. And I pull out different ones for Christmas and other holidays. I have lavender bubble bath and coconut lime body butter. Any and all occasions to use the healing power of a good smell to calm my head and my heart.

Until next time,

Shannon

What Does Anxiety Look Like In RAD?

School anxiety is not unique to just RAD kiddos. Unfortunately with the ramped up focus on standardized testing and college entrance getting more and more competitive, school performance is more intense than ever. Even the most psychologically together child can feel the pressure. But our RAD kiddos feel anxiety on multiple fronts so adding school to the mix can create a whole new level. So, what does anxiety look like in RAD?

Our RAD kiddos live in a constant state of high alert. They are of the belief that they must stay vigilant because their very survival depends on it. Try adding to that the pressures of school. Navigating social interactions can be hard because RAD kiddos aren’t always good at picking up on social cues appropriately. A full school day is tiring and many RAD kiddos have sleep issues. The demands of school work during the day plus homework at night is rigorous and many RAD kiddos also have a learning disability. All of this on top of the anxiety already innate in RAD is the perfect storm.

What teachers and school staff may see is anxiety and other behaviors that seem “extreme” to the situation. What does that mean? With August it was simple. And I had to explain it again and again. And again. His anxiety came out as anger. He absolutely boiled over with anxiety. And to those not familiar with this reaction it would make no sense in context with the situation.

RAD kiddos have so much anxiety they can’t always control it and don’t know how to manage it. And their “fight or flight” primal instincts will kick in. As well as their basic needs to control their circumstances. These will always win out whenever they feel anxious. And again, in a school situation, this will not always be known or apparent to the random choir teacher or substitute in science class.

What is the way to handle the overload of anxiety our RAD kiddos bring to school? How do we explain to educators what anxiety looks like in RAD? These aren’t easy questions to answer. The answer starts when they first wake up in the morning. If you are one of those families that lives in a constant state of chaos, making your morning routine as calm as possible will help lessen the anxiety that starts the day. I have had mixed success with that! Some easy things like a good breakfast with protein are important. Protein is great for brain function. We have gone through massive amounts of pre-cooked bacon over the years!

Now that I’ve been substitute teaching, I know that every child with an IEP or Behavior plan has a write-up with their primary teacher regarding important things to know about their conduct and any considerations that are important for their safety. I don’t know if these are given to every teacher who has that student (I imagine so) but I know that as a sub it’s not called out very often. Some teachers I fill in for will, most do not. And I know the chances are extremely rare that this information will be necessary. But August’s anxiety got really ramped up when the rest of the class got excited due to having a substitute so knowing this would have really helped me as a substitute in his class.

If your RAD kiddo has exceptional anxiety issues and they don’t have a Behavioral Intervention Plan, inquire about getting one set up. It gets on paper some goals for them but it also outlines their options for getting out of anxiety-producing situations before they get in trouble or things explode. They are great ways to define the relationship between your RAD kiddo and the teachers to handle their anxiety.

In August’s case, just knowing he had options was enough. He didn’t use his “outs” for when he gets overwhelmed much. Just having the options eased his anxiety well-enough in most

I think it’s important that your children know their options and they feel confident in what they can control. Because as we all know control is key. Getting a check on their emotional state in the morning maybe at breakfast would be a good idea. See where they are on a 1-10 scale. Is there a test that day? Maybe if they’re already sitting at a seven, a call to the school might be in order.

All children deal with some kind of anxiety. School is rough! I wouldn’t want to be a student these days. For some other ideas on how to help your child with school anxiety, here is a wonderful article. Here’s to having a great-and CALM-school year!

Until Next Time,

Shannon

Developing a School Crisis Management Plan

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,

Shannon

 

What’s on My “To Read” List

This has always been one of my favorite sayings.

So many books, so little time. I have multiple topics I love to read about. But within those topics there are so many good books! I try to stay up on what’s current in Reactive Attachment Disorder but obviously self-care is also big on my list! And with August’s current prison stay, I’m now moving into looking for books to help me understand what to expect afterward. But what’s on my “to read” list is a constantly moving target!

In the area of books on RAD, there are not a lot of new books being published on the topic. The work being done on possibly changing the name is still under consideration so no one has published a full book on the subject. Nevertheless, there are some new books that have come out in the last few months. I haven’t read them so this isn’t a recommendation of any sort. But based on my research they look promising.

Reactive Attachment Disorder Books

  • Reversing Reactive Attachment Disorder: Overcoming Cravings The Raw Vegan Plant-Based Detoxification & Regeneration Workbook for Healing Patients. Volume 3– I know the effect of food on RAD has always been a hot topic. When August was little it was food dyes and Dr. Feingold’s diet. This one uses what is now known about the benefits of a plant-based diet focused on RAD.
  • Love Never Quits: Surviving and Thriving After Infertility, Adoption and Reactive Attachment Disorder– This is one family’s story of adopting a child from Guatemala who has RAD. After years of infertility they adopted one, then a second child and that one had RAD. She deals with her years of struggle with all these issues and the emotional roller coaster ride that it takes the family on. It sounds like the story of my life!
  • My Self Healing Journal Surviving Reactive Attachment Disorder: Prompt Journal For Families Surviving RAD/Reactive Attachment Healing Journal/Reactive Attachment Diary– This is a self-published journal and each page includes a writing prompt to help you with getting out your feelings about life with a RAD kiddo. If you don’t have a great support group and need some place to vent your feelings, this may be a good option.

The other topic I keep an eye on is help for school. This one is harder because the issues tend to be more subject-specific or child-specific. But here are a few that looked interesting:

  • Helping Children Manage Anxiety at School: A Guide for Parents and Educators in Supporting the Positive Mental Health of Children in Schools– Anxiety can infect so much of a child’s performance at school. And RAD kiddos who feel shame and have no control don’t have to look far for sources of anxiety. Add to that learning disabilities and they can have so many strikes against them. Managing anxiety can go a long way toward creating a successful school experience.
  • Lessons from the Listening Lady: Adolescents & Anxiety A family guide to making the mind, body, spirit connection– This has the same goal as the previous book but it is specifically targeted toward adolescents.
  • Words Will Never Hurt Me: Helping Kids Handle Teasing, Bullying and Putdowns– This one looked particularly interesting. August had a rough patch with bullying in late elementary school (when your name is also a month…) His quick temper and grandiose opinion of himself didn’t help him handle it well. I wish I would have had a way to better handle talking to him about dealing with it.

The last section is self-care and that is a monumental list that I could write about forever, but the easiest way to help with this is to recommend goodreads. If you’re not there, you should be! You can connect with friends and share what you’re reading, what you want to read and what you’ve read. You can look for what celebrities are reading! And you can browse by subject to get information on what the goodreads universe is reading to see what is recommended in about every genre. I’m not copping out but their self-help section is particularly good. And, of course, there’s an app for that!

Roald Dahl has been and continues to be one of mine and the boys favorite author. If he’s not as familiar to you, Google him. You’ll be amazed!

I am sure there are many more you might be reading and I would love for you to share them! And as I get through these I will post reviews! I will also move these titles and more information over to the resources page for easier referencing!

Until next time,

Shannon