Mary Jo Sue's 4th Parent Coaching Session- Attachment Diagnoses

Mar 10, 2023

Mary Jo came to session upset at the world. Her child had been suspended from school-- again-- for hitting another child. When prompted, Mary Jo said that her child has been having a hard time at school lately and that she wasn't sure what was going on. I asked some questions around where her child is successful at school and when she was really excited to be there. We were able to narrow down that the child has a great time in reading class and struggles behaviorally in art.

I am a firm believe in gathering as much data as possible, so we processed through when art falls in the schedule (right after lunch and recess), what is different between reading class and art (structure of teacher), and who she sits near in both classes (with an aid in reading class and with peers in art).

Mary Jo started to notice that there were struggles in the environment that could be modified to help her daughter succeed better in art. She was planning on reaching out to the school to talk about supports in the transition back to class after lunch and recess and adjusted seating arrangements (closer to an adult). 

Mary Jo would be reporting back next week. She felt better having something to do and was significantly less angry with her child- who she had been blaming for all the problems. Now Mary Jo was starting to see that her daughter was indicating struggles and was in need of support, rather than punishment.

We transitioned back to the psychoeducation on attachment and Mary Jo was curious about attachment diagnoses. She had heard of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) but had never heard of Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder (DSED).

We process through how attachment disorders are developed- often early childhood instability, trauma, and/or inconsistent caregiving to a clinical degree. We talk about how hard it can be to parent a child with an attachment diagnoses and that the most important thing for a caregiver for a child with an attachment diagnoses is to seek supports for themselves so that they are able to remain consistent and stable for the child.

While I won't go into the different diagnoses here, I will say that there are times when these labels are assigned, however a different label could fit a bit better. Some children with these labels would better fit under the complex trauma label- and treatment may be more effective.

I am hesitant about giving information on the diagnoses in a blog format (and even in session) because then people start to label themselves/their children with labels that are better assigned by trained professionals.

Just know, in the parent coaching session, we go through these diagnoses at a high level and with minimum assigning of blame.

These are more being mentioned to the general public to raise awareness of the struggles people who fit the criteria for diagnosis face and to increase empathy for that population.

Mary Jo says that she doesn't see these labels fitting her child and that she has empathy for parents who parent children with these diagnoses.

We wrap up the session talking about paying attention to when her children come to her with bids for connection. These bids for connection can be clear- "mom, look"! or they can be a little bit murkier "I hate you!"

Mary Jo is to pay attention to see how often this happens in home and to see how she is responding to these bids. Is she meeting them, has she been missing some, do some irritate her?

This is the homework- to notice, and not judge!

How do you do in your home?

Until next time!




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