Letters from Mothers
The following are from letters written by mothers who came to the RAD Consultancy when traditional treatments failed and the prognosis for their children seemed hopeless.
At 12 years of age, Alex was adopted from Russia, where he had been institutionalized several times. He defied authority, lied, stole, and refused to abide by any limits or rules. He did not cooperate in his home-schooling and endlessly annoyed his eight siblings, one of whom suffered from nightmares as a result of the constant harassment. He "shut down" when confronted. He was uncontrollable at home but charming outside in the world. He ran away from home on occasion and was hospitalized after his last disappearance. He was variously diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, reactive attachment disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Bipolar disorder and borderline schizophrenia were also mentioned, and he was at various times prescribed Prozac, Risperdal, and Ritalin. Therapists were pessimistic about his chances to ever be normal
Margaret has had problems all her life. At 16, she has no friends and is inconsiderate, temperamental, emotionally distant, negative, and promiscuous. Margaret smokes, drinks, doesn't accept rules of any kind, and constantly provokes her sister into fights. Margaret's birth mother was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and is manipulative, provocative, and dishonest. She is in prison and is scheduled for release when Margaret is 18. Margaret lives with her father and stepmother and has a horrible relationship with both. Her stepmother hates coming home in the evenings.
Michelle is four years old and was adopted. Although very bright, she was in a constant power struggle with her mother, bossy and challenging every step of the way. She talked back and had no respect for her mother's authority. Punishment had no effect because she would return to the same behavior immediately afterward. When she didn't get her way, she'd fly into uncontrollable rages, screaming and kicking walls and doors. She could be friendly one minute and mean the next. Her mother was exhausted and afraid of what the future would hold for Michelle if a solution could not be found.
A new convert to the importance of infant-mother bonding, Lisa's mom, Sandy, quit her job at the end of her pregnancy to devote herself to the baby, something she had not done after the births of Lisa's two older siblings. Lisa was breastfed for two years, a fact of which Sandy is quite proud. And yet, by the time Lisa reached the age of five or six, something was clearly "off." Mother and daughter started having fights, and they continued to fight into Lisa's teens. Lisa would say and do things that caused Sandy to explode, and Sandy would lose control and hit Lisa or throw things at her, which was not typical of Sandy. Sandy wanted to understand what was going on and how to repair it.
Jenny, 2 1/2
Jenny was adopted when she was nine months old. Later, her parents thought she was merely a "very terrible two-year-old"; but, after reading some articles about attachment disorder, they realized she was actually suffering from those issues. When she was adopted, Jenny refused to accept love and wouldn't make eye contact. Eye contact seemed to be painful to her. When told, "We love you and will take care of you," she'd walk away. Jenny tried to control everything. She talked incessantly. She pushed her adoptive parents to the edge. She kept doing whatever it was that she was asked not to do. When her mother took something away from her, Jenny hit her. She also hit her older sister, other children, and the other children's parents, as well.
Soon after adopting Robbie, his parents sensed that there was something fundamentally "wrong" with him; he seemed to refuse all emotional contact, and he was an "emotional loner." In time, Robbie was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. He was reclusive, hostile, uncooperative, rude, and inconsiderate, but he was also highly intelligent and extremely gifted musically. Something about the way Robbie functioned impressed Aaron Lederer as being both attachment-based and oppositional, and he offered to work with Robbie's mother as if Robbie suffered from RAD and ODD, separately from Asperger's.
Dennis exhibited many of the symptoms of RAD and ODD. He was in a therapeutic school for three years, where he received group and individual therapy, but he became increasingly violent and disruptive, necessitating frequent visits from local and county police. He provoked his teachers intentionally, as if he enjoyed making teachers "lose it" and frequently refused to work. At home he threatened and intimidated his younger sister, repeatedly attacked his mother and father, and destroyed property. His parents had to hire an ex-policeman to take him to residential treatment. There he behaved like a model citizen and never got into trouble. After a month, the facility sent him home. He was well behaved for a week or so, then resumed his provocative behavior. He has been home for the past month, neither attending school nor working. He blows up when asked to do the simplest of tasks. Sometimes he cooperates, but for the most part, he trashes the house and hangs out with other kids who are often in trouble.
Marta was born less than one year after her brother. Their mother, unaware of what she was doing, rejected the new baby to protect the older one. Twenty-four years later, Marta was the failure in of a family of successes; she could not even do her own laundry or hold down a job. She was on several drugs for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety, but nothing helped.
Will, 13, and Kevin, 16
Will and Kevin were adopted into a family that had previously also adopted a girl. But then the adoptive father died, leaving Elizabeth, his wife, to raise all three children alone. The adoptive family was a challenge before the father's death; afterward, dealing with everyone was impossible. Will was diagnosed with RAD, ODD, developmental delays and additional unspecified emotional disorders. He was unhappy and very needy, stayed up all night, cruelly teased the family dog, and ran away from home regularly. He did poorly in school and believed that everybody hated him there. His behavior at school was, at different times, labeled as "uncontrollable," "inappropriate," and "verbally aggressive." Kevin was physically threatening toward family members and destructive at home, punching holes in the walls and damaging furniture. He was a gang member, used drugs and alcohol, and sneaked girls into the house for sex. Kevin constantly provoked Will into fights, and between the two of them, the house was in a state of constant chaos.
John was adopted when he was three years old. By the time he was seven, he had been diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder, attention deficit disorder, and bipolar disorder (RAD, ADD, and BPD) and was on multiple medications. His adoptive mother complained that he was "out of whack; bedwetting; had violent loss of temper; couldn't do anything independently; made strange noises; played with food; was in and out of bed at night; couldn't be by himself; was annoying; knocked over furniture when couldn't get his way; threatened to hurt [her] and also himself; was immature physically and behaviorally; wanted to control and make the rules; was unable to socialize with peers; missed social cues; and hoarded candy and other things in his pockets, pillows, and drawers."