Transitioning to adulthood with a progressive condition: best practice assumptions and individual experiences of young men with Duchenne muscular dystrophy

Disabil Rehabil. 2015;37(13):1144-51. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2014.956187. Epub 2014 Sep 5.


Purpose: Youth with progressive conditions are living longer, and there is increased health care focus on assisting them with "transitioning" to adult services and adult life. The purpose of this investigation was to examine key discourses and normative assumptions underpinning transitions best practices and how they are reflected in the experiences of young men with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

Methods: Using a critical perspective, we qualitatively analyzed influential transitions best practice documents to identify their underpinning discursive assumptions. We compared these to the analysis of qualitative interviews and diary data from a study of 11 young men with DMD.

Results: Transitions best practices are underpinned by discourses of developmental progression. They reproduce notions that associate successful transitions with becoming as independent as possible, approximating normal life trajectories, and planning for future adulthood. The accounts of youth with DMD both reflected and resisted these future-oriented discourses in creative ways that maintained positive personal identities.

Conclusions: Normal developmental progression towards typical adult roles constitutes the generally accepted aims of transitions practices. Such aims may not be appropriate for all youth with disabilities. We suggest that alternative understandings of the life course and approaches to care need to be considered alongside dominant practices. Implications for Rehabilitation Children and youth with progressive conditions, such as DMD, are living longer and there is increased interest in designing programs that will assist them with "transitioning" to adulthood. Transitions best practices reflect dominant social values and assumptions about what constitutes a successful adulthood, embedded in goals such as independent living, self-management and obtaining work. Rehabilitation professionals should be aware of both positive (e.g. feelings of achievement) and negative (e.g. anxiety about the future) consequences of transitions practices that emphasize normal social developmental trajectories and milestones. Discussions with youth should offer multiple possibilities for living a good life in the present and provide support to address negative feelings and the progressive effects of DMD.

Keywords: Development; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; life course perspective; transitions; young men.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aging*
  • Disabled Persons / psychology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / rehabilitation*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Self Care
  • Transition to Adult Care*
  • Young Adult