Study Guide: Supporting Individuals with RAD


Behaviors that Characterize Reactive Attachment Disorder

Inappropriate Social Interactions
Inadequate or Pathological Care
Soothing Behaviors


RAD and the Brain

Extreme stress and lack of nurturing early in life effects brain development in a child with RAD.

Activation of the hippocampus causes:

  • hypervigilance
  • increased muscle tone
  • focus on threats
  • anxiety
  • impulsivity
  • physical symptoms


Diagnostic Requirements


Myths and Facts



With enough love and affection, Lexi will be just fine.

Truth: While patience and care by a consistent and nurturing caregiver can result in a more attached relationship, love is not enough.


Lexi is just banging her head to get my attention. She needs time out.

Truth:  Rocking, scratching, and head banging are all coping behaviors for children with RAD when the child feels distressed.

Truth:  Teach the child with RAD how to express emotions with WORDS.


I often catch Lexi trying to sneak extra food from the serving line. She must not get enough to eat outside of school.

Truth: RAD can effect a child's behavior relating to food. Because of the way that their brains have formed during the earliest stages of development, children with RAD can exhibit unusual behaviors towards food.


Having attachment difficulties means that my foster child must have RAD.

Truth: Many adoptive and foster families deal with attachment and bonding issues...but that does not mean that the child has an attachment disorder.

Truth: Children with ADHD are often picky eaters

Truth: ADHD meds can suppress appetite

Truth: Children with ADHD will benefit from a high protein breakfast



Lexi likes it when I rock her in my lap and sing softly.

Truth: Studies have shown that time in a rocking chair can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and improve circulation in both children and adults.


There is no specific medication or treatment for RAD.

Truth: Any decisions to use medication should be based upon a psychiatric assessment.


Strategies for Supporting Individuals with ADHD

Remember the acronym: P-A-R-E-N-T


Positive touch

Acceptance & flexibility

Reinforce their value



Think simple

References and Resources

Subject Matter Experts: