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Services for Young People with Chronic Disorders in their Transition from Childhood to Adult Life.
  1. AIDAN MACFARLANE, Consultant in public health and health policy

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    Services for Young People with Chronic Disorders in their Transition from Childhood to Adult Life. Edited by Zarrina Kurtz and Anthony Hopkins. (Pp 155; £13.50 paperback.) Royal College of Physicians of London, 1996. ISBN 1-86016-033-6.

    If you came across an advertisment in the ‘lonely hearts’ column of your local paper which read ‘Various, seriously concerned, extremely well intentioned and experienced professionals seek meaningful relationships with confused, anarchic, independence and self identity seeking adolescents with chronic disorders.........’.you might be justified in wondering what the chances were of there being an even reasonable long term outcome.

    However if you then read on from the same advert ‘ order to help them form further meaningful relationships with other various, seriously concerned, extremely well intentioned.........’ would you (a) ring your local MP and complain about the perverted adverts which were allowed into the papers nowadays (b) read an excellent and extremely helpful book on this vital subject entitled Services for young people with chronic disorders........ (c) develop your own set of guidelines to help them find salvation?

    If you did (b) and read this informative book—especially the guidelines on pages 144 to 152, and then did (c)—the guidelines that you might come up with would be something like: ‘remember they are human and adolescents first and foremost way, way ahead of any health problem; remember how well or badly you did with your own adolescents/adolescence; prepare the ground for transition well ahead of time; let the adolescent/their carer take the lead; remain human and empathise; stick with what you are good at and don’t try and pretend to be competent at everything—you’re not; form mutual support groups; and finally listen, listen, listen’.

    This area of work, combining as it does, the transition for the adolescent to adulthood and the transition of medical, social, educational, and voluntary services for the adolescent from one set of professionals to another, is as difficult as it comes. One very clear message however, from some of the quotes from young people ‘with special needs’ in the book, is that the doctor should be absolutely up to date and skilled in her/his specialist medical knowledge (for example about cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anaemia, epilepsy, diabetes, cerebral palsy, etc) before attempting anything more fancy.

    So good luck with those relationships, this book will help you but, if occasionally you fail, stay human and remember that meaningful (and other) relationships are not made in heaven but have to be worked at hard. So you knew that already? OK nothing personal but then why were you reading the lonely hearts column?