Five Benefits of ABA in Reactive Attachment Disorder

  • Identification of Common Behaviors
  • Identification of Triggers
  • Identification of Reductive Factors
  • Identification of Effective Consequences
  • Identification of Emotional Needs

Reactive attachment disorder – often found in children who are wards of the state or are in foster care – is a complex disorder that is usually the direct result of negligence and abuse at the hands of their caretakers as infants or toddlers. Even after entering a safe and loving home, RAD continues to plague many children and interfere with their development of healthy relationships of caretakers and foster or adoptive siblings.

Many treatments for RAD exist, including applied behavior analysis. Here are five benefits of applied behavior analysis in reactive attachment disorder.

Identification of Common Behaviors

Children with reactive attachment disorder nearly always display a specific set of behaviors that prove problematic for both the child and those in their environment. Violent acts or speech may be one such example; withdrawal or refusal to speak may be another. Identifying these behaviors is the first step to helping the child to develop healthy coping mechanisms – and ceasing these behaviors.

Identification of Triggers

Specific situations, actions, or behaviors on the part of other children or adults may trigger some of the child’s behaviors associated with RAD. By closely observing the child’s common behaviors and learning what triggers problematic ones, those triggers can, over time, be diminished or even eliminated – all while assisting the child to develop better and more adaptive behaviors should those triggers arise again or continue.

Identification of Reductive Factors

Most children have a sense of what comforts them when they are upset, angry or hurt. With observation and questioning, factors that reduce behaviors associated with RAD may be effectively identified and implemented as much as possible. Whether the child is able to soothe themselves with a particular activity, object, or individual, or whether they can be soothed by a specific environment or the words and actions of a specific person, the identification of reductive factors helps to teach the child how they can alleviate their pain and learn to stop these behaviors.

Identification of Effective Consequences

Consequences for specific behaviors, positive or negative, are vital to promoting good behaviors and reducing or eliminating negative ones. A child may be rewarded in a way that they identify with and respond to for a good behavior; a privilege or favorite toy may be taken away for negative ones. The identification of appropriate consequences for behaviors of all kinds is particularly important to children suffering from RAD in conjunction with appropriate therapies and a supportive and loving environment.

Identification of Emotional Needs

Possibly the most vital step in effectively treating RAD, the identification of the child’s unique emotional needs is imperative to helping them overcome the attachment disorder. By listening compassionately and receptively to the child and responding appropriately to their emotional needs, the child will come to feel themselves safe and supported in their new environment – and, with time, the behaviors associated with RAD may be completely eliminated.

Reactive attachment disorder is a disorder that has not been widely clinically studied, but it presents a problem to many children’s emotional health as well as to the foster and adoptive parents who may come into contact with them later on. By implementing applied behavior analysis, the effects of RAD may be overcome – allowing the child and their caretakers to bond and grow together.

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