What is Reactive Attachment Disorder
Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a disorder that affects children’s ability to form healthy attachments. Children who suffer from RAD have been the subjects of:
- Abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual)
- Prolonged neglect
- Separation through adoption and foster care,
- Pre-birth exposure to drugs, alcohol, trauma.
The child with Reactive Attachment Disorder cannot trust and does not develop a healthy conscience. As a result of RAD, children are mistrustful, violent, and even dangerous. Parenting a child with RAD is exhausting and strenuous but can lead to success with the right support for both parent and child.
How Brain Gym® Can Help Children With Reactive Attachment Disorder
The Brain Gym® activities are intentional movements designed to invite the brain to shift from residing in the brain stem where survival and safety are the main functions instead to the frontal brain lobes where rational thinking and choice occur. When the body/brain is in stress, we are trapped into the “back brain” or brain stem. This is where reactive and survival patterns reside. New ideas and choices or “front brain” functions are impossible while we are trapped in the back brain. The Brain Gym® movements activate the front brain and are exclusive to the Brain Gym® Program. Brain Gym® can be a useful tool in fostering success for troubled children.
Case Study – Sara’s Story – A Child with RAD
One such success was my client Sara (a pseudonym will be used). Sara came to me with her mom when she was 4 years old. When her mom came in, she was bawling. She had just come from the psychologist’s office and had in her hands a report stating Sara was cognitively low functioning (mentally retarded) and RAD. Sara was adopted at age 2 and had been in several foster homes. Her birth mom was a drug addict, and birth dad was in and out of jail. Sara was like a wild wolf cub. She hid under tables, had little speech, cried and screamed most of the time, and refused to listen to her parents or preschool teacher. She struck out to hit, bit when she was not hiding under a table, or threw objects around the room. Mom reported that she did not sleep at night and refused to nap.
They were both clearly exhausted. I began with Sara by meeting her under the table and just sitting by her, feeding a doll baby water, and modeling the intentional movements in the Brain Gym® curriculum. Each session I would model another movement and sing to her in a soothing voice. I taught mom the movements and asked her to do them with her several times daily at home.
The more we did the Brain Gym® activities, the calmer and more de-stressed she became. Day by day, Sara began to feel less stressed and more like a child in her body. She began to do the movements on the doll herself, and then she allowed me to work with her directly, instead of with a surrogate. Little by little, we would sing and move through the 26 Brain Gym® activities until Sara began to speak easier, tell us what she wanted, when she was afraid, and when she was feeling safe. During Brain Gym® sessions, she started sleeping throughout the night and violent outbursts began to cease—day by day, little by little. Sara stopped hiding under tables and began to interact appropriately with children and adults in her life. After months, she could sit at a table with other preschoolers and join them for snacks, puzzles, and story time.
She went to kindergarten, learned the alphabet, and began to read. Numeracy and kinder math became easier and easier. She was becoming a peaceful child and beginning to trust people, life, and her surroundings. The more relaxed she was, the more she participated in academic tasks at grade level and became more socially acceptable. Her ability to focus moved from 0-1 minute per task to age appropriate focus—4 minutes for a 4 year old, 5 minutes for a 5 year old, etc.
Sara, her parents, and I worked together for 6 years. She is presently in 7th grade, functioning at grade level. She plays soccer, runs track, and about any sport she wants. Sara is a delightful young lady. On the road to success, Sara’s dream of becoming a photographer is coming to fruition as she studies the art of photography and the science of capturing the world through her eyes. She is learning how to make and keep friends, how to feel safe and loved, and how to love and be loved in her home and community.
When I first looked at Sara, I knew we had a long road ahead of us. But due to the work we did together through the Integrated Learning Academy’s Brain Gym® Program, Sara is now a functioning compassionate young lady with a bright future ahead of us.
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