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An Overview of the Navigating Reactive Attachment Disorder Experience for Those Who Couldn't Make It

Updated: Apr 26


The NavRAD experience is centered on the RAD Advocates workbook Your Reactive Attachment Disorder Parenting Roadmap (also available via membership),
The NavRAD experience is centered on the RAD Advocates workbook Your Reactive Attachment Disorder Parenting Roadmap (also available via membership), guiding parents from wherever they are at the moment through creating a plan to move the family forward.

Updated in April of 2024


As they stood before the room full of parents at the Navigating RAD 2024 (NavRAD24) event, RAD Advocates CEO Amy VanTine and COO Heather Houze saw a familiar look. Many of the attendees, those parenting children from hard places, had eyes full of sadness and urgency. They scanned the room for signs of hope. It was an expression of the pain Amy and Heather once felt while raising children with developmental trauma, currently diagnosed as reactive attachment disorder (RAD).


Amy and Heather's response was different from the advice many of the parents had heard before. They didn't dismiss their reality as parents. She didn't tell them that time and love would fix their child's disorder. She told them the unsugared truth — that the road ahead wouldn't be easy, not at all. But there is a path forward, they told them. It may not be the path that the parents envisioned early on in their parenting journey, but paths unique to their stories exist.



"We know that most clinicians don't truly understand developmental trauma/reactive attachment disorder. We know that many people judge rather than help parents. We know social services and insurance companies work against them," says Amy. "We know. We're trying to bridge that gap. We have to help the professionals to help us as parents."


At NavRAD24 held in San Antonio this April, those raising children with the disorder learned they weren't alone. They traveled from all over to feel connected with other families in one place. They were all searching for the same answer — how to survive the confusing and family-damaging developmental trauma/reactive attachment disorder, the result of early childhood trauma.

And they did leave with answers.


Parents left with their completed Your Reactive Attachment Disorder Parenting Roadmap workbooks customized to move their families forward. They did so through the guidance of RAD Advocates and other professionals who truly understand the complexities of the disorder and the mental health and social services systems.


"We know most clinicians don't truly understand reactive attachment disorder. We know that many people judge rather than help parents. We know social services and insurance companies work against them," says RAD Advocates CEO and Founder Amy VanTine. "We know. We're trying to bridge that gap. We have to help the professionals to help us as parents."

Along with their workbooks, parents left with the wisdom that the presenters learned the hard way themselves.


If you're a parent who hasn't been able to attend the biennial NavRAD event, here are some of the highlights you can glean from the experience (thank you to Keri Williams, NavRAD presenter and author, for contributing):


Many parents find experts who understand them for the first time at NavRAD. All presenters are carefully vetted through RAD Advocates as they too raised children with reactive attachment disorder.
Many parents find experts who understand them for the first time at NavRAD and have the opportunity to chat with them. All presenters are carefully vetted through RAD Advocates as they too raised children with reactive attachment disorder.

From Alli Donovan, RN, FNP-C, PMHNP-BC:

  • Parents are the experts on their child. You are the best historian your child has in reporting their behaviors, reactions to medications, etc. Confidently share this information with your clinician.

  • Some children with developmental trauma have an inherited mental health disorder. Given their genetics, your child may struggle with both a mental illness and developmental trauma/reactive attachment disorder. They must both be appropriately diagnosed and treated, which is rare in our mental health system.

  • Bipolar is a common inherited disorder that children with reactive attachment disorder/developmental trauma have. They also may have an antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, or paranoid schizophrenia (very rare).

  • The medications most children with developmental trauma receive, including antidepressants and stimulants, can have adverse effects. Kids with childhood bipolar often get misdiagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and over-diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (even if they do have ADHD, it is far from the root issue and should be treated last rather than first). Both of these misdiagnoses lead to medication mismanagement.


  • Love will not cure developmental trauma/reactive attachment disorder. We’re told all we need is love from churches, agencies, therapists, and our families. That statement is untrue, damaging, and often dangerous for families.

  • Some families are damaged beyond the point of recovery. This is merely a fact. It does not mean that the parents have failed.

  • Clinicians are ill-prepared for how to work with families through their education. RAD is not adequately covered in graduate school programs. Carries knows this from personal experience (along with Forrest Lien, LCSW, and many others at the event). To find a clinician who truly understands developmental trauma/reactive attachment disorder, you'll need to look for someone who has personal or professional experience outside of their graduate programs.


Primary caregivers of children with developmental trauma develop post-traumatic stress disorder as they are "the nurturing enemy" of the child. They experience repeated rejections from their children, relentless control battles, loss of friends/spouse, and isolation without support.

Presenter Monica Badgley interviewed a panel of young adults who grew up with a sibling with developmental trauma/reactive attachment disorder about their experiences then and now. Together, they shared the following:

  • Bonded children often take it upon themselves to help their parents with their sibling with RAD (as RAD impacts the entire family). They aren’t able to rest in their role as a kid and they grow up quickly. As parents, we must be mindful that our child sees themselves as a teammate.


NavRAD is about so many things, including connection betweem those raising children with reactive attachment disorder. Many RAD parents get there feeling completely alone in the RAD parenting journey. But they leave with a sense of community and a path forward.
NavRAD is about so many things, including connection. Many parents feel completely alone in the developmental trauma parenting journey. But they leave with a sense of community and a path forward.

After countless conversations over the phone and on Zoom, RAD Advocates staff have the chance to hug and connect with their members in person at NavRAD.
After countless conversations over the phone and on Zoom, RAD Advocates staff have the chance to hug and connect with their members in person at NavRAD.

  • It’s not a failure when you need more help. Allowing the child to continue to fail at home is not a way forward. There is no treading water with RAD. The entire family is being damaged.

  • Looks for signs that your child may need placement and move forward. These signals include when reactive attachment disorder is impacting their entire home and when your child does not participate in receiving help.

  • "Good parenting" does not matter with reactive attachment disorder. You cannot watch them 24 hours a day, you cannot force them to change, and you cannot put the rest of the family at risk.


Tracey interviewed Andurina, a young woman who was diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder as a child but is now thriving as a young adult, and her mother. Audurina shared the following:

  • Healing from reactive attachment disorder is a personal decision. Audurina says, “For me, it was a choice. I had to get to a point where I wanted a happy, better life.”

  • Neurofeedback was helpful in processing emotions. However, because it got Andurina working through her emotions, it caused her behavior to escalate. She didn’t feel comfortable with feelings or being vulnerable.

  • An effective attachment therapist does not get swayed by reactive attachment disorder. Andurina had a good therapist who held her accountable and was not manipulated by reactive attachment disorder.


It’s not a failure when you need more help. Allowing the child to continue to fail at home is not a way forward. There is no treading water with reactive attachment disorder. The entire family is being damaged.


The NavRAD experience is connecting, learning and planning together.
The NavRAD experience is connecting, learning and planning together.

  • Self-care is critical. Amy and Heather walk beside parents from wherever they are on their journey. Whether a parent is just learning about reactive attachment disorder and trying to get ahead of it or is in crisis hiding in their closet (sadly, not uncommon), RAD Advocates insist on self-care. It can feel impossible to find that care but anything is better than nothing. From getting away for a weekend to taking a long comforting shower, you must do it for the safety and wellness of yourself and, thus, your entire family.

  • We have to create something from nothing for our RAD families. “We’re fighting for something that doesn’t exist. We’re working within a system that is broken," says Amy. "We must be creative and resourceful and navigate what we do have." If help and advocacy were plentiful for RAD parents, there'd be no need for RAD Advocates. The hope is that one day, there is no need for the nonprofit organization. We are not there though, not yet.

Navigating RAD is not your typical event. Because RAD is not your typical issue. RAD families need and deserve something different. NavRAD is a guided plan-building experience for parents navigating reactive attachment disorder.


As Amy says, we're banning together to create solutions that are not easy or evident. But, together, we can pool our resources, creativity, and community. It is a monumental task, but for a monumental need. Everyone benefits when RAD parents get the support they need and deserve.


Together, we will pave the path. Together, we are all stronger RAD advocates. Join us.


{Left to right} Jennifer Collins, Founder/CEO Amy VanTine, COO Heather Houze, Crystalyn Johnson, Katie Egbert
{Left to right} Jennifer Collins, Founder/CEO Amy VanTine, COO Heather Houze, Crystalyn Johnson, Katie Egbert

About the author:


With a background in the nonprofit, education, and mental health sectors, Nichole Noonan founded Pen & Stick Communications to help organizations further their reach in the world via the fusion of communications strategy and copywriting. She has a particular niche in the area of reactive attachment disorder and passionately supports the RAD Advocates mission. Nichole earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and a Master of Education.

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Thank you for writing this! This is so helpful for those of us who can't attend. I was able to start finding the help we needed for our son by reading this blog and info that came out of the first NavRAD conference last year (wanted to attend so badly but couldn't). Because of your blog we were able to consult with Forrest Lien (who I never knew existed before), he led us to a psychiatrist that would diagnose and treat our son appropriately rather than the multiple misdiagnoses and "missed" diagnoses from previous psychiatrists that didn't understand RAD, didn't recognize our son's mood disorder, or didn't want to treat the situation aggressively. We were able to find an attachment…

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