Orange is the New Black

November 12, 2014

by:  Melissa Sadin

Orange is the New BlackEvery few years, the fashion industry announces a new color that for a time becomes as popular as black.  The first time I heard this phrase it was red.  Red was the new black.  I bought some red and am now more comfortable wearing red than I used to be.  The most recent new black was orange.  I’m still getting used to it, but I am becoming more comfortable wearing orange.

Trauma is the new black in childhood developmental disorders.  Those of us who have been “wearing” trauma are already comfortable with it.  We understand the strengths and limitations.  We are, however, waiting for it to catch on.  There are still many who don’t quite know what to do with it.

In 1952, Autism was not defined as a disorder.  Children with autism were being labeled with childhood schizophrenia.  When DSM II was published, children with Autism were still being diagnosed with childhood schizophrenia but also being labeled as “atypical”, and “withdrawn behavior.”   Finally, in 1980, DSM III included diagnostic criteria for Autism.  Even though parents of children with Autism had a diagnosis to grab on to, it was years before there were clinicians, psychologists, and doctors who were skilled at recognizing the disorder.  And it was also more than 10 years before IDEA recognized Autism as a classification and schools began in earnest to provide appropriate educational programming and support for parents.

Reactive attachment disorder (“RAD”) was defined for the first time in DSM IV, which was published in 1994 – fourteen years after autism made it into the DSM.  The characteristics of RAD were further defined in the recent publication of DSM V.  Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk and his colleagues submitted a diagnosis and criteria for Developmental Trauma Disorder.  Unfortunately, it was not accepted for that publication but will likely be included in the next revision or in DSM VI.  After Developmental Trauma Disorder is listed in DSM, work can finally begin to include it as a classification in IDEA.

If Autism is red, then attachment trauma is orange.  Until it is truly accepted, those of us who are already familiar with its challenges will need to encourage others to try it on.