Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Empathy, or lack there of

As some of you know already on here, we have quite a few mental health disorders in our home.  We have 2 with RAD.  (Reactive attachment disorder).  We've lived through the harsh reality of RAD for years now and can safely say we found our "groove" and can handle the RADishes.  No matter what they may throw our way.  Umm, that's not just a figure of speech.  Parents of kids w/ RAD know what I'm saying.  Now, at our home, we don't go around saying this kid has that or what have you.  They all are aware each & every one has their own set of issues.  I think they for the most part respect that fact.  Wasn't always that way but over the years, they become more accepting of different issues or disabilities.  We also rarely use the word disability.  We'll call it like we see it.  FAS, RAD, PTSD, Deaf or whatever.  However, since we don't really use the issues in this house, it doesn't come up much.  Plus, we NEVER allow our kids to use their issues as an excuse.  Bojan tried to pull that stunt this week b/c he was in a wheelchair.  Umm, he knows better than that.  LOL.  I think he wanted to see what he could get away with.   Told me I couldn't yell at him b/c he was in a wheelchair & that he couldn't really be ground.  Umm, think again buddy! 

Anyhow, some things do come up from time to time.  For those who have RAD, one issue many have is that of lack of empathy.  I will not say which RADish of mine used to laugh when people got hurt or will I say the other list of things that was done.  Just know, it wasn't good nor was it accepted behavior in this home.  We treat them like everyone else.  In fact, that's a saying here:  "you're no different than anyone else."  period.  You are in charge and responsible for your own actions and behavior.

The other day, I caught Alex mocking Nik.  Making "Nik sounds" b/c he's deaf.  I said fine.  You want to make fun of your brother, you BEST be able to live like Nik for a few hours. So, I made Alex put cotton in his ears.  Had no ear plugs.  Put sunglasses on him w/ a little press and seal in the middle.  Nik has horrible vision and of course, is deaf.  This is how I found Alex:

Alone on the dining room floor.  He was crying under the shades for a bit.  Believe it or not, that is a good thing for him.  He needs to understand the feelings of others.  During his young life his feelings and needs were not met, not cared about.  He never developed how to have feelings until he got to our home.  It is a work in progress.  It is NOT an easy, over night fix.  Anyone dealing with RAD knows that fact.  Time is what it takes.  And, some lessons.  This is one of those lessons.  When you are deprived of basics of human emotion when you are young, it is a very hard thing to comprehend and learn.  Really is.  When no one is there to show you the emotions, how can you be expected to learn what they mean? 

Alex was a bit overwhelmed.  When done, I asked him how he felt.  First, reluctant, he then told me.  He hated it.  I kept saying no, how did YOU feel.   I was trying to get to that isolated, lonely feeling.  Didn't quite get there though I did go over that fact.  He did tell me he was sad so I went with that for a bit.  Getting children with RAD to express feelings can feel like trying to pull teeth from a lion.  Always feeling like you're going to get bit and still not get the job done.  But we press on.  You can not give up on this.  Too important for life.  Alex needs to understand the feelings his siblings have.  I know Nik had no idea what Alex did.  That was not the point.  I heard it and that was enough for me.  One kid is not allowed to make fun of another in this house.  period.  Don't care who you are or what you "have."  Makes no difference.  This is basic stuff.  It is part of our humanity.  Alex needs to understand that feelings do matter.  Empathy matters.

I think he got part of that lesson.  I know it will take many more lessons.  Alex does have a very sweet soul inside.  I've seen the compassion for others come out.  He'll help certain people in the house.  Help someone up when hurt.  ( he never used to do that).  He does exhibit kindness.  Just some roughness that we have to "polish" up a bit.  I know there are other families living out there w/ RAD.  I do not put everything on here as you can imagine.  I limit what is said.  However, I also think it is important for others to understand how conflicts and issues can arise w/ a child w/ RAD but how they can also be addressed.   Maybe some will disagree w/ how I handled it.  That's okay.  What works for one family may not really work for another.  But getting various ideas of what might work, may help someone in these trenches and that is worth a lot.  Hope that made sense.  

As for Alex after this...he's fine.  No worse for wear for sticking cotton in his ears and wearing sunglasses that are distorted.  I feel it got the point across.  Why do I say that?  Because he hasn't mocked his brother since.  

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