Autism, Aspergers, Rob Gorski,Special Needs Parenting, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Fibromyalgia,

Category Archive: Reactive Attachment Disorder

How many of you know what it’s like to live with someone that has Reactive Attachment Disorder?


I know that I talk about Gavin and Reactive Attachment Disorder on this blog but it’s clear that many people don’t understand.. Believe me, I get it. This isn’t something easy to digest.

I thought I would share some of the clinical information about Reactive Attachment Disorder that’s has helped me to better understand what’s going on.

I’ve share a ton of personal experience but perhaps the clinical information can help put things into perspective..

This is courtesy of the Mayo Clinic.  You can find this information at the following link. All rights and credit belong to the amazing Mayo Clinic.   Click here.


Reactive attachment disorder begins before age 5. Signs and symptoms of the disorder may begin when the child is still an infant.

Signs and symptoms in babies may include:

Withdrawn, sad and listless appearance
Failure to smile
Lack of the normal tendency to follow others in the room with the eyes
Failure to reach out when picked up
No interest in playing peekaboo or other interactive games
No interest in playing with toys
Engaging in self-soothing behavior, such as rocking or self-stroking
Calm when left alone
Signs and symptoms in toddlers, older children and adolescents may include:

Withdrawing from others
Avoiding or dismissing comforting comments or gestures
Acting aggressively toward peers
Watching others closely but not engaging in social interaction
Failing to ask for support or assistance
Obvious and consistent awkwardness or discomfort
Masking feelings of anger or distress
Alcohol or drug abuse in adolescents
As children with reactive attachment disorder grow older, they may develop either inhibited or disinhibited behavior patterns. While some children have signs and symptoms of just one type of behavior, many exhibit both types.

Inhibited behavior. Children with inhibited behavior shun relationships and attachments to virtually everyone. This may happen when a baby never has the chance to develop an attachment to any caregiver.

Disinhibited behavior. Children with disinhibited behavior seek attention from virtually everyone, including strangers. This may happen when a baby has multiple caregivers or frequent changes in caregivers. Children with this type of reactive attachment disorder may frequently ask for help doing tasks, have inappropriately childish behavior or appear anxious.
There’s little research on signs and symptoms of reactive attachment disorder beyond early childhood. It may lead to controlling, aggressive or delinquent behaviors, trouble relating to peers, and other problems. While treatment can help children and adults cope with reactive attachment disorder, the changes that occur during early childhood are permanent and the disorder is a lifelong challenge.

When to see a doctor
If you think your child may have reactive attachment disorder, see a doctor. You may start by visiting your family doctor. However, if your child likely has reactive attachment disorder or another mental health problem, you’ll need to see a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness (psychiatrist) for a complete evaluation.

Consider getting an evaluation if your baby or child:

Prefers not to be held
Usually likes to play alone
Doesn’t seek out physical contact
Avoids you
Will readily go to strangers
Seems uninterested in you


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, his or her need for a meal or a diaper 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 emotionally or physically abusive responses from caregivers comes to expect rejection or hostility. The child then becomes distrustful and learns to avoid social contact. Emotional interactions between babies and caregivers may affect development in the brain, leading to attachment problems and affecting personality and relationships throughout life.

Most children are naturally resilient, and even those who’ve been neglected, lived in orphanages or had multiple caregivers can develop healthy relationships and strong bonds. It’s not clear why some babies and children develop reactive attachment disorder and others don’t.

Risk Factors

Reactive attachment disorder is rare. However, there are no accurate statistics on how many babies and children have the condition. Reactive attachment disorder begins before age 5, usually starting in infancy.

Factors that may increase the chance of developing reactive attachment disorder include:

Living in an orphanage
Institutional care
Frequent changes in foster care or caregivers
Inexperienced parents
Extreme neglect
Prolonged hospitalization
Extreme poverty
Physical, sexual or emotional abuse
Forced removal from a neglectful or abusive home
Postpartum depression in the baby’s mother
Parents who have a mental illness, anger management problems, or drug or alcohol abuse


Complications of reactive attachment disorder can continue into adulthood and can include:

Delayed learning or physical growth
Poor self-esteem
Delinquent or antisocial behavior
Relationship problems
Temper or anger problems
Eating problems, which can lead to malnutrition in severe cases
Academic problems
Drug and alcohol addiction
Unemployment or frequent job changes
Inappropriate sexual behavior


Treatment of reactive attachment disorder often involves a mix of psychological counseling, medications and education about the disorder. It may involve a team of medical and mental health providers with expertise in attachment disorders. Treatment usually includes both the baby or child and the parents or caregivers.

Goals of treatment are to help ensure that the baby or child has a safe and stable living situation and that he or she develops positive interactions with parents and caregivers. Treatment can also boost self-esteem and improve peer relationships.

There’s no standard treatment for reactive attachment disorder. However, it often includes:

Individual psychological counseling
Education of parents and caregivers about the condition
Parenting skills classes
Family therapy
Medication for other conditions that may be present, such as depression, anxiety or hyperactivity in a child or a parent
Special education services
Residential or inpatient treatment for children with more-serious problems or who put themselves or others at risk of harm
Other treatments for reactive attachment disorder that may be helpful include:

Development of attachment between the child and the child’s therapist
Close, comforting physical contact
Managing reactive attachment disorder is a long-term challenge and can be quite demanding for parents and caregivers. You may want to consider seeking psychological counseling yourself or taking other steps to learn how to cope with the stress of having a child with reactive attachment disorder.

Controversial and coercive techniques
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children have all criticized dangerous and unproven treatment techniques for reactive attachment disorder. Controversial practices can be psychologically and physically damaging and have led to accidental deaths.

Some unproven treatments for reactive attachment disorder include:

Re-parenting, rebirthing
Tightly wrapping, binding or holding children
Withholding food or water
Forcing a child to eat or drink
Yelling, tickling or pulling limbs, triggering anger that finally leads to submission
Beware of mental health providers who promote these methods. Some offer research as evidence to support their techniques, but none has been published in reputable medical or mental health journals.

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

I hope this has given you a bit more perspective and perhaps some insight into my life. I know that it’s hard to imagine a child can do some of these things.  I ask that you try to understand how difficult is is for a parent to have to come to grips with something like tbis

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Just kill me now, I can’t take any more tonight


I know the title is a bit dramatic but I at the time of writing, I was a donkey on the edge. 

I wish I had positive news to share with all of you. I wish that I could say that Gavin came home and we had no problems.  Unfortunately, I can’t say that. 

When Gavin got into the van after school and I went around asking each of them about their day, I cringed as I got to Gavin. 

He proudly said that he had an awesome day.  I was like, thank God.

I asked him if there were any problems today and that’s where things rapidly went downhill.  I asked him how his homework from last night went.  He informed me that he never turned it in. It was that point that I felt it best to pause the conversation until such a time that I wasn’t behind the wheel of a car. 

When we arrived home, we got the two E’s a snack and sent them upstairs so we could chat with Gavin and figure out what the heck just happened. 

Lizze asked him if he’d turned in his homework and he told her no, he hadn’t..

Feeling the vein in my forehead throbbing, I asked him why he hadn’t turned it in.  He said it wasn’t done and he knew had two problems left. 

This is where I got really frustrated because if you recall, when we went through all of this last night, he had been simply making up answers because he either didn’t know how to do the work or didn’t want to the work.  There’s no way to really know for sure which it is. 

I wanted to know why he even cared about the last two problems when everything else was made up answers?  Why didn’t he friggin turn it in?

The answer I got just totally blew me away and all I wanted to do was run away screaming and waving my arms in the air. 

It turns out we were talking about two different things, although I’m not sure how he got these two things confused. I really think he’s messing with us, I truly do. 

He claims that he thought I was asking him about his homework for today. 

I was very, very specific about referring to the homework from last night but he insists that he never heard Lizze or I say that. Whatever, it’s not worth me having a stroke over. 

Anyway, when asked again about his homework from last night, he said, oh, I gave that to my teacher but he said he could no longer accept it because it was from last grading period. That’s right, last grading period.

When I asked him of He had homework tonight, he said that he did.

However, his homework tonight isn’t really homework.  It’s in class work that he didn’t finish in time. Instead of turning it in, he told his teacher that he give it to him tomorrow, after he’d had a chance to finish it.  The openly admits to this.

This conversation led to a tantrum because he knew that he was busted again.

Lizze and I just stared at each other, unsure of what to say.  In truth, it was more like we were trying to refrain from saying something we’d later regret.

As a result of this and other reasons I haven’t shared just yet, we had to remove a few privileges until the homework situation is straightened out.  We also have reason to be concerned about contact with the boys again.  That will be a whole other post but this is just the way it is. 

After being reminded about boundaries again tonight, he got too close to Elliott and so he ended up losing his choice of dinner tonight and instead had oatmeal.

He was really pissed off now, not because he did anything wrong, but because we were holding him accountable for his actions.  So began the second, more violent tantrum of the afternoon.

I’m so frustrated right now and I just don’t know what to think.

At this point, we know for sure that he’s been lying.  We know that. We also know that he’s been lying to and manipulating his teachers and fellow students. We know for sure that his teachers keep saying that he’s doing great and we have nothing to worry about.  However, we also know for sure that he’s not doing his homework and at least some classwork. 

What we don’t know is if the cognitive regression plays a role in any of this or if this is Reactive Attachment behavior.

Personally, I’m seeing this as at least mostly free Reactive Attachment related because he’s been caught several times trying to pit Lizze and myself against the school. This happened as recently as last week. 

I don’t know what to do.  I feel like I’m going crazy and This problem is getting bigger and bigger.

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This is sad and I hate to admit it, but it’s true


This is really sad and I’m a bit ashamed to admit this but I’m not looking forward to Gavin coming home with more homework.  Homework has been a really challenging area for us as of late. 


I’m afraid to even approach this today with him because it honestly makes my head hurt.  I can’t imagine how it makes Lizze’s head feel. 

Gavin has been extremely uncooperative and dishonest when it comes to his school work.  This has most likely been going on all year and we are only just now catching on to his game.  It’s not that he can’t do the work.  He just doesn’t seem to want to do it. 

If you ask his teachers, and we have, he’s doing really well. 

I don’t know what’s going on with Gavin.  That’s not actually true.  We’ve spoken with Dr. Pattie and we all believe that Gavin is playing us.  I really truly hate to say this but unfortunately, I believe this is the case. 

It’s become obvious to Lizze, myself and Dr.  Pattie, that Gavin’s splitting or rather attempting to spit us and the school. 

At this point, I just don’t even have the energy or desire to deal with this right now.  It’s not going to lead to anything positive and until we meet either the school on Friday, we’re not going to get anywhere.  🙁

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We survived a massive tantrum tonight


Gavin had a massive blowout this evening. This particular tantrum was very violent, loud and full of self-injury.

Perhaps it would be best to start at the beginning.

The boys were all playing together.  Everything seemed to be going well.  At some point things took a turn and Gavin began having behavioral problems. 


There was no apparent trigger, he simply turned.

It began with Gavin smashing one of Elliott’s favorite stuffed animals into the ground, over and over again.  Elliott asked him to stop and Gavin refused. Elliott asked again. Once again Gavin refused and continued smashing the little blue Smurf into the ground.

When Elliott asked him to stop again, Gavin responded by chucking the Smurf at Elliott as hard as he could.

Gavin openly admits to doing this but has no explanation as to why and simply stares at us, as though it was no big deal.

Lizze and I sent the boys upstairs and we confronted Gavin about what he had done.  He showed absolutely no remorse and only became upset upon hearing the news that he was being punished.

We tried to explain to him why this was such a problem but he wasn’t listening, he was too pissed off that we were holding him accountable for his actions.

His tantrum was all drama.  He would look right at us as he punched himself in the head, scratched his face, forehead and legs up. He bit himself over and over, leaving bite marks. He was looking for a reaction and we didn’t give it to him. This caused him to escalate, in a bid to get a reaction. 

He kicked over two tables, stomped on the floor and screamed at the top of his lungs.

When he finally realized that we didn’t care and he wouldn’t be able to manipulate us, he simply stopped. 

The whole thing lasted roughly 30 minutes, give or take.  In that 30 minutes he managed to terrorize his little brothers and assault himself, over and over again.

On the positive side, he didn’t lash out at anyone during this time and that’s always a good thing.

Keep in mind that this is a tantrum and not a meltdown. There is a very distinct difference between the two.

I’m really hoping to see tomorrow bring with it some better behavior and better choices.  We’re here to help Gavin grow and learn and while this is proving to be a challenge, it’s a challenge worth undertaking.

We’ve never given up on Gavin and never will.

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I’m not going to make it today


Not too long after Gavin upset Elliott this morning, he apparently felt the need to move on to Emmett.  I don’t know why but Gavin’s in a mood today and so far, he’s taking it out on everyone else.

Emmett has this ball. It’s his absolute, most favorite ball in the world. 

At some point last night, one of the cats put a hole in the ball and it now looks like a shriveled up raisin. Instead of pulling me aside and showing me, he made a huge ordeal out of the ball being destroyed, right in front of Emmett. 

Emmett became very upset and Gavin turned around and walked away. 

I’m not going to make it today….

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Reactive Attachment Disorder: When one parents in denial


We all have our challenges and we all have our perverbial cross to bare.  I’ve got to say that our oldest child Gavin, is 50 shades of challenge, with 10 shades of mystery on the side.

Whenever I think I’ve finally got him figured out, he proves me wrong.

Tonight we were having a rough time getting Emmett and Elliott to go to sleep. Elliott is anxious and afraid but won’t tell us what’s bothering him, outside of the nightmares he keeps talking about. 

Emmett was just in a bad mood and didn’t want to go to bed so he was being difficult. 

Gavin goes to bed like a dream.  We give him his meds and he brushes his teeth, goes potty and is then off to bed. Tonight, he decides to be difficult as well. 

He went to bed like normal but then just as Emmett closes his eyes and Elliott finally calms down is is almost asleep, Gavin comes out of his bedroom and asks to use the bathroom, again. 

I say again because he just used it about 10 minutes ago. 

With Gavin, you can never assume anything.  So the moment I assume that he just needs to go potty, it’ll turn out that he was doing this to make it more difficult for Lizze and I to get the boys to sleep. If I assume that he’s just messing with us, and tell him to stay in bed, he’ll have an accident.

You will quite literally drive yourself crazy trying to figure this stuff out. 

I used to think that his accidents were legitimate accidents but it turns out that it is something that is very common in kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder and even Bipolar kids as well. These accidents are willful acts meant to disrupt and create chaos. 

If you’re a long time reader, you might remember me mentioning that Gavin used to threaten us with wetting himself, if we didn’t give him his way. We of course didn’t give him his way and so were would pee his pants. 

He even did this to Dr. Pattie, during an several appointments. 

Believe it or not, I actually forgot about that until Dr. Pattie reminded me recently, during our discussion about Gavin’s recent accidents.

The truly messed up part of this whole thing is that no matter what we do or how we address this, we have no idea if we’re actually making the right choice. If we assume this is outside of his control and we’re wrong, he wins. If we assume that he’s doing this on purpose and he’s not…..well that’s just messed up on our part. 

I hate the idea of punishing him for something that is truly outside of his control. 

We don’t punish him if he has an accident because of everything I just stated above.  However, when it comes to what happened tonight and him wanting to go potty again and in order to ask us, he has to wake up his brothers that we tried so desperately to get to sleep…….it’s another story. 

If I asked his doctors about this, they’d give me that look like, come on Rob, you know exactly what he was doing. 

Something that’s important to know about me is that between Lizze, myself and all his doctors, I’m the one prone to giving him the benefit of the doubt. The truth is that no matter how many times I’m proven wrong, I always remember that one year old little boy that I took on as my own.  I remember everything that his biological father and paternal grandparents put him through. 

I remember how he was before everything changed and part of me has never dealt with that loss.  To be completely honest, a very large part of me is in denial about who and what he has turned into.

This has been a source of contention between Lizze and I on many occasions because when he targets her, he does so very deliberately. He also does this at times when I’m not there to see it.  This is called splitting and is meant to create chaos and tension between Lizze and I.  Sadly, he’s very, very good at this. 

Lizze and I have since gotten mostly on the same page.  Our medical and psychological support teams have helped us to see exactly what’s going on and address the problem at its source. 

I wouldn’t wish this life on anyone.  Anyone that has this life, understands exactly what I’m talking about.It’s so hard to wrap your brain around this kind of stuff because you have to first accept and acknowledge that a rather unassuming like boy is capable of these things. 

All I can say is that you would not believe the things that my son is capable of doing and I’m talking about things that have been witnessed by multiple people and well documented.  The things we don’t know about yet, are the ones that scare me the most.

This is why we have to take every precaution and more often than not, assume the worst.

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