Reactive Attachment Disorder at School

Students with Reactive Attachment Disorder often need a unique plan to help find them success at school. This post aims to help bring understanding and ideas to support your students with Reactive Attachment Disorder.

What it can look like-

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Twenty RAD symptoms by Todd Friel- Source

  1. Superficially charming. Never real. Always fake. Good enough to fool people who don’t know them well. Used extensively for manipulation purposes. Examples: I love you mommy, all super sweet, after being verbally and physically abusive to mommy for days because RAD just realized they want something only mommy can give to them. Or, charming the pants off of a stranger, then telling their “poor orphan” story so the person will feel sorry for them then buy or give them what they want.
  2. Lack of eye contact. They will not engage unless they want something. They will only have direct eye contact when they want something from you and they are trying to gauge your reaction to their request or behavior. If you begin a conversation with them they will look everywhere except at you.
  3. Indiscriminately affectionate with strangers. Ours point blank told us that they trusted the stranger they met that afternoon more than they trusted us, their parents. Hugging and snuggling with complete strangers within moments of meeting them is very common. Stroking other people including their hair and rubbing their hands over the strangers back and shoulders. They will grab and hold hands. They have ZERO natural boundaries. In fact this was a symptom of RAD we were unaware of when we met our RAD’s who were overly affectionate with us immediately upon meeting us. Red flag.
  4. Not affectionate on parents’ terms. Only when RAD wants something will they say things like I’m sorry, I love you, or show any signs of affection including using terms such as mom or dad. I learned that when I heard one of them say “mom” to be on alert because they were attempting to manipulate me. Sometimes we gave in on something they wanted simply to see a glimpse of the child/teen we thought they were all the while knowing once they get what they want they will go back to their same bad behavior and we will be disappointed once again.
  5. Destructive to self, others, animals, and material things. I could write a book about this – oh wait! I did! Self-harming is something many RAD’s do, many times to gain attention. Above all else they want all attention focused on themselves. We found the majority of the destruction from our RAD’s was aimed at hurting mom who they viewed as the enemy. Anything mom cared for became a target. That included biological children, pets, or anything that’s important to mom. If I buy the puppy a new toy it is sure to come up missing within hours. If my bio daughter gets a new notebook for school something of hers will go missing or the new notebook will have slits through it from a knife. Nothing is sacred. As mom I am very careful to what or whom I pay any special attention because there will be repercussions. If there is a baby or toddler in the home they need to be watched 24/7 to keep them from being harmed.
  6. Cruelty to animals. RAD’s can be very cruel. They love to torment those who are weaker than they are to show their superiority, and even more so if this animal is one that I, their enemy, shows any affection whatsoever. One woman who rescued cats found her adopted daughter throwing the cats against the wall to see it they would break. They did. Many of them died. There was zero remorse. She thought it was funny. And when she saw her mom crying it made her even happier.
  7. Lying about the obvious. Here is an example that happened over and over again in our home. I see RAD take something that doesn’t belong to them. I tell them to put it back because it isn’t theirs. RAD states they didn’t take it even though it is in their hand. I say there it is right in your hand. This will go on forever unless you threaten to take something of theirs from them. No amount of reasoning will do anything except add to the frustration. After putting up camera’s in my home office to keep them from stealing we showed them the video’s of them going into my purse and taking money. They all denied it vehemently even though the video clearly showed them putting the money into their pockets. They were so angry that we accused them that they slammed out the front door and we didn’t see them until the police brought them home three days later. Then adding insult to injury when brought home they told the police they ran away because we were stealing their money.
  8. Stealing. Constant. Anything of perceived value. From us. From school mates. From teachers. From stores. From gas stations. From friends. From strangers. With zero remorse or admittance even when caught. On the other hand when someone steals something from them (which happened to one of our RAD’s at school). After he noticed that $5 was taken from his jacket he blew up and screamed profanities until he had to be physically restrained and I was called to pick him up where he continued to scream at me about his $5. This was the same boy who stole hundreds of dollars from us. When I attempted to help him empathize with us who he had stolen from he simply told me it was not the same and continued to rant for hours about his $5.
  9. No impulse controls. What they want, they take. What they want to do, they do. They care nothing about consequences and in fact will be surprised if caught and then mad they got caught for something they think is no big deal. They completely turn the tables until everything, including what they did, is someone else’s fault. It is narcissism gone wild. They can only think about themselves and what they want. You cannot reason with this mentality.
  10. Lack of conscience. As stated in several examples above, they have no reality of anything ever being their responsibility or fault. They will never feel badly about something they’ve done. Sometimes they will act as if they feel badly and say they are sorry but only if they think it will get them out of trouble. Manipulation tactic. One of our adopted RAD’s is back in his home country. He messages me and tells me he is sorry for molesting our 15-year-old daughter. Then he asks me to help him get back to America. One time I flat out said to him that the only reason he was saying he was sorry was so that I would help him. He agreed then asked if I would help him anyway.
  11. Abnormal eating patterns. They can eat enormous amounts of food or no food at all for days. They will eat strange combinations like an entire container of sour cream with a cup of sugar on top. They will ask for a certain food and once made will refuse to eat it telling you it looks like garbage. They will steal food from a local store and we’ll find it rotting, uneaten, in their room. If you put something in front of them they don’t like that day (they liked it last week) they will spit on it and me, asking why I feed them such garbage. (This is homemade from scratch food.) They will take the sandwich made with homemade bread and throw it in the garbage at school and then tell everyone we are starving them. We will wake up one morning and find the refrigerator was cleaned out of all the food we planned to serve that day. Later we’ll find empty containers in their room and uneaten food smashed under their mattress.
  12. Poor peer relationships. Making friends for most RAD’s is literally impossible. It goes back to it’s all about them. No one, even another small child who starts out as a friend, will put up with that behavior for long. RAD will keep up the relationship as long as there is something in it for them. After that they will walk away without a second thought. Our RAD’s even turned on each other when it suited them. There is no loyalty. And zero understanding when RAD tries to rekindle the relationship and the other person wants nothing to do with RAD. RAD doesn’t comprehend that it was them that ruined the relationship and the other person doesn’t want to get burned a second time.
  13. Preoccupation with fire. Constant talk of burning down the house, burning the car, burning everything meaningful to the family, and even burning the house with the family inside. Playing with matches and lighters. Drawing vivid pictures of burning buildings. Filling trash cans with combustibles and lighting them on fire. There are numerous stories of homes being burned to the ground by their RAD child or teen. Fire and RAD are a dangerous mixture.
  14. Preoccupation with blood and gore. If RAD is not watching porn on their (stolen) phone they will migrate to the most violent shows possible. They spend hours watching the news and the worse it is the more they are enthralled with it. A fellow adoptive mom said that her RAD daughter would only watch the beginning of a particular show because she liked watching the murder happen. The mom said she liked watching the criminals get caught and brought to justice. RAD said, “That’s boring.” They will draw pictures with lots of blood and scenes of murder. One mom found a picture drawn by RAD daughter of RAD standing over the mom while mom was sleeping with a bloody red knife in her hands and blood all over the room.
  15. Preoccupation with bodily functions. Painting with feces is common. There are even groups on social media where this is their main focus it is so common. Urinating on things of importance, into heating vents, and on furniture and even walls to ruin them. However, this bodily function doesn’t mean they have good hygiene and in most cases they have just the opposite. They will refuse to take showers or wash their hair. If they smell at school please know we do our best to make them wash but I cannot go into a shower with an older child or teenager to make sure they wash with soap and water.
  16. Persistent nonsense questions, chatter, and senseless noises. Non-stop questions about mindless things. Constant “why” questions where they don’t care one bit about the answer but are just taking up your time. They want to be the center of attention at all times. And if it’s not questions it is meaningless chatter or noise. Imagine someone who refuses to get more than two feet from you who constantly clicks their tongue over and over for five or six hours just because they know it makes you crazy. And if you ask them to stop, they just do it louder because they know they are achieving their goal. Or how about listening to non-stop screaming. They scream until they can’t scream anymore because they lose their voice. Once healed they start screaming all over again.
  17. Non-stop demanding of attention. RAD must be the center of attention at all times. If someone or something else has your attention they will force themselves between in any way they can. One dad told this story. He was playing cards with another child at the kitchen table. RAD attempted to sit on dad’s lap – this is a 16-year-old male – and when that didn’t work he pulled up a chair so close it was touching dad’s chair and leaned heavily against dad, talking constantly and disrupting through the entire game and even putting his feet up on the table, asking dad to rub his feet. AND this was AFTER dad asked RAD to play the game with him and RAD retorted with profanity that he hates playing games and stomped off to his room. It was only after dad started playing with the other child that RAD became interested.
  18. Triangulation of adults. I wrote several sections in Adoption Combat Zone on triangulation. Most times this is pitting dad against mom but triangulation can occur with any adult who the RAD can manipulate including fellow church members, teachers, neighbors, extended family members, etc. The goal for the RAD is to manipulate someone to take their side in things. Triangulation occurs when RAD is allowed to come between adults. To one side they show their worst and the other, only their best. One person sees a sweet, adorable, perfect child/teen, the other sees someone who is trying to destroy them through whatever means possible. All this is done in order to get the life the RAD wants, one where they are in total control.
  19. False allegations of abuse. This is more common than any sane person would think and I’ve written much about it in the book. This is the number one go-to for RAD’s to get back at anyone who is not giving them what they want or to try and get what they want. We were turned into the authorities by our RAD’s several times for made-up abuses simply for not allowing them to keep a phone they stole and sit up all night watching porn on said phone. Mad at it being taken away they went to school the next day and reported us for abuse. Or when they feel threatened because they were caught doing something wrong they will turn in someone else in order to take the heat off themselves. They are fantastic story tellers.
  20. Creating chaos. RAD’s are experts at creating commotion so they can be the center of attention whether it be something like the dad playing a game above or something more serious such as starting a fire in your kitchen so they can go through your purse to steal your cash and credit cards. They will disrupt family dinners and outings. They love arguing and the louder it gets, the better.

This video by Todd Friel is a must-watch for anyone who is a friend, teacher, or family member of someone who has adopted a RAD child/teen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ypmGTGGN7A&t=2s

If you are a family with a RAD child or teen here is an excellent resource for you: http://instituteforattachment.org/

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Articles

AN OPEN LETTER TO EDUCATORS WHO WORK WITH STUDENTS WHO HAVE BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH REACTIVE ATTACHMENT DISORDER OR HAVE SUFFERED EARLY TRAUMA By Carey McGinn Ed.D., CCC/SLP

3 things teachers should know about their students with reactive attachment disorder By: Institute For Attachment and Child Development

Reactive Attachment Disorder – Fact Sheet

Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder FACT SHEET FOR EDUCATORS By Connie Hornyak, LCSW

Reactive Attachment Disorder: A Summary for Teachers Jessica Murphy, MSW, LICSW

Back to School With Reactive Attachment Disorder: 10 Things to do – by- JOHN M. SIMMONS

10 tips to work with school staff on an effective IEP for your child with reactive attachment disorder By: Institute For Attachment and Child Development

DEFINITIONS

MAYO CLINIC

Overview

Reactive attachment disorder is a rare but serious condition in which an infant or young child doesn’t establish healthy attachments with parents or caregivers. Reactive attachment disorder may develop if the child’s basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren’t met and loving, caring, stable attachments with others are not established.

With treatment, children with reactive attachment disorder may develop more stable and healthy relationships with caregivers and others. Treatments for reactive attachment disorder include psychological counseling, parent or caregiver counseling and education, learning positive child and caregiver interactions, and creating a stable, nurturing environment.

Symptoms

Reactive attachment disorder can start in infancy. There’s little research on signs and symptoms of reactive attachment disorder beyond early childhood, and it remains uncertain whether it occurs in children older than 5 years.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Unexplained withdrawal, fear, sadness or irritability
  • Sad and listless appearance
  • Not seeking comfort or showing no response when comfort is given
  • Failure to smile
  • Watching others closely but not engaging in social interaction
  • Failing to ask for support or assistance
  • Failure to reach out when picked up
  • No interest in playing peekaboo or other interactive games

When to see a doctor

Consider getting an evaluation if your child shows any of the signs above. Signs can occur in children who don’t have reactive attachment disorder or who have another disorder, such as autism spectrum disorder. It’s important to have your child evaluated by a pediatric psychiatrist or psychologist who can determine whether such behaviors indicate a more serious problem.

Causes

To feel safe and develop trust, infants and young children need a stable, caring environment. Their basic emotional and physical needs must be consistently met. For instance, when a baby cries, the need for a meal or a diaper change must be met with a shared emotional exchange that may include eye contact, smiling and caressing.

A child whose needs are ignored or met with a lack of emotional response from caregivers does not come to expect care or comfort or form a stable attachment to caregivers.

It’s not clear why some babies and children develop reactive attachment disorder and others don’t. Various theories about reactive attachment disorder and its causes exist, and more research is needed to develop a better understanding and improve diagnosis and treatment options.

Risk factors

The risk of developing reactive attachment disorder from serious social and emotional neglect or the lack of opportunity to develop stable attachments may increase in children who, for example:

  • Live in a children’s home or other institution
  • Frequently change foster homes or caregivers
  • Have parents who have severe mental health problems, criminal behavior or substance abuse that impairs their parenting
  • Have prolonged separation from parents or other caregivers due to hospitalization

However, most children who are severely neglected don’t develop reactive attachment disorder.

Complications

Without treatment, reactive attachment disorder can continue for several years and may have lifelong consequences.

Some research suggests that some children and teenagers with reactive attachment disorder may display callous, unemotional traits that can include behavior problems and cruelty toward people or animals. However, more research is needed to determine if problems in older children and adults are related to experiences of reactive attachment disorder in early childhood.

Prevention

While it’s not known with certainty if reactive attachment disorder can be prevented, there may be ways to reduce the risk of its development. Infants and young children need a stable, caring environment and their basic emotional and physical needs must be consistently met. The following parenting suggestions may help.

  • Take classes or volunteer with children if you lack experience or skill with babies or children. This will help you learn how to interact in a nurturing manner.
  • Be actively engaged with your child by lots of playing, talking to him or her, making eye contact, and smiling.
  • Learn to interpret your baby’s cues, such as different types of cries, so that you can meet his or her needs quickly and effectively.
  • Provide warm, nurturing interaction with your child, such as during feeding, bathing or changing diapers.
  • Offer both verbal and nonverbal responses to the child’s feelings through touch, facial expressions and tone of voice.

Source

Diagnosis

A pediatric psychiatrist or psychologist can conduct a thorough, in-depth examination to diagnose reactive attachment disorder.

Your child’s evaluation may include:

  • Direct observation of interaction with parents or caregivers
  • Details about the pattern of behavior over time
  • Examples of the behavior in a variety of situations
  • Information about interactions with parents or caregivers and others
  • Questions about the home and living situation since birth
  • An evaluation of parenting and caregiving styles and abilities

Your child’s doctor will also want to rule out other psychiatric disorders and determine if any other mental health conditions co-exist, such as:

  • Intellectual disability
  • Other adjustment disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Depressive disorders

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DMS-5)

Your doctor may use the diagnostic criteria for reactive attachment disorder in the DSM-5, published by the American Psychiatric Association. Diagnosis isn’t usually made before 9 months of age. Signs and symptoms appear before the age of 5 years.

Criteria include:

  • A consistent pattern of emotionally withdrawn behavior toward caregivers, shown by rarely seeking or not responding to comfort when distressed
  • Persistent social and emotional problems that include minimal responsiveness to others, no positive response to interactions, or unexplained irritability, sadness or fearfulness during interactions with caregivers
  • Persistent lack of having emotional needs for comfort, stimulation and affection met by caregivers, or repeated changes of primary caregivers that limit opportunities to form stable attachments, or care in a setting that severely limits opportunities to form attachments (such as an institution)
  • No diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder

Treatment

Children with reactive attachment disorder are believed to have the capacity to form attachments, but this ability has been hindered by their experiences.

Most children are naturally resilient. And even those who’ve been neglected, lived in a children’s home or other institution, or had multiple caregivers can develop healthy relationships. Early intervention appears to improve outcomes.

There’s no standard treatment for reactive attachment disorder, but it should involve both the child and parents or primary caregivers. Goals of treatment are to help ensure that the child:

  • Has a safe and stable living situation
  • Develops positive interactions and strengthens the attachment with parents and caregivers

Treatment strategies include:

  • Encouraging the child’s development by being nurturing, responsive and caring
  • Providing consistent caregivers to encourage a stable attachment for the child
  • Providing a positive, stimulating and interactive environment for the child
  • Addressing the child’s medical, safety and housing needs, as appropriate

Other services that may benefit the child and the family include:

  • Individual and family psychological counseling
  • Education of parents and caregivers about the condition
  • Parenting skills classes

Controversial and coercive techniques

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Psychiatric Association have criticized dangerous and unproven treatment techniques for reactive attachment disorder.

These techniques include any type of physical restraint or force to break down what’s believed to be the child’s resistance to attachments — an unproven theory of the cause of reactive attachment disorder. There is no scientific evidence to support these controversial practices, which can be psychologically and physically damaging and have led to accidental deaths.

If you’re considering any kind of unconventional treatment, talk to your child’s psychiatrist or psychologist first to make sure it’s evidence based and not harmful.

Clinical trials

Explore Mayo Clinic studies testing new treatments, interventions and tests as a means to prevent, detect, treat or manage this disease.

Coping and support

If you’re a parent or caregiver whose child has reactive attachment disorder, it’s easy to become angry, frustrated and distressed. You may feel like your child doesn’t love you — or that it’s hard to like your child sometimes.

These actions may help:

  • Educate yourself and your family about reactive attachment disorder. Ask your pediatrician about resources or check trusted internet sites. If your child has a background that includes institutions or foster care, consider checking with relevant social service agencies for educational materials and resources.
  • Find someone who can give you a break from time to time. It can be exhausting caring for a child with reactive attachment disorder. You’ll begin to burn out if you don’t periodically have downtime. But avoid using multiple caregivers. Choose a caregiver who is nurturing and familiar with reactive attachment disorder or educate the caregiver about the disorder.
  • Practice stress management skills. For example, learning and practicing yoga or meditation may help you relax and not get overwhelmed.
  • Make time for yourself. Develop or maintain your hobbies, social engagements and exercise routine.
  • Acknowledge it’s OK to feel frustrated or angry at times. The strong feelings you may have about your child are natural. But if needed, seek professional help.

Preparing for your appointment

You may start by visiting your child’s pediatrician. However, you may be referred to a child psychiatrist or psychologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of reactive attachment disorder or a pediatrician specializing in child development.

Here’s some information to help you get ready and know what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

Before your appointment, make a list of:

  • Any behavior problems or emotional issues you’ve noticed, and include any signs or symptoms that may seem unrelated to the reason for your child’s appointment
  • Key personal information, including any major stresses or life changes that you or your child have been through
  • All medications, vitamins, herbal remedies or other supplements your child is taking, including the dosages
  • Questions to ask your child’s doctor to make the most of your time together

Some basic questions to ask your doctor may include:

  • What is likely causing my child’s behavior problems or emotional issues?
  • Are there other possible causes?
  • What kinds of tests does my child need?
  • What’s the best treatment?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you’re suggesting?
  • My child has these other mental or physical health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
  • Are there any restrictions that my child needs to follow?
  • Should I take my child to see other specialists?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you’re prescribing for my child?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can have? What websites do you recommend?
  • Are there social services or support groups available to parents in my situation?

What to expect from your doctor

Your child’s doctor or mental health provider is likely to ask you a number of questions. Be ready to answer them to reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on.

Some questions the doctor may ask include:

  • When did you first notice problems with your child’s behavior or emotional responses?
  • Have your child’s behavioral or emotional issues been continuous or occasional?
  • How are your child’s behavioral or emotional issues interfering with his or her ability to function or interact with others?
  • Can you describe your child’s and the family’s home and living situation since birth?
  • Can you describe interactions with your child, both positive and negative?

Source

RadKid.Org Directory: Reactive Attachment Disorder Sites
Reactive Attachment Disorder Informational Sites Reactive Attachment Disorder Support Forums
RadKid.Org : Provides information and resources for caregivers of children with reactive attachment disorder in particular, but also includes descriptions of other childhood emotional, behavioral, or developmental disorders. ADSG : Attachment Disorder Support Group – Information and resources relating to reactive attachment disorder, from a Christian perspective. RadKid.Org : Reactive Attachment Disorder – Moderated by the folks at radkid.org & radkid.com, this is a support forum for parents, caregivers, therapists, and others concerned with reactive attachment disorder. Access is free, but requires registration with Delphi Forums. Forest Cottage Centre : Provides specialized coaching for parents of children with attachment disorder by telephone and through in-person sessions. Tanya Helton M/Sc is a well-known speaker in Canada on the issue of attachment, providing training for parents and professionals. Located in Fort St. John, British Columbia, Canada.
ATTACh : Association for the Treatment and Training in Attachment of Children – International coalition of professionals and lay persons who are involved with children who have attachment disorders. Includes a list of member therapists and treatment centers. The Attachment Disorder Site : Information and resources for parents and caregivers of children with attachment disorder. Find information about the effects of RAD on children and adults, some suggestions on dealing with schools and teachers, as well as adoption information. Hope for Radkids : Moderated by Nancy Geoghegan, this is a long-running and active support group for caregivers of children with reactive attachment disorder. Hosted on Yahoo Groups, this site requires registration, but access is free. St. Louis Attachment Network : Provides information, education, and support to families in the St. Louis, Missouri area. Includes a meeting schedule.
Nancy Thomas Parenting : A not-for-profit service organization offering information and resources on reactive attachment disorder directed at parents and teachers. Includes a schedule of seminars. The author of at least two books on the subject, Nancy L. Thomas is a Therapeutic Parenting Specialist. Daniel A. Hughes : Offers consultation and training for therapists and parents. The author of at least two books on the subject, Dr. Hughes has specialized in the treatment of children with emotional deficit, and now conducts workshops and trains therapists throughout the country. Includes a schedule of workshops. ADSG : Attachment Disorder Support Group : Includes forums for general RAD support, for homeschooling or other school issues, for adults with RAD and for siblings of children with RAD. No registration required. WNC Families CAN : Provides information and support for families in the Ashville, North Carolina area. No online discussion forum, but you can find a meeting schedule.
Center for Family Development : Presents information about reactive attachment disorder and other developmental / emotional deficits, including interesting testimonials from patients who have healed. Evergreen Consultants in Human Behavior : Founded in 1971 by Foster Cline, a pioneer in attachment therapy, the EC site offers information on the disorder and its treatment. About : Reactive Attachment Disorder : Moderated by Judy Swarbrick, this forum relating to reactive attachment disorder requires registration with About.com in order to post.  
RadZebra.Org : Attachment Disorder Network – Offers information and resources for parents and caregivers of children with RAD, as well as articles and poems. Includes a regular-mail newsletter and a support group for those in the Kansas City, Missouri area. The Little Prince : Surviving Life with Reactive Attachment Disorder – A mother’s experiences raising a RAD child. The author offers information about attachment parenting, dealing with this difficult subject with humor and poetry. MSN Groups: Reactive Attachment Disorder : Online support and discussion group for parents, caregivers, and others concerned with attachment disorder, therapeutic parenting and the treatment of bonding disorders.  
Older Child Adoption : Attachment & Bonding Issues – Provides information on attachment issues, including parenting, and teaching children with reactive attachment disorder. Heal the Hearts Foundation : Information and resources for caregivers of children with attachment disorder.    
CASA : Reactive Attachment Disorder – Hosted on the Arizona Supreme Court site; includes a clear definition of RAD, and concludes with a quiz. Attachment Treatment and Training Institute : Defines attachment disorder and offers information on attachment therapy and training. Schedule of training seminars.    
Alaska Attachment and Bonding Associates : Find news, announcements, and a schedule for attachment support. The Cascade Center for Family Growth : Treatment center for children with severe behavioral disorders. Find information, resources, and treatment for those in the Utah area.    
Wisconsin Attachment Resource Network : Find information on attachment disorder, parenting and bonding techniques, and treatment. Foster W. Cline : Pioneer in attachment therapy. Find information on consults, a schedule of speaking/training engagements, handouts and articles.    
RadKid.Com : Maintained by our co-host in the RAD support forum we run on Delphiforums. Includes a wealth of information on therapeutic parenting, school issues, and other helpful readings. Help for Kids : Dr. Michael Katz. Video training tapes and clinical therapy program.    
  Villa Santa Maria : A residential community specializing in the clinical treatment of children and families who are suffering from attachment disorders. Located in Cedar Crest, New Mexico.    

Transforming Stress and Trauma: Fostering Wellness and Resilience

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I attended a talk today by Reclaiming Bay Area futures. The talk was adapted from UCSF Healthy Environments and Response to Trauma in Schools (HEARTS) Curriculum. Great tools and strategies were shared to better create classrooms and as effective practitioners of Trauma-informed practices.

PPTs

Healthy Environments and Response to Trauma in Schools (HEARTS):A trauma-informed approach aimed at ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Building on a PBIS Multi-Level System of Support to Create Trauma-Sensitive Schools

Resources

TRAUMA-SENSITIVE SCHOOLS: RESOURCES Compiled by Joyce Dorado, PhD, Director, UCSF HEARTS

Building Trauma-Sensitive Schools Handout Packet

FOSTERING THE TRAUMA INFORMED CLASSROOM: UNDERSTANDING TRAUMA, THE BRAIN AND BEST STRATEGIES AND INTERVENTIONS FOR RESPONSIVE CLASSROOMS

The Heart of Learning and Teaching: Compassion, Resiliency, and Academic Success

Creating and Advocating for Trauma-Sensitive Schools

Child Trauma Toolkit for Educators – The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (2008)

Helping Traumatized Children Learn 1 – Supportive School Environments for Children Traumatized by Family Violence – Massachusetts Advocates for Children in collaboration with Harvard Law School and the Task Force on Children Affected by Domestic Violence. (2005) http://www.traumasensitiveschools.org.

Helping Traumatized Children Learn 2 –  Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative – a Partnership of Massachusetts Advocates for Children and Harvard Law School (2013) http://www.traumasensitiveschools.org

Michigan- Trauma Informed Care Toolkit

NASP – Trauma Sensitive Schools

BIG LIST- Resources for Beginning Trauma-Informed Practices

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The Language of Trauma and Loss provides teachers with information about the effect of trauma and loss on children, and the teacher’s role in identifying and referring appropriate students. The program also helps teachers establish a “safe” classroom and improve language arts skills using trauma and loss as a vehicle. The first video offers professional development information for teachers. The other three videos are age-specific for elementary, middle school and high school students, and are to be used as a vehicle to help students express their concerns. From PBS Link

Articles

Creating Trauma-Sensitive Classrooms Preschool-3rd grade

Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom

Values for a Trauma-Informed Care Culture in Your Classroom and SchoolACES in Education, August 2017

Dr. Daniel Siegel Presenting a Hand Model of the Brain – This is an excellent video depicting how you could explain the brain to students and adults.  “upstairs and downstairs brain”.  Another version by Dr. Siegal, (a little longer) is called “Flipping Your Lid:” A Scientific Explanation.

Why Schools Need to Be Trauma Informed – Oehlberg, B. (2008) Trauma and Loss, Research and Interventions V8N2 Fall/Winter

Unlocking the Door to Learning:  Trauma-Informed Classrooms & Transformational Schools – McInerney, M. and McKlindon, A. (2014)

Books

The Trauma-Informed School: A Step-by-Step Implementation Guide for Administrators and School Personnel by Jim Sporleder and Heather T. Forbes LCSW.

The Heart of Learning and Teaching: Compassion, Resiliency, and Academic Success

Creating Cultures of Trauma-Informed Care (CCTIC): A Self-Assessment and Planning Protocol

Help for Billy: A Beyond Consequences Approach to Helping Children in the Classroom by Heather T. Forbes, LCSW

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: and other stories from a child psychiatrist’s notebook–what. traumatized children can teach us about loss, love by Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D.

Reaching and Teaching Children Who Hurt: Strategies for Your Classroom by Susan E. Craig

Checklist/ Tools

Trauma-Sensitive School Checklist

Review Tool for School Policies, Protocols, Procedures & Documents: Examination through a Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) Lens

New Orleans Trauma-Informed Schools Environmental Scan Checklist

Videos and Films

Why we need Trauma-Sensitive Schools?

Children, Violence, and Trauma Interventions in School

Creating a Culture of Compassion in Schools

Transitioning to Trauma-Informed Practices to Support Learning

How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime

Paper Tigers

Resilience – The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope

Online Training Trauma-Informed Care Resources

Trauma Training for Educators.

This resource comes from the Community Schools of Central Texas. This can be used as professional development with a group, or by individuals. I have used pieces in day long professional development. After sharing with a former colleague who teaches at a local university, I’m told that all of their new teacher candidates now view this training. “This is a free training resource designed to give anyone who works with children important trauma-focused information about how student learning and behavior is impacted by trauma and how educators and support staff can help students develop a greater sense of safety at school and begin to build new emotional regulation skills.”

Trauma-Sensitive Schools Learning Modules

This wealth of information comes from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. It consists of 14 modules that can be completed online. These modules can be accessed individually. It follows a PBIS format, “focusing first on universal practices (Tier 1), followed by strategies for students who need additional support (Tier 2), and intensive interventions for students who require ongoing support (Tier 3).”

Building Empathy in the Classroom

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Empathy: The Art of Listening
We generally want to respond when people speak to us. For example, someone says, “I’m so tired, I couldn’t get any work done.” Some typical responses listed below are often said with the best of intentions, but can unknowingly create distance and disconnection.
We call these empathy blockers.
• One-upping
“I’m so tired myself. I couldn’t get any work done either.”
• Advising / Fixing
“Maybe you should get more sleep.”
“Maybe you should get some vitamins.”
“Maybe you should…”
• Educating
“There’s a good book you should get on sleep and productivity.”
• Analyzing
“You know, this seems to be a pattern of yours.”
• Consoling
“That’s too bad. I’m sure things will go better tomorrow.”
• Discounting
“Okay, but shouldn’t you just be glad you have a job?”
Some things we can say to express empathy
• “I hear you.” Said with sincerity, meets a person’s need to be heard.
• “Tell me more.” Said with sincerity, shows you are really interested.
• “I don’t even know what to say right now, I’m just grateful you told me.”
When someone is in a difficult place, this may be all you have to say.
– Empathy is Being Interested Rather Than Being Interesting –

Source

Upset feelings typically are attributed to a need not being met. Here is a handy cheat sheet for Feelings Associated with Met and Unmet Needs.

happify-empathy

Activities and Worksheets

40 Kindness Activities & Empathy Worksheets for Students and Adults

Empathy in Your Classroom TRY THESE ACTIVITIES TO BUILD EMPATHY AND COMMUNITY (High School)

Emotional Intelligence Activities For Teens

A Quick-Guide To Teaching Empathy In The Classroom

A Toolkit for Promoting Empathy in Schools

Articles

Empathy in the Classroom: Why Should I Care?

Principal Connection / Building Empathy in Schools -Thomas R. Hoerr

Building Empathy in Classrooms and Schools

how to build project making caring empathy and strengthen your school community

Books

13 kids books to spark conversations about empathy Via Tinybop

10 Children’s Books That Teach Empathy  Via Self-Sufficient Kids

How to talk to kids about school violence

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The day after the mass shooting occurred in Florida many kids were talking about the massacre. They were asking a variety of questions like, “Will that happen to us at our school?” or simply “Am I safe at school?”  As educators, parents, and community members we have an obligation to know what to say to our kids. This post will review what the National Association of School Psychologist (NASP) recommends.

Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers

High profile acts of violence, particularly in schools, can confuse and frighten children who may feel in danger or worry that their friends or loved-ones are at risk. They will look to adults for information and guidance on how to react. Parents and school personnel can help children feel safe by establishing a sense of normalcy and security and talking with them about their fears.

  1. Reassure children that they are safe. Emphasize that schools are very safe. Validate their feelings. Explain that all feelings are okay when a tragedy occurs. Let children talk about their feelings, help put them into perspective, and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.
  2. Make time to talk. Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Be patient; children and youth do not always talk about their feelings readily. Watch for clues that they may want to talk, such as hovering around while you do the dishes or yard work. Some children prefer writing, playing music, or doing an art project as an outlet. Young children may need concrete activities (such as drawing, looking at picture books, or imaginative play) to help them identify and express their feelings.
  3. Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate.Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. Give simple examples of school safety like reminding children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day.
    • Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools.
    • Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines (e.g. not providing building access to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting threats to the school safety made by students or community members, etc.), communicating any personal safety concerns to school administrators, and accessing support for emotional needs.
  4. Review safety procedures. This should include procedures and safeguards at school and at home. Help children identify at least one adult at school and in the community to whom they go if they feel threatened or at risk.
  5. Observe children’s emotional state. Some children may not express their concerns verbally. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can also indicate a child’s level of anxiety or discomfort. In most children, these symptoms will ease with reassurance and time. However, some children may be at risk for more intense reactions. Children who have had a past traumatic experience or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or with special needs may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others. Seek the help of mental health professional if you are at all concerned.
  6. Limit television viewing of these events. Limit television viewing and be aware if the television is on in common areas. Developmentally inappropriate information can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young children. Adults also need to be mindful of the content of conversations that they have with each other in front of children, even teenagers, and limit their exposure to vengeful, hateful, and angry comments that might be misunderstood.
  7. Maintain a normal routine. Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical health. Ensure that children get plenty of sleep, regular meals, and exercise. Encourage them to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed.

Suggested Points to Emphasize When Talking to Children

    • Schools are safe places. School staff works with parents and public safety providers (local police and fire departments, emergency responders, hospitals, etc.) to keep you safe.

The school building is safe because … (cite specific school procedures).

  • We all play a role in the school safety. Be observant and let an adult know if you see or hear something that makes you feel uncomfortable, nervous or frightened.
  • There is a difference between reporting, tattling or gossiping. You can provide important information that may prevent harm either directly or anonymously by telling a trusted adult what you know or hear.
  • Although there is no absolute guarantee that something bad will never happen, it is important to understand the difference between the possibility of something happening and probability that it will affect you (our school community).
  • Senseless violence is hard for everyone to understand. Doing things that you enjoy, sticking to your normal routine, and being with friends and family help make us feel better and keep us from worrying about the event.
  • Sometimes people do bad things that hurt others. They may be unable to handle their anger, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or suffering from mental illness. Adults (parents, teachers, police officers, doctors, faith leaders) work very hard to get those people help and keep them from hurting others. It is important for all of us to know how to get help if we feel really upset or angry and to stay away from drugs and alcohol.
  • Stay away from guns and other weapons. Tell an adult if you know someone has a gun. Access to guns is one of the leading risk factors for deadly violence.
  • Violence is never a solution to personal problems. Students can be part of the positive solution by participating in anti-violence programs at school, learning conflict mediation skills, and seeking help from an adult if they or a peer is struggling with anger, depression, or other emotions they cannot control.

NASP has additional information for parents and educators on school safety, violence prevention, children’s trauma reactions, and crisis response at www.nasponline.org.

PDF

The handout, Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers is available in the following languages:

Source

Related Readings

Violence Prevention: A Mental Health Issue Tips for Parents and Educators (NASP)

15 Tips for Talking with Children About School Violence (Colorín Colorado)

School Violence Prevention-Brief Facts and Tips (NASP)

Framework for Safe and Successful Schools

PREPaRE Training Curriculum

NASP Resolution on Efforts to Prevent Gun Violence 

Using the lens of the Search Institute’s “40 Developmental Assets” to support student outcomes

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Developmental Assets

Developmental Assets help children grow into caring, engaged, and responsible adults. Developmental Assets include the internal character strengths and commitments young people need as well as the external supports and opportunities they need from their families, schools, organizations, and communities.

Search Institute introduced the framework in 1990 and, since then, has studied developmental assets in more that 5 million youth across North America and around the world. The approach focuses on young people’s strengths and working across the many parts of their lives to support their growth and successful development. Hundreds of schools, coalitions, and other organizations have used the developmental assets as a guiding framework for their youth development efforts. Source

Questions

WHAT IS IT?
Asset Building, Resiliency and Youth Development and are philosophies and strategies for creating youth-centered environments that prioritize the positive development of young people.

WHY USE IT?
Research and practitioner experience has proven that a positive school day and after school environment that intentionally develops youth’s assets and adopts a youth development approach can provide the experiences and skills that youth need to develop into healthy adults.

WHEN TO USE IT?
Utilizing an asset building, resiliency and youth development based approach is effective in planning and facilitating all aspects of school day and after school programs. The approach can be used:
As the foundation of your school’s philosophy to establish emotionally, physically safe and engaging learning environments; As a framework for creating engaging classroom, program structures and activities that offer meaningful participation, build skills and expose youth to new opportunities and resources; As an approach for increasing youth involvement and youth buy in to lesson and activity components; As a professional development component or part of a job orientation for all staff.
HOW IT IS USED:
Below are three philosophies of asset building, resiliency and youth development that are often referred to by school sites, local city agencies and community based organizations.
SFUSD- School Health Programs Department encourages the following Asset Building, Resiliency and Youth Development core principles for working with young people as measured by the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS):

Young people have the capacity to develop and transform as they move toward adulthood.
Young people are genetically intended to develop and are actively seeking to meet their own needs.
All young people need the same types of positive resources:
-Caring, Respectful Relationships
-High, Clear and Fair Expectations
-Meaningful Opportunities to Participate and Contribute
All young people need adults in their lives.

Source

PROCESS

First, the kids take a pretest called the DAP (Link). The school gets the results to help direct efforts to support students at their school based on the needs represented by the child responses. The school chooses activities to carry out throughout the year to intervene with the needs. Finally, a posttest of the DAP is given to measure the growth of the schools’ efforts to address the needs identified in the pretest DAP.

DAP QUICK REFERENCE

Length: 58 questions

Average Completion Rate:10 minutes
(Add at least 10 minutes for general instructions and collection.)

Youth: 4-12 grade; ages 9-18

Minimum youth needed for report: 30

Minimum time between Pre and Post: 3 months

Source

 

Need a Copy of the 40 Developmental Assets?

These documents are provided, compliments of the Search Institute. Click on the links to download PDF copies of 40 Developmental Assets lists for different developmental stages and in different languages.

These pages may be reproduced for educational, noncommercial uses only. Copyright © 1997, 2006 by Search Institute, 615 First Avenue N.E.,Suite 125, Minneapolis, MN 55413; 800-888-7828; search-institute.org. All Rights Reserved.

The following are registered trademarks of Search Institute: Search Institute®, Developmental Assets® and Healthy Communities • Healthy Youth®.

Asset Checklist

Assets for Different Developmental Stages

Assets in Alternate Languages

Please note, these asset lists were compiled by Healthy Communities, Healthy Youth sites across the United States. They represent volunteer efforts. Assets lists in alternate stages for different developmental levels are not available for every language.

Would you like to learn more about the Search Institute and their work with the 40 Developmental Assets? Click here to check out their website!

Stress and the Holidays – How to Support Yourself and Your Kids.

Family reading together on sofa at Christmas time, viewed through window

APA suggests these tips to help parents effectively manage holiday stress

  • Strengthen social connections – We know that strong, supportive relationships help us manage all kinds of challenges. So, we can view the holidays as a time to reconnect with the positive people in our lives. Accepting help and support from those who care about us can help alleviate stress. Also, volunteering at a local charity on our own or with family can be another way to make connections; helping others often makes us feel better, too.
  • Initiate conversations about the season – It can be helpful to have conversations with our kids about the variety of different holiday traditions our families, friends and others may celebrate. Parents can use this time as an opportunity to discuss how some families may not participate in the same holiday traditions as others. Not everyone needs to be the same. It is important to teach open-mindedness about others and their celebrations.
  • Set expectations – It is helpful to set realistic expectations for gifts and holiday activities. Depending on a child’s age, we can use this opportunity to teach kids about the value of money and responsible spending. We need to remember to pare down our own expectations, too. Instead of trying to take on everything, we need to identify the most important holiday tasks and take small concrete steps to accomplish them.
  • Keep things in perspective – On the whole, the holiday season is short. It helps to maintain a broader context and a longer-term perspective. We can ask ourselves, what’s the worst thing that could happen this holiday? Our greatest fears may not happen and, if they do, we can tap our strengths and the help of others to manage them. There will be time after the holiday season to follow up or do more of things we’ve overlooked or did not have the time to do during the holidays.
  • Take care of yourself – It is important that we pay attention to our own needs and feelings during the holiday season. We can find fun, enjoyable and relaxing activities for ourselves and our families. By keeping our minds and bodies healthy, we are primed to deal with stressful situations when they arise. Consider cutting back television viewing for kids and getting the family out together for fresh air and a winter walk. Physical activity can help us feel better and sleep well, while reducing sedentary time and possible exposure to stress-inducing advertisements. Source

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Reading

How to De-Stress Young Children During the Holidays

LESSENING HOLIDAY STRESS FOR LITTLE ONES

THE ABCS OF A MEANINGFUL & STRESS FREE CHRISTMAS WITH YOUNG CHILDREN- Tons of ideas if you need them.

Research on Holiday Stress -APA

Handling Holidays After Divorce