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Reactive Attachment Disorder: Glossary of Terms & Acronyms

Abandonment - Desertion of a child by a parent or adult primary caregiver with no provisions for continued childcare, nor with any intention to return to resume caregiving.

Abuse - Physical, sexual and/or emotional maltreatment of a child.

Acting-Out Behaviors - In abused children, behaviors that reflect abuse they have experienced or witnessed.

AD - A common abbreviation that we don’t use here, as it is sometimes used to mean Attachment Disorder, or it can mean Anxiety Disorder.

ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder

ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Adjustment Disorder - The development of emotional or behavioral symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, sleeping problems, or inappropriate conduct, in response to an identifiable stress event, that are more intense than one might expect from such a stressor.

Adolescence - The period from the onset of puberty until the beginning of adulthood.

Adoptee - An adopted person.

Adoption - A court action in which an adult assumes legal and other responsibilities for another, usually a minor.

Adoption Disruption - The interruption of an adoption prior to finalization. Sometimes referred to as a failed adoption, or a failed placement.

Adoption Dissolution - The interruption of an adoption after finalization that requires court action.

Adoption Placement - The point at which a child begins to live with prospective parents. The period before the adoption is finalized.

Adoption Reversal - Reclaiming of a child by birth parents who have had a subsequent change of heart.

Adoption Triad - The three major parties in an adoption: birth parents, adoptive parents, and adopted child.

Affective Disorder - A category of disorders in which the individual experiences excessive depression or elation. Examples include depression and bipolar disorder (manic-depression).

Alcoholism - Addiction to alcohol.

Alcohol-Related Birth Defects - Physical or cognitive deficits in a child which result from maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Includes but is not limited to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAE).

Antisocial Behavior - Actions deviating sharply from the social norm. Children with such behaviors commonly skip school, get into fights, run away from home, persistently lie, use drugs or alcohol, steal, vandalize property, and violate school and home rules.

Anxiety - Extreme apprehensiveness related to uncertainty.

Anxiety Disorders - Characterized by anxiety and tension even when there is no apparent danger, and the symptoms can cause distress and interfere with daily activities.

AS - Asperger’s Syndrome.

Asperger’s Syndrome - A neurobiological condition characterized by sustained impairments in social interactions and development of repetitive, restricted patterns of behaviors, activities, and interests.

Attachment - A bond between an infant and a caregiver, usually its mother. Attachment is normally formed within the context of a family, providing the child with the necessary feelings of safety and nurturing at a time when the infant is growing and developing as a human being. This initial relationship between the infant and his caregiver serves as a model for all future relationships.

Attachment Disorder - A condition in which a person has difficulty forming lasting relationships. Children with attachment disorder often are unable to be genuinely affectionate with others, have an underdeveloped conscience, and are not able to trust. Attachment Disorder, Detachment Disorder, and Reactive Attachment Disorder are used interchangeably.

Attachment Issues - Usually refers to attachment problems of a degree less than that which would be considered a disorder. May also be used to describe perfectly normal responses to significant loss.

Attachment Therapist - A clinician trained and qualified to perform attachment therapy or attachment-based therapy.

Attachment-based Therapy - A specialized psychological therapy performed by a qualified clinician familiar with the treatment of reactive attachment disorder utilizing interventions or approaches based on attachment theory, as originated by John Bowlby. The term "attachment-based therapy" is sometimes used by those who wish to distance themselves from the errors of early attachment therapy.

Attachment Therapy - A specialized psychological therapy performed by a qualified clinician familiar with the treatment of reactive attachment disorder utilizing interventions or approaches based on attachment theory, as originated by John Bowlby.

Attention Deficit Disorder - A lifelong developmental disability (with onset in infancy, childhood, or adolescence) that affects a child’s ability to concentrate and control impulses. A child who has ADD is not hyperactive, but often has problems sustaining attention in task or play activities.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - While the exact cause of ADHD is unknown, it is thought to be a neurobiological disorder. Children with ADHD have been shown to have an abnormal brain metabolism. They use less glucose in the part of the brain that regulates attention, planning, and motor controls. The evidence suggests that ADHD is not a problem of low blood sugar levels but rather that the key areas of the brain are working less actively.

Autistic Disorder - A pervasive developmental disturbance with onset before age three, characterized by markedly abnormal or impaired development in social interaction and communication and a markedly restricted array of activity and interests.

Behavioral Disorders - Disorders influenced by factors such as heredity, brain disorders, diet, stress, and family functioning, that cause symptoms such as hyperactivity, aggression, withdrawal from social interactions, self-injurious behavior, immaturity, learning problems, excessive anxiety, or abnormal mood swings.

Biological Factors - Loosely synonymous with genetic factors, often applied to inherited mental illnesses.

Bipolar - Once known as manic-depressive disorder, bipolar disorder is a neurological brain disorder involving extremes in mood. Sometimes hyphenated as Bi-Polar.

Birth Parents - The ones who gave the child life.

Black Market Adoption - An adoption in which one or more parties make a profit from a child placement, as opposed to receiving payment for providing counseling, location, or other services.

Bonding - The attachment that usually forms between an infant and his caregiver, usually the mother. Attachment and bonding are used interchangeably.

Cause and Effect - RAD kids have trouble understanding the relationship between action and reaction. When parenting a RADish, one must make sure that there is a clear cause and effect to his actions, both good and bad. Bad behavior is followed by a consequence, to be determined by the parent.

Child Abuse - A non-accidental injury or an act of omission by the child’s parent, caretaker, or guardian which results in some injury or a serious risk of harm to the child. Legal definitions differ from state to state.

Childhood Depression - Similar to depression in adults. Children may show depression by being unable to enjoy activities that they once enjoyed, complaining about physical ailments, or may seem bored and have problems concentrating, among other symptoms.

Child Neglect - Defining neglect is complicated, and state statutes are often ambiguous, but it generally refers to minimal levels of care being made unavailable to the child.

Closed Adoption - An adoption that involves total confidentiality and sealed records.

Cognitive Delays - Delays in the customary development of a person’s ability to process information or think logically or analytically.

Comorbidity - The presence of coexisting or additional diseases or disorders.

Compulsion - Repetitive behavior or rituals.

Conduct Disorder - A condition characterized by a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior which violates the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules. Conduct disorder may lead the the development of antisocial personality disorder during adulthood.

Consequence - Rather than punishing the RAD child, bad behavior should be followed by a consequence, preferably one that is designed to fit the action that warranted it. Conversely, good behavior should be followed by a good consequence, or reward. Don’t shield the child from natural consequences - unless of course, there is a threat to safety - as they can be even more effective.

Coordinate - To act or work together; to unite in producing an effect.

Co-Parenting - A long-term agreement to support the needs of children with developmental disabilities by which extra caregivers support parents by providing ongoing respite parenting when needed.

Coping - Attempts by individuals to deal with the source of stress and/or control their reactions to it.

Custody - The care, control, and maintenance of a child which can be legally awarded by the court to an agency, in cases of abuse or neglect, or to a parent, in divorce cases.

De Facto - A term meaning “in actual fact,” “in deed,” or “actually,” regardless of legal or normative standards. In a legal context, the phrase refers to an action or a state of affairs which must be accepted for all practical purposes, but which has no legal basis. A “de facto family” is a family in which members have ties to one another even though they do not have a legal document recognizing their relationship to one another.

Delusions - Systematized false beliefs, often of grandeur or persecution.

Dependent Child - A child who is in the custody of the county or state welfare system.

Depression - Persistent sadness characterized by a loss of interest or pleasure in most activities, and accompanied by changes in appetite and sleep patterns, restlessness or a loss of energy, difficulty in concentration, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

Detachment Disorder - A condition in which a person has difficulty forming lasting relationships. Children with detachment disorder often are unable to be genuinely affectionate with others, have an underdeveloped conscience, and are not able to trust. Attachment Disorder, Detachment Disorder, and Reactive Attachment Disorder are used interchangeably.

Development - The predictable changes in behavior associated with increasing age.

Developmental Disability - A severe, chronic impairment (with onset before age 22 and which is likely to continue indefinitely) which creates substantial functional limitations in three or more of the following areas of major life activity: self care, language, learning, mobility, self-direction, potential for independent living, and potential for economic self-sufficiency as an adult.

Diagnosis - The process of identifying the nature of a disease or disorder by examination by a physician or mental health professional.

Disorder - An irregularity; disease, ailment, or disturbance.

Disruption - Describes an adoption that ends before it is legally finalized, resulting in the child’s legal custody reverting back to the agency or court that made the original placement and the child returning to foster care and/or to other adoptive parents.

Dissolution - Describes an adoption that fails after finalization, resulting in the child’s legal custody reverting back to the agency or court that made the original placement and the child returning to foster parents and/or to other adoptive parents.

Distress - An abnormal condition that disrupts the normal functions of the body and mind. No two people are affected in exactly the same way, or to the same degree, but most people suffer from its effects at some point during their lives. Symptoms range from mild headaches, bouts of insomnia, restlessness, digestive problems, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

DSM-IV - Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders: Fourth Edition. The American Psychiatric Association’s authoritative compendium of differential diagnoses for psychiatric disorders.

Eating Disorder - A group of disorders characterized by physiological and psychological disturbances in appetite or food intake.

Emotional Disturbance - Severe, pervasive, or chronic emotional/affective condition which prevents a child from performing everyday tasks. This condition is characterized by an inability to build or maintain relationships, inappropriate behaviors or feelings under normal circumstances, a pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression, or a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears related to personal or school problems.

Explosive Disorder - The failure to resist aggressive impulses, resulting in destruction of property or other violent acts.

Extended Family - A child’s relatives (other than parents) such as aunts, uncles, grandparents, and sometimes even close friends.

Eye Contact - Make eye contact with your child, and demand that he make eye contact with you. Eye contact is not just looking at your child, but looking into his eyes. Eye contact is powerful, even very brief eye contact, so be careful of how you use it. Keep it soft and loving. When you speak to your child, he must always make eye contact with you.

FAE - Fetal Alcohol Effect.

FAS - Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Fetal Alcohol Effect - A disorder associated with cognitive and behavioral difficulties in children whose birth mothers drank alcohol while pregnant. Symptoms are similar to fetal alcohol syndrome, but are less severe or comprehensive.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome - Birth defects, and serious lifelong mental and emotional impairments that may result from heavy maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Symptoms of mental and emotional deficits may include significant learning and behavioral disorders, diminished cause and effect thinking, poor social judgment, and impulsive behaviors.

Finalization - The final legal step in the adoption process.

Foster Children - Children who have been placed in the custody of the state or county because their birth parents were deemed abusive, neglectful, or otherwise unable to care for them.

Foster Parents - Adults licensed by the state or county to provide a temporary home for children whose birth parents are unable to care for them.

Friend - To a child with reactive attachment disorder, a friend might be anyone who is willing to talk to him.

Genealogy - A family’s genetic line, family tree, or record of ancestry.

Grief - A feeling of emotional deprivation or loss. Grief may be experienced by each member of the adoption triad at some point.

Group Home - A homelike setting in which a number of unrelated children live for varying time periods. Group homes may have one set of house parents or they may have a rotating staff.

Guardian - A person who fulfills some of the responsibilities of the legal parent role, although the courts or birth parents may continue to hold some jurisdiction of the child. Guardians do not have the same reciprocal rights of inheritance as birth or adoptive parents. Guardianship is subject to ongoing supervision by the court and ends at the child’s majority or by order of the court.

IEP - Individualized Educational Plan.

Individualized Educational Plan - A plan for educational support services and outcomes developed for students enrolledl in special education programs.

Kinship Care - A full-time nurturing of a child by someone related to the child by family ties or by prior relationship connection.

Learning Disabilities - One or more impairments in reading, mathematics, and/or written expression skills which interfere with academic performance in school or in activities of daily living requiring those skills.

Legal Custody - Restraint of or responsibility for a person according to the law, such as a guardian’s authority, conferred by the court, over the person or property of his ward.

Legal Guardian - A person who has legal responsibility for the care and management of a person who is incapable of administering his own affairs. In the case of a minor child, the guardian is charged with the legal responsibility for the care and management of the child and of the minor child’s estate.

Life Book - A pictorial and written representation of the child’s life designed to help the child make sense of his unique background and history. The life book includes birthparents, other relatives, birthplace and date, etc. and can be put together by social workers, foster and/or adoptive parents working with the child.

Life Events - Psychologically significant events that occur in a person’s life, such as divorce, childbirth, or change in employment.

Loss - A feeling of emotional deprivation that is experienced at some point in time.

Mental Illness - A term that refers collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders; mental conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior that are mediated by the brain and associated with distress or impaired function.

Modeling - Learning based on observation of the behavior of another.

Motor Skills - A person’s ability to use large and small muscle groups. Gross motor skills refer to the use of large muscles in activities such as running and jumping. Fine motor skills refer to small muscle coordination required for things like writing or buttoning a shirt.

Neurologist - A doctor who is a specialist in neurology, or the nervous system.

Neuropsychiatry - A branch of medicine concerned with both neurology and psychiatry.

Obedience - Doing what one is told to do by people in authority.

Obsession - Repeating and persistent thoughts, impulses, and images that are unwanted, and cause anxiety or distress.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - Characterized by anxious thoughts or rituals.

ODD - Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

Open Adoption - An adoption that involves some amount of initial and/or ongoing contact between birth and adoptive families, ranging from sending letters through the agency, to exchanging names , and/or scheduling visits.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder - A disorder characterized by aggressiveness and a tendency to purposefully bother and irritate others. Often present with other disorders.

Orphan - A minor child whose parents have died, have relinquished their parental rights, or whose parental rights have been terminated by a court of jurisdiction.

Parent - Someone who is raising a child. Sometimes used specifically to refer to the natural mother or father of the child. May be a noun or a verb.

Parent’s Terms - Something that the parent has specified, as opposed to a result which many have been manipulated by the child.

Pediatrician - A doctor who specializes in treating children.

Perception - The process of organizing and interpreting information received from the outside world.

Personality Disorder - A psychological disorder characterized by personality patterns that cause the inability to get along with others.

Phobia - Abnormal and persistent fear of very specific situations or things.

Positive Reinforcement - A consequence of behavior that in turn leads to an increase in the probability of that behavior’s reoccurrence.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - A victim (or witness) of a terrible event or tragedy is so haunted by memories of the event that personal health and personality is affected. The kinds of events that can trigger PTSD were traditionally limited to the most violent and frightening situations, such as disasters and war, but the definition has broadened to recognize that people who suffer rape or physical or sexual abuse may react in such the same way as those who have witnessed carnage or been threatened by violent death. In this context, PTSD among children has become a major focus.

Power Sitting - A basic tool that is used to teach self-control. Choose a spot where the child can sit, and be safe and seen at the same time. The correct position is with legs and hands folded, back and head straight, with nothing moving, especially the mouth. Also known as strong sitting.

Psychiatrist - Mental health professional who has earned a M.D. degree. Psychiatrists are experts in medication therapies, diagnoses, psychotherapy, or psychoanalysis.

Psychological Parent - A person, though perhaps not biologically related to the a child, whom the child considers as his parent. Sometimes called a de facto parent.

Psychologist - A professional who holds a degree in psychology and is license to furnish diagnostic, assessment, preventative, and therapeutic services.

Psychotherapy - The treatment of mental or emotional disorder or of related bodily ills by psychological means.

PTSD - Post traumatic stress disorder.

RAD - Abbreviation for Reactive Attachment Disorder.

RADish - A child with reactive attachment disorder. While speaking of the disorder in a public forum or chat area, a parent will probably not want to use the child’s name, and when the parent has more than one child, RADish (or simply Radish) may be used to refer to the child with RAD.

Reactive Attachment Disorder - Refers to attachment disorder. In 1980, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association added the term “reactive” to what had initially been referred to as “attachment disorder”. At that time, the DSM III manual used “Reactive Attachment Disorder” to include only those children suffering from attachment disorder under the age of eight months, but was later revised to include older children. It is now officially termed Reactive Attachment Disorder of Infancy or Early Childhood. For practical purposes, the terms attachment disorder, detachment disorder, and reactive attachment disorder are used interchangeably.

Reactive Detachment Disorder - Same as Reactive Attachment Disorder.

Relinquishment - Voluntary termination of parental rights.

Residential Care Facility - A structured, 24-hour care facility with staff that provide psychological services to help severely troubled children overcome behavioral, emotional, mental, or psychological problems that adversely affect family interaction, school achievement, and peer relationships.

Residential Treatment - Therapeutic intervention processes for individuals who cannot or do not function satisfactorily in their own homes. For children and adolescents, residential treatment tends to be the last resort when a child is in danger of hurting himself or others.

Respite - A home or institution to which a child with attachment disorder can be sent for period of time. When used for a child with RAD, a respite home should be staffed by someone trained in the care of children with that specific disorder. Respite may be used in order to give the parents a break or as a means of halting an escalation of anger or bad behavior on the part of the child.

Respite Care Services - Respite services consist of time limited family support services in which an alternate care provider provides supervision and care for a child with mental health needs, either within the family home, residential or group home, or within a licensed foster home. Respite care can be provided both as planned and crisis service.

Restitution - The RAD child should be required to pay restitution at two or three times the cost of anything that is damaged through carelessness or rage. The purpose of this is not only to teach responsibility, but to prompt the child to think before he breaks.

Reunification - The returning of foster children to the custody of their parents after placement outside of the home.

Ritalin - A commonly prescribed drug that can help control some of the symptoms of attention deficit disorder. It may have a calming effect and help to improve concentration.

Separation Anxiety - Excessive and persistent anxiety about being separated from one’s home or parents that interferes with normal activities.

Sexual Abuse - The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or any simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of such conduct; or rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familiar relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children.

Sleep Disorder - Any of a variety of disturbances of sleep.

Social Norms - Guidelines provided by every culture for judging acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Stress - Any event or circumstance that strains or exceeds an individual’s ability to cope.

Strong Sitting - A basic tool that is used to teach self-control. Choose a spot where the child can sit, and be safe and seen at the same time. The correct position is with legs and hands folded, back and head straight, with nothing moving, especially the mouth. Sometimes called power sitting.

Support Group - Any group without a physician that offers support and help through common experience to an individual.

Therapeutic Foster Home - A foster home in which the foster parents have received special training to care for a wide variety of children and adolescents, usually those with significant emotional or behavioral problems. Parents in therapeutic foster homes are more closely supervised and assisted more than parents in regular foster homes.

Treatment Foster Home - A foster home in which the foster parents are trained to offer treatment to children with moderate to severe emotional problems. Also known as a therapeutic foster home.


Last Modified on: Saturday, August 08, 2009


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