Social work

experience and methods

„The same or different “: Strategies of coping with the “difference ” in the relationship among adolescents with type I diabetes and teenagers


When child is diagnosed with chronic disease family may face with the crisis. Usually, family and child are left alone, because there is a lack of social aid. There are not many social workers who are capable to offer support for mentioned clients. Social worker’s activity is focused to interaction between individual and environment (Campton, Galaway, 1999 ) and can address the need for social aid. The individual and family will be able to function independently if they could get social aid on time, the consequences of social exclusion could be avoided or relieved. Diabetes Mellitus type 1 is an invisible illness which can lead to the disability. Very intensive illness management is needed in order to avoid disabling or danger to life complications. In turn, it requires to change personal routine, learn unusual skills and manage various information. Adolescents with diabetes may become “different” because of the illness management requirements. The goal of article is to reveal strategies of coping with the sense of “difference” in the context of relationships between adolescents with type 1 diabetes and teenagers.. What does experience adolescent with diabetes who would like to adapt into teenagers’ group? The qualitative research was implemented with 14 adolescents. Thematic analysis revealed that illness management requirements create a pressure while adolescent feels “not normal” because of the loss of spontaneity, strict planning of everyday activity or if he/she is not able to have a meal with friends. The feeling of “difference” can be managed by keeping trying to maintain imaginable “normalcy”, accepting “difference” as “normalcy” especially in the particular social situations and by the inclusion of “difference” and “normalcy” in adolescent’s identity. The data revealed that research‘s participants experience being “different” in their social environment. Adolescents with diabetes in comparison with healthy teenagers look “different’ because of more serious attitude toward life, habit to plan daily activities taking into the account illness’s requirements. The willingness to become a part of social group and avoiding of taunting encourage adolescents to keep staying “normal” despite of illness requirements. Friends’ appreciation of adolescent‘s “normalcy” who is chronically ill become very important issue in adolescents‘– friends ‘relations. The data analysis disclosed that in summer school – camp setting illness becomes a social norm what creates safe environment for adolescents with diabetes. Being in the group of persons with similar experience they can strengthen self – trust, learn needed illness management skills more easily, make easier to connect social network. Also, the summer school – camp program can be assessed as a social work intervention according definition by Gvaldaitė, Švedaitė (2005), which is planned and implemented by interdisciplinary team in
order to encourage social functioning of adolescents with diabetes. Intervention is based on strengths perspective, direct learning and reflection.
Keywords: coping, difference. type i diabetes, teenagers.


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