Reactive attachment disorder Reactive attachment disorder
Reactive attachment disorderReactive attachment disorder

Reactive attachment disorder

Letters from Mothers

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Alex, 14

In 2002, when he was 12, we adopted our son Alex from Russia. He is now 16. Alex had been institutionalized several times in Russia, but we were told that it was just because he had ADD.

In the beginning, Alex was difficult, but we were able to handle him. His behavior became increasingly uncontrollable. We tried every type of parenting technique, took him to counseling, and even tried medication. He refused to do any schoolwork and threatened to kill himself if we put him in any kind of school; I home-schooled him from the time he came here from Russia. He smoked, stole, huffed, ran away, sometimes stayed out all night, and constantly lied. Nothing helped. He would not talk to a counselor and often refused to even go to the appointments. When Alex stole some of his sister's medication from her room and then ran away when we confronted him about it, we felt he needed more intervention, so we had him admitted to a children's psychiatric ward at a nearby hospital.

He loved the time there; it was like a summer camp for him. It did not help his issues, however, and actually made things much worse for us. The hospital referred us to a psychiatrist who had seen adopted children like Alex before. Alex was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, ODD, and borderline schizophrenia, but none of these diagnoses were definitive or exclusive. That he might have an attachment disorder was mentioned only briefly, despite the fact that he was adopted at age 12.

As we were mulling all of this over and wondering which way to turn, a woman from our adoption agency mentioned RAD. We researched it and felt that this was Alex's true diagnosis. RAD, however, cannot be treated with medication, and the "traditional" therapists were very leery of RAD therapists.

But we were desperate. While Alex was in the hospital, we made calls to RAD specialists, trying to find a placement for him outside of our home. I knew I could not handle the stress of his out-of-control behavior in our home anymore. At that time, I didn't want to ever bring my son home again because I was concerned about my other eight children. I checked with institutions that took RAD kids, but they charged astronomical prices--some were $1,000 a day!

It was during our online search for RAD resources that we found the RAD Consultancy and Aaron Lederer. When I had a free consultation with Aaron, I felt that he truly understood what we were dealing with. He told me about things that he thought were happening in our home, things that I hadn't told him. He just knew.

I had felt from the beginning that taking Alex to a therapist to work out his issues wasn't the key; somehow I knew that I was the key. I just had no idea how. Aaron Lederer worked with children without ever meeting them; he worked solely through the mother. This matched my instinct.

My husband is a pastor, and I only work part time giving music lessons. Aaron's relatively modest weekly fee seemed insurmountable, but I really felt I needed the insights and e-mail support that he would provide. Aaron said that most people see significant changes within six weeks. The total for six weekly payments was not so insurmountable, and Aaron Lederer said that after six weeks we would know whether the therapy was working.

So before Alex even came home from the hospital, I began working with Aaron Lederer. I had been warned that RAD therapists could sometimes ask for strange things, so I decided to e-mail all of his suggestions to my friend who has a master's degree in social work and works with kids with attachment disorders. I just wanted to make sure that Aaron didn't tell me to do any off-the-wall things. I thought I would recognize a crazy suggestion, but I felt better having someone else check.

And so I began speaking weekly with Aaron Lederer. He was very helpful with many of the situations we were dealing with, like the fact that Alex showed one face to us and another to the hospital staff. Because of the nature of RAD, the hospital personnel, with the exception of his psychiatrist, were convinced there was no problem with Alex. "He is so charming!" was the most common description of Alex that we heard from the hospital staff.

This part of RAD behavior was one of the hardest things for our family to live with. We were living a nightmare at home, and because of Alex's extremely charming and charismatic personality, people outside our home thought we were the ones with the problem. Even the receptionists at the psychiatric hospital kept telling us how great he was and insinuated that we were the ones who needed help.

Perhaps for this reason, things got worse instead of better while Alex was at the hospital. He lied about us during one of the hospital's group therapy sessions, after which we were reported to the Department of Social Services as abusive parents. This only added more misery to an already devastating situation.

One person I spoke with who sometimes took in RAD children said that we were definitely in a dangerous situation. If Alex had already started lying to the authorities, then things could go downhill fast for the entire family. Since seven of our nine children are adopted, we were treading on thin ice. Aaron Lederer walked us through that traumatic period in our lives. He helped me learn how to handle the hospital personnel during each of the situations that arose. Personally, I wanted to scream at them. I was so angry. How could people who worked in a children's psych unit not understand the nature of RAD?

Because of Aaron's help and the significant support of our church, we were eventually able to bring Alex home. Those were rocky times, but I can tell you for sure that Alex?s behavior did change a great deal in the first six weeks he was back. Every time we had an issue, Aaron would tell me what to do. I would implement his suggestion, and it would completely change the situation.

Alex's counselor from before his hospitalization, with whom we were still working, said that Alex's positive response to Aaron's communications (all relayed through me) was nothing short of amazing. In fact, the last time I asked the counselor, who has 20 years of experience and a terrific reputation, for his input, he said that we should just do whatever it was that we'd been doing, as directed by Aaron because it always seemed to bring the situation under control quickly.

The most difficult part for me was that Aaron's approach often required me to treat Alex in ways that contradicted some of my strongly held parenting principles. Often it was extremely difficult for me to follow his suggestions. It was also difficult because my husband and I worked as a team with our other children, but with Alex, I was the one bearing the entire burden. I had to do all the communicating with our son. But for the most part, when I said exactly what Aaron told me to say and was able to effectively disengage and not take Alex's bait, things worked better.

At a few points during the therapy, I felt that I could not do what Aaron said. I was very honest and vocal about my disagreement, and I expressed my distress about what I was instructed to do. In fact, sometimes I would yell at him and challenge his suggestions, as I was not convinced they were the best things for my son. Then Alex would regress, I would start thinking about how tight our budget was, and I would have doubts about the whole method. But after a week or so, I would be ready to try whatever Aaron had suggested. It usually helped.

The work has definitely been worth it. It has helped to make our home a much more peaceful place. The unlimited e-mail privileges between weekly phone sessions were of great value to me as well. Before we connected with Aaron Lederer, I never knew what would help in a crisis and was often extremely stressed and frustrated. Knowing I could consult Aaron if and when a problem arose decreased my stress and frustration significantly.


Since we ended the therapy, Alex hasn't huffed or stolen from the neighbors. He hasn't run away. He is treating us all much better. He is making better choices on a daily basis. He is much more cooperative. He isn't stealing from us or lying. He seems open about telling us when he has done something wrong. Yes, he actually admits that he has done wrong sometimes and says that he is sorry! Before our work with Aaron, he would lie regularly, even if the lies were transparent.

Another significant change is that Alex has become more consistent in his behavior inside and outside the home. He is not always "charming" outside in the world. He is more like a regular person, showing all of the aspects of his personality. He still does not want to do any kind of work or chores around the house, and his life is often still all about what he wants, but he has truly attached to me. I see it daily in ways he communicates with me about hard issues.

We still have our ups and downs, but there are more ups than downs, and there is no question that Alex can continue to live at home. He still becomes angry sometimes, but he does not threaten or frighten family members anymore. He now chooses to spend time with the family sometimes. He treats his siblings with much more respect and kindness. Slowly, they are beginning to trust him. We rarely hear that they would rather he be gone from our home or that they wish we had never adopted him.

Originally, our psychiatrist, who treats a lot of kids like Alex, said that people like him are never able to hold down full-time jobs or be contributing members of society. I believe that because of the work Aaron Lederer does, there will be a lot more successful, contributing members of society.

The psychiatrist calls the change in Alex a miracle. We are a people of prayer and believe that God works on our behalf, but we also believe He led us to Aaron Lederer as part of the healing process.
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