Are you wondering about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) vs Autism? How can you tell the difference between these two disorders in childhood and is it possible for someone to have both?
Diagnosis of RAD, autism, and other conditions can only be done by a qualified medical professional. This article is for information purposes only.
What is RAD?
Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is a condition in which an infant or young child does not form a secure, healthy emotional bond with his or her primary caretakers. Children with RAD often struggle to form meaningful connections with other people and exhibit challenging behaviors due to lack of healthy attachment.
Reactive attachment disorder is most common among children between 9 months and 5 years and the diagnosis is only for those who have experienced physical or emotional neglect or abuse.
What is Autism?
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.
According to AutismSpeaks.org,
What is the Difference Between RAD and Autism?
Because both children with RAD and children with Autism struggle with forming healthy relationships and social connection, at times it can be difficult to determine if a child has RAD or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Asperger’s (a form of Autism).
While children with Autism may have attachment difficulties, the root cause is different than that of children with attachment disorders.
Some of the behaviors that overlap with both diagnosis (and thus create confusion) are lack of eye contact, repetitive behaviors, perseverance, appearing to be avoiding connection, and unnatural speech patterns.
One of the most important criteria that is always a factor for RAD is a history of early childhood trauma such as from abuse, separation from a primary caregiver, or extreme medical procedures. Many children with Autism have no history of abuse or neglect, which means they cannot have a diagnosis of RAD.
Children with RAD have a deeply rooted fear of attachment and avoid ways of connecting with their primary caregiver. Children with autism want to connect and attach but have developmental issues that prevent them from doing so without assistance.
How Do I Find Out if My Child Has Autism or RAD?
A developmental evaluation will determine the appropriate diagnosis for a child who has concerning behaviors. Ask your pediatrician or contact your local children’s hospital to find out where a developmental evaluation can be done near you.
This type of evaluation may include a whole set of diagnostic evaluations and criteria such as:
- cognitive (IQ) testing
- psychological testing
- parent and teacher questionnaires
- child history
- communication assessment by a speech therapist
- physical assessment by a physical therapist
- adaptive assessment by an occupational therapist
- ages and stages questionnaires
- and other tools as determined by the doctor
Based on the results, the doctor or team will then determine if the child has RAD, Autism, both, or some other diagnosis. Results will be discussed with the parents and treatment recommendations are given.
Can a Child Have Both RAD and Autism?
Yes, it’s possible for a child to have both autism and Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). Only a qualified medical professional can make this determination.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Autism vs RAD
Here are answers to commonly asked questions about attachment disorders vs. Autism.
Children with RAD vs autism may have similar behaviors, but the root cause is different, making a diagnosis possible. Consult a medical professional to find out the proper diagnosis for your child and find the best treatment options for RAD or treatment options for autism.
Do you have a child with RAD or autism? Share about it in the comments below.