Sunday, February 6, 2011

Good Book - RAD

I read a good book---- fascinating to me, yet very potent and stirring, even disturbing. I think you'd have to really be into mental health to enjoy it.

But I read mental health topics all the time for "fun".

The book: Dandelion on My Pillow, Butcher Knife Beneath by Nancy Thomas.

The title gives you a clue about the intensity of this true story.

Nancy Thomas writes raw and real. She, through life experience, became an expert therapy home for children with RAD, Reactive Attachment Disorder. She and her children suffered extreme abuse from her first husband. As she worked on healing from that, it lit her interest in helping others.

When a child experiences trauma in utero or in the early years from such things as abuse, mistreatment, parental ambivalence, neglect, or separation, they may fail to attach to their parents or care givers. They miss making that link between a caring adult and getting their needs met. The child's behavior may show up like: do not trust adults, superficially charming, lack of eye contact on parents' terms, need control, destructive to self/others, cruelty to animals, lying, no impulse control, lack of conscience . . . . Maybe you've know a child who suffered these symptoms. Many parents of adopted children are dealing with these tendencies in their homes. I have worked with kiddos in the school setting who are so affected by their early experiences.

Nancy and her second husband became a therapy home. She described the sometimes chaotic, sometimes orderly process (but sounded exhausting to me!) of working with different children they took in to help. She worked closely with an experienced therapist. She described a holding therapy (child held in the therapist's lap) that was both an emotionally wrenching process for all involved and deeply healing for the child. (She worked closely with Dr. Foster Cline, who happens to be one of the Love & Logic authors. I consider him a brilliant therapist. He, too, has had foster children in his home.)

I have deep admiration for Nancy. I can't imagine the kind of energy it would take to be vigilant, loving and strong-boundaried for those kids. I really liked how she shared her thinking and what she learned from each meltdown.

If it took a day and a half for a child to decide to get the stairs swept, then that's what it took. Nancy would tell them how handy it was to know just where to find them for such a long time. She'd bring them a sandwich, and tell them she'd be back to check on them later - - - as the child spent many hours sitting on the steps, choosing NOT to follow directions. Eventually, the child would get bored, and since they couldn't wear Nancy down in her expectation, they would comply, finish the job and re-join the family.

The book gives hope for healing damaged and abused children.

No longer a therapy home parent, Nancy currently directs week long camps for attachment disordered kids and their parents. Two of my colleague/friends have been to one of the camps as staff . The goal of the week was for parents to become firm and loving in their expectation of the child---and for the child to experience the love of attachment to their parent--and to build a healthy attachment between them. The process included strict training for the child to comply to a parent request, literal attachment (hug) with parent after compliance, time in a re-focus room (open 24/7) when the child was out of compliance, the child returned to the parent to try again. All done in gentleness, firmness and with love. It's more complex than that, but that's the direction it goes.

My colleagues' witness of the difference in a child from the first day of camp to the last day is the description of a miracle.

My two friend/colleagues have written grants to see if they can put together the money to send themselves to Colorado for a two week training with Nancy Thomas. They would love to bring such a healing service to this valley. At this point, we have a gaping need in this area of therapy.

I admire these two colleague/friends and am privileged to work with them.

And back to the book, I think I was on the reserve list at my library for about six months before I finally got the book. It was worth it.

I am in awe of the human experience. The stories in this book gave me a glimpse of someone willing to face ugly behaviors with courage, and never give up the passion of continuing to learn and heal. I would love to meet her.

What do you know about attachment disorder? Where did you learn it?

Do you have an author you would love to meet?


  1. I'm very curious and interested in this book..and therapy. Maybe I should get on the library waiting list, so I can read it this summer. :)

  2. You should read it. It was very interesting! I liked it!