Beyondpondering's Weblog

Northwest Arkansas Therapy

reactive attachment disorder NORMAL PREDICTIBLE ATTACHMENT REPONSE October 28, 2008

I was looking at my collage transcripts (the other day).  I guess I am good at reflecting or PONDERING. It is clear to me I was trying to understand life in general.  I remember taking psychology in high school.  Then in 1978 I took General Psychology 101 at Metro Tech Community College in Omaha Nebraska. 

I now believe it is everyone’s responsibility to overcome their childhood when they are old enough to do anything about it. Every generation is trapped within the boundaries and limitations of the previous era’s wisdom and ignorance.   I see my striving to understand reflected in education and religion.  If God (or Supreme Being if you wish) is the creator of all, the study of both reveals the other.  Science reflects God and God’s wisdom can be seen in science.  I do not believe they can be separated because God is the Master Scientist.

Anyway….I was always trying to understand.  Watching, reflecting, pondering, learning, and praying.  Trying to understand my family, childhood, others, experiences, and life in general.  There will always be an element which is beyond our understanding, above our ways. This is the Devine Mystery which we have to rely on faith and just know God’s way is beyond our human understanding. The ultimate Human Dilemma, the Human Condition: to know we don’t know.  We are imperfect and lacking in understanding.  What a thing to come up with….After years of trying to understand……coming to understand there are just some things which cannot be understood.

Never the less, some things are so obvious they are confusing.  I remember taking a speech class long, long time ago. I had to stand up in front of people. I was scared to death.  My heart was pounding, my hands were shaking as I held the note cards.  My voice trembled.  My entire body trembled as well.  The critiques said over and over again, that I should “just be myself”.  Guess what?  I was just being myself:  Scared to Death.  I didn’t know how to be other than scared to death so their statements to be “myself” were not useful.  I did understand this was a complete oxymoron. 

Now back to RAD.  I flipped through my “Abnormal Psychology” text and found nothing on Reactive Attachment Disorder.   My child development texts are considered to be from a “Normal” perspective.  “Disorder” suggests abnormal.  Okay.  One can find some information in the DSM-IV.  The DSM-IV is the guide which the mental health field uses to classify and categorize symptoms of various “disorders”.

Would it be normal or abnormal to fear picking up a hot skillet without a hot pad, if you have been burnt before?   Would it be normal or abnormal to fears dogs if you were attacked by a dog before?   Would it be normal or abnormal to fear public speaking if you have never done it before?  Probably….for all these scenarios. 

The human being is an exquisite sensory system of nerves which culminate into a hair-trigger alarm system, which when activated, releases an explosion of energy channeled into an instantaneous flight, fight, or freeze response for survival.   Since humans’ natural predators were among the fastest and smartest on the planet, such as lions, wolves, vipers, and man himself, man needed an incredible nervous system to survive.  The very fact of man’s survival is evidence that God, in God’s wisdom, endowed man with this ability.

So to counter this danger, perhaps first exposed “in utero”, the human child has one of the most sensitive alarm systems in nature.  The slightest perception of an unnatural movement can trigger the flight, fight, and freeze response which for countless millennia enabled the human to survive the stealthiest cats, the most cunning of wolves, poisonous of vipers, and the smartest of humans.

If a child did not have certain responses such as hyper vigilance or hypersensitivity, something then would truly be wrong.  Even hypo-vigilance or hypo-sensitivity are normal for survival. The human nervous system also had to conserve energy during times of food shortages or times of long confinement. When groups of people huddled together in small shelters in mid winter, conservation of energy was critical as well as suppressing aggression.  Confined in close quarters with little food, it is easy to become irritated and hostile with each others.  If the nervous system did not slow down to depress hostilities and aggression, humans would have ultimately exterminated themselves even before they starved to death.

The very fact of man’s survival is evidence that God, in God’s wisdom, endowed man with this ability.

 The ultimate Oxymoran.  Can we not have compassion and love for these children?  Do we remove fear by inducing fear?   Do we remove fear with restraints, punishment, timeout or isolation?  We may never fully understand but how about reflecting and pondering?  We may never fully understand but how about overcoming the previous generation’s conceptions of RAD?  How about overcoming the previous generation’s boundaries, limitations, ignorance, and misconceptions of RAD…. by learning, growing and questioning the given solution?  Consider new ideas.  Consider a new perspective.  Tap into your compassion and empathy.   Does it not say……”perfect love casts out fear”?  Can we not try compassion?   There may never be an answer for some, but let us ponder.  Maybe we must first ponder, “what is love”.?  Some will say that punishment is a form of love.  Some may.




Fight, Flight & Freeze: Reactive Attachment October 26, 2008

After using all the traditional methods I was trained in, with my own child and at agencies ,,,I am now very much on the Post-Forbes line of thinking. It might be easier for others to understand The Stress Model because they may not have been brainwashed by all the mainstream methods like  I was.  I now consider the mainstream methods hurtful.  When the traditional mainstream methods are used, they keep getting more and more punitive.  It seems that at the time you are in them, you do not realize that it is getting more and more punitive.

“Our” kids get stuck at the emotional stage when the trauma happened. 1,2,3,4, years of age….  Even if they are 7,8,9 years old.  Interestingly enough, I have returned to my child development back ground.    A RAD child may be 10 years old but emotionally 2.  However, agencies want their people  to talk logic with an emotional child.  It did not work.  It would seem that society and many in the psychological world, forget about child development when it comes to RAD. 

When a child is in the middle of a melt- down,  explaining all the logical reasoning to stop the tantrum, or why they should not feel that way, or telling them to consider the consequences they might get,,,,,,meant nothing to them.  Only after the children understood that you sort of, kind of, or at least were trying to understand them… Could they calm.   After the child was calm, and the relationship strengthened ,,,,could you help the child consider something else.I have found that BCI methods are the most kind, loving, gentle,,, scriptural (if you are Christian), or peaceful and gentle ( if you follow a non aggressive faith system) approach I have been introduced to.   When did Jesus put someone in a restraint, a hold, or a forced sitting?   Did Gandhi? 



If you are not the religious type, the methods work anyway.To say a child has an attachment disorder, is negative and implies illness.  BCI would rather consider a child attachment challenged ,,,,as all of us might be……. Therefore, hope and healing is possible.

Post and Forbes use the principals of bio neurology in that the children are hard wired for survival, due to their circumstances.  They can be hard wired even while in the womb.  They are hard wired to be fearful, on alert, hyper-vigilant, and hyper-aroused.  They use  “fight and flight” which has been proven useful to the survival of mankind.  Why wouldn’t they use it if humankind uses it for survival?  Another stance more recently added it the “freeze” stance.  I have seen deer and rabbits use “freeze” in our valley.  They survive by being perfectly still, trying to avoid detection by avoiding movement.  Our kids use freeze by being hypo-aroused. 



Instead of hyper-arousal and fighting,…….. they shut down, tune out, go to sleep, delay, procrastinate, get depressed, or use that word all parents hate, “NO”.  They do not necessarily FREEZE as the deer do in my valley.  However, when something is too stressful or overwhelming from their point of view, they can become hypo-aroused as a way of surviving.  Their bio neurology responds to an emotional danger the same way they would react to a real life and death danger.  They are unable to perceive the difference in the two.

 So instead of using power against power, force against force, resistance against resistance, BCI uses a non- threatening approach to help the child feel safe.

And no,,,the child is not allowed to do just anything…However,  a child is valued more than material goods.  Child proofing a home and protecting animals is very important.  Nevertheless,  material goods are never as important as a human.  

BCI and myself, believe that a child has negative behaviors because they of overwhelmed, scared, and stressed.  Instead of “time out” the family does “time in”.  Time out places the child alone and in fear of being abandoned again.  Instead, the family brings the child closer and spend more one on one time together.  Children to not act out for attention, child act out because the NEED attention. They missed out on so much of it,,,they still need the attention they should have had when they were younger.For 99% of the children, anything works.  We are dealing with that 1% who need special understanding.

If I am able to do my job well,  eventually,  a family should be more and more therapeutic in their own home, and need me less.  A family repeatedly provides containment (not forced holding ).  They adjust the environment to reduce stimulation, reduce stress, provide safety and security.  Healing happens.  Parents are to consider their own fears so they can reflect about why their children keep pushing their “buttons”.  Parental calmness can calm the child.  When the child grows older emotionally,,,, they then child can be introduced to more stressful things.



Tradition is the enemy sometimes: Reactive Attachment October 23, 2008

I took my dog to our Veterinarian one day.  She was curious about the philosophy I was trained in.  I tried to explain in a way fellow therapists would understand.  I noticed that blank, far away look in her eyes as she cocked her head a little to the side.  I knew she was a horse lover so I mentioned the “Horse Whisperer”.  Not the movie, but the man the movie was based on. Then an “OH !” came from her, with sudden understanding.

When I got home I Googled, “Frank Bell Horse Whisperer.”  I found his site and found a Kindered Spirit.  His site was so on target to understanding our kids… he understands his horses.  It turns out that he often does fund raisers to help children.  He will teach his Horse Whispering to people to raise money for equine therapy for children.

I emailed Frank Bell and told him the story about the vet.  I explained the gentle methods which I was trained in by Post and Forbes.  Just like the horses, our kids are hard wired for survival and repond very much in like manner: Hyper-vigilant to sights and sounds, startling at the slightest thing, often resisting the one who intends to help them.  I asked him if I could use some of his training videos to help people to have compassion for our kids……to understand they are really scared and fearful.

The kind gentleman that he is, responded to my email personally.  Not an “auto-reply” generated by a web host.   He too understood the philosophy of Post and Forbes and their gentle methods.  He gave his blessing for the work I do to help the children and gave permission to refer to him and his videos.  He said he would send me one of his Videos.  I got A Day in the Life of a Horsewhisperer.    

Now I would like to include some information I presented at an adoption conferance in Northwest Arkansas.  It is about Frank Bell and his philosophy.  It is my hope, that perhaps, the use of different words or scenarios can help parents, caretakers, and therapists to gain a compassionate view of Rad Children.

Frank Bell’s horse training philosophy is refreshingly unique in that it encompasses a much bigger picture of the horse. In this day and age of hurrying, seeking immediate gratification, and take, take, take, he has chosen to do nothing but give to his horses—until they are ready to give back to him—willingly, happily, and eagerly.

Since the horse’s predators were among the fastest creatures on the planet and in the case of wolves and man, they were also the smartest—most cunning predators, the horse needed incredible instincts to survive. Their survival is proof that they posses these instincts.

To counter the stealthy stalking of their enemies, horses developed one the most sensitive alarm systems in nature. The slightest perception of an unnatural movement can trigger the flight response which for countless millennia enabled the horse to escape the stealthiest cats, the most cunning wolves, and smartest humans.

The horse is an exquisite sensory system of nerves which culminate into a hair-trigger alarm system, which when activated, releases an explosion of energy channeled into an instantaneous flight for survival. The horse is naturally fearful.

Tradition is the enemy of progressive horse training methods. ” Grandpa treated his horses this way and we do it the same,” is the lame excuse that pervades the old school of rough horse treatment. Pain and intimidation have been the backbone of horse training methods for centuries.

The focus of Bell’s training is on the development of a “safe” relationship with the horse.  Without using force or other common strong-arm tactics, Bell develops a foundation of trust upon which all further development must be built. He transforms the horse’s distrust into trust.

Taking the time to love on the horse pays big rewards only minutes later as the horse eagerly chooses to give back and enjoy performing and engaging with the human. It is truly magical.

A kinder, gentler way of relating to horses and all living creatures.  Bell’s message truly applies to all walks of life from family to business and most importantly to relationships.

Blessings.  Susan



Yes, Hello World: Reactive Attachment Disorder October 7, 2008

I search the web a lot.  I look for RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) topics.  I find many educational sites.  I find sites by parents of RAD.  Some are asking for help.  Some are about their RAD story.  I truly have empathy for struggling parents.  I was there.  I too was “pulling my hair out”.  There were fewer resources at the time we adopted our child.  He was traumatized more than we realized.  At the same time, I had lots of education and had worked as a social worker for Arkansas DHS-DCFS.  I thought I could help a child.  Even though I had been a foster care worker, I still was not familiar enough with this matter.  While helping a child was a noble deed and our intentions were good, we were still surprised.  The term Reactive Attachment disorder may not have been coined yet.  I do not remember anything mentioned about RAD in all the classes I took.  They spoke of attachment perhaps.  They spoke of bonding.

Years later, after many a ‘trial and tribulation’ with our child, did I learn more about RAD.  Our child certainly had all the characteristics.  I was brain washed by all the literature, I can admit now.  At the time, it was all I had and we did the best we could with the information available.  Today, I wish I could shout from the roof tops and tell everyone that the traditional methods do not work. Nevertheless, just like myself years ago, most people are not ready to hear it.  Yet I know that they too are doing the best they can with the information available to them.   I have compassion for them. 

I wish I could have learned the new ways sooner but that was not the case.  I am thankful, however, that I was eventually led down the road of understanding to understand the common methods of treating RAD do not work.  They did not work with my child or the multitude of children I have worked with over the years.  I am truly convinced the traditional methods are not love-based or based in compassion.  Notice I said compassion, not pity.   So, with that being said, I must also have compassion for myself as I reflect back to recall the harsh words or techniques I used in the past.  

The traditional methods of viewing the child’s symptoms are misleading.  The traditional methods try to “fight fire with fire”.  However, instead of heading off the dangerous flames by getting rid of the fuel ahead of it….they just seem to put fuel on the fire then fan the flames.  The child’s seeming need to control is met by firmer control from the parents.  The child’s seeming need to be oppositional is met with parents demanding instant compliance.  The lack of eye contact is met with parents insisting the child look them straight in the eye.  It seems like one power is trying to overshadow the other power, yet it never seems to end.  The fire just gets further and further out of control.  No wonder the DSM-IV describes parents as angry.  The methods promote their anger all the while saying, “it is for the best”.

My goodness!  Parents get so desperate for peace in their homes; they are willing to do what they are told.  What are they to believe?  What are they to do?  Who am I to say one thing or another?   I have been there.