Talking to Your Child’s New Teachers

So it’s the first day of school and your RAD kiddo is starting with a new teacher. Now if you’ve done some pre-work, hopefully you’ve picked the best possible teacher match for your child. One who will understand your child’s special issues. But you still haven’t been able to talk directly to them. Now that you have the chance, here’s how talking to your child’s new teachers will be the most effective.

Depending on the age of your RAD kiddo, it may be important to consider what “baggage” may have followed them to their next grade. One of the reasons we changed schools with August after third grade was because we didn’t think he’d get a fair shake in fourth grade at the same school. And it was a good move because he had a great fourth grade year. Hopefully a new teacher will start the new year clean but it’s always hard to know.

Next you might want to make sure you have all your RAD kiddo’s “tricks” laid out for the new teachers to understand. For example, if August couldn’t be right he liked to be first. He’d always finish his tests first even if he got the answers wrong. He thought that made him seem just as smart as getting all the answers right. Something I shared with his fourth-grade teacher. Other specific learning issues can be shared in an IEP meeting but there may be some things that are not necessarily learning-related that the teacher needs to know. These things may be more about RAD behaviors than learning so you will want the teacher to understand.

We made a plan with his teacher to give August an “escape plan” for when he feels overwhelmed in the classroom. A way for him to get out of the room (he was in a trailer due to overcrowding) when his anxiety level got too high. And we did the same thing in high school. These are conversations to have as early in the year as possible. The more systems in place, the better chances for success.

If your child has any quirks or eccentricities, make sure the teacher knows about them. August preferred to stand. He would stand next to his desk rather than sit down. It wasn’t disruptive but he did it starting in kindergarten. So I made sure teachers knew he might do it so they wouldn’t continually reprimand him. It wasn’t a big deal and it made him calmer.

And definitely make sure you talk about RAD. Manipulation, triangulation, hoarding, control, impulsivity…all the big guns. One of the posts I see most on Facebook during the school year is from parents who have been called into school or worse yet by DFS because the child has made claims to their teacher about their treatment at home. Or that they aren’t being fed. Since they spend so much time at school and teachers are mandatory reporters, RAD kiddos can triangulate easily with a teacher to get parents in trouble over false claims. Make sure the teacher is aware, particularly if it has happened before. Write it down if you have to. Write it down anyway.

For a great letter to teachers that I probably have shared before, click here. And to cover all the bases, here’s one for bus drivers and bus monitors! 

While I’ve never used any of Nancy Thomas’ methods personally, the letter I’ve linked to above is from her website and it is incredibly thorough. It covers a lot of things I would have never thought of like: don’t be alone with the child, do not sympathize with the child, if you hear something from the child that sounds weird call the parents, make eye contact and many more. Use it as a checklist to remind you of behaviors of your own RAD kiddo that you want to make sure you talk over with the teacher.

Now all this may sound like you’re going to leave the teacher with a picture of your child as a devil-child. One that is going to scare them to death before the first week of school is even over. That is not at all what I’m suggesting. Make sure you are balancing their story with lots of information about what they are great at and what they are passionate about. That will help tons when they might need to be redirected or they’re feeling overwhelmed and need to take a break. And the more the teacher knows your child, the more comfortable they will feel when maybe things go off the rails. You know your child best; laying a good foundation with their teacher will go a long way to ensuring a successful school year.

Until next time,

Shannon

Sending Your Child with RAD to Summer Camp

About a month into summer break, most parents can’t wait for those two blessed words…Summer Camp.  The knowledge that you are sending your child to summer camp which means a week of peace and quiet for you with no responsibilities is like winning the parenting lottery. But for parents of kiddos with RAD, that may not always be a possibility. Let’s discuss some of the precautions to take and some of the possible pitfalls. I’ll start with a story about August and camp.

August went away to camp for a week when he was in middle school. At that point he was on three different medications which he took both at night and in the morning. I remember standing in line to drop off the medications and thinking if he gets half these pills in him it will be a miracle. I also remember thinking that when I was growing up, I don’t remember knowing any kids who took medication. This line was huge! And it didn’t even include the kids who were just dropping off inhalers. The child in front of us was dropping off Tums. I remember thinking, “What could be so anxiety-producing in your short life that you need a regular diet of Tums?” Now I didn’t know the whole story of this child but it just seemed odd. But I digress.

After we got him into his cabin and he found his bunk and we got him unpacked he was ready for us to leave. One of the few advantages of RAD; there is no homesickness or tearful good-byes. We couldn’t leave fast enough in his opinion. The next part became how much to tell his counselor. Enough to warn him so he’s not caught off guard but might make him not like August from the beginning? Or not enough so August gets off on the right foot but this young man isn’t prepared for what August can dish out?

Decision made to err on the positive, hugs and waves good-bye and prayers for no phone calls during the week. Pick up the next week didn’t seem to include any weird looks or need to pull us aside. The strangest part was August coming home with some other kid’s underwear…

So there’s the one big “pro” why camp is a good idea: a nice break for you, your child and their siblings. Here are some very real “cons” to consider:

  • Medication delivery
  • Camp staff ability to handle RAD behaviors
  • Schedule/routine disruption
  • RAD wanting same kind of entertaining/attention upon return home
  • Similar triangulation found with teachers or other professionals

If you decide that an overnight camp may not be right for your child at this time, a day camp might be a good alternative. Most cities have a variety of day camp options including general YMCA-type day camps as well as specialized camps dedicated to particular sports or interests.

There are also therapeutic camps designed specifically for RAD kiddos. For example, Nancy Thomas who is considered an expert in the field of Reactive Attachment Disorder runs a series of them over the summer. You can find that list here. I have no experience with them but if you do, please share in the comments It would greatly help other families. I would recommend looking at camps that are specific to RAD. They’re out there. Camps that cater to autism or general mental health issues or children with “behavior issues” are fine but as we all know, RAD is a whole different animal. Quite frequently even trained staff won’t have heard of it. 

I have added a resource page to the site where I will be adding lists of books, camps, treatment centers and other helpful tools as I come across them. If you have any to share, please send them my way. They are by no means endorsements but just a one-stop easy access place to see what’s out there. To head over there and see what’s there now (which isn’t much, don’t get all excited!), click here.

What it boils down to is you know your kiddo and your level of sanity. Would you rather stick it out another week with them at home or send them off to camp and spend the week on pins and needles hoping you don’t get that phone call? August did summer camp away three times I think and I never got the call. Doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have; just means I didn’t. 

Until next time,

Shannon

 

Talking to teachers about Reactive Attachment Disorder

https://youtu.be/xlyBfInS7ec Wouldn’t this be wonderful? For RAD kids, school can be a series of landmines. And teachers can set those mines without even realizing it and certainly without intending to. When August started in school I couldn’t get him and IEP for RAD; I had to get him one for ADHD under the “other health impaired” category. His learning issues didn’t show up on any tests. Yet his behaviors were classic RAD behaviors. It wasn’t until second grade that we found a therapist who gave us a proper diagnosis and fourth grade that we found a school who heard me and I started to find my voice for my son. Below is a letter developed by Nancy Thomas who is one of the most widely recognized therapists in the field of attachment disorder. I purposely do not advocate for any particular treatment on this site as I believe it is up to the parents and the family to decide what is going to be the best for their child and their needs. But this letter does lay out exactly what a teacher can expect from a child and how to respond and how to interact with a child and their family to hopefully get the best outcomes. https://www.attachment.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Letter-to-Teachers.pdf Going forward, we will talk about more specific issues. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments, share your stories and sign up by email if you’d like to receive these posts directly to your inbox! Till next time, Shannon  ]]>