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New resource for teens with atopic dermatitis

Dermatology TimesDermatology Times, December 2019 (Vol. 40, No. 12)
Volume 40
Issue 12

A new online resource called the Understand AD Squad aims to help teens navigate real-life experiences with atopic dermatitis.

Screenshot of Understand AD Squad

A new online resource called the Understand AD Squad aims to help teens navigate real-life experiences with atopic dermatitis. 

It’s difficult for dermatologists to take time to talk with adolescents suffering with atopic dermatitis about how the disease is impacting their lives, including if they feel ostracized, have been bullied or are feeling self-conscious about dating. A new awareness initiative called the Understand AD Squad aims to help teens navigate real-life experiences with atopic dermatitis by featuring Isaiah Dixon, a 17-year-old patient, as he prepares to go to college.

Dixon has had severe atopic dermatitis since age 2. He and his family share their experiences with the disease in a series of videos, including one of Isaiah having a candid conversation with another atopic dermatitis patient in his 20s, Tyler Berryman. Berryman shares his experiences and lessons learned through his teen years. In that video, Dixon and Berryman chat about what it’s like to be itchy in a high school class and wanting to hide it, as well as an incident in which Dixon was shoved to the ground by a fellow student after he reached out to shake the student’s hand.

In one video, Dixon talks with Understand AD Squad licensed clinical social worker Christine Triano, MSW, LCSW, about his childhood, including how he loved to go the beach but couldn’t during the summers because of his disease. 

Dixon’s family gathers in the family’s home to talk about the sleepless nights and more that the family has had to endure together.

“It’s impossible for a person with AD to stop scratching,” Dixon says.

And Understand AD Squad pediatric dermatologist Mercedes E. Gonzalez, M.D., Miami, Fla., answers questions from Dixon and his mom, including “What are some things that make my flair-ups get worse?”

The initiative, supported by Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in partnership with the National Eczema Association, is the next phase of the Understand AD campaign, which initially launched in 2016 to empower people with AD. Among the videos on Understand AD are “A Day in the Life,” which includes resources and a short film narrated by Peter Moffat, award-winning screen writer and the executive producer of the HBO series “The Night Of,” about his struggles with AD.

Dr. Gonzalez says that she recommends AD patients in her practice check out the Understand AD Squad resources. 

“The Understand AD videos and content provide a level of connectedness, reality and empathy that goes above what can be conveyed in the exam room. Parents with a child or adolescent with moderate-to-severe AD will instantly identify with the Dixon family and their struggles,” Dr. Gonzalez says. “I encourage patients and families to watch the videos and view the content so that they can see they are not alone. By viewing how Isaiah and his family have been able to live with and overcome many of the challenges associated with moderate to severe AD, they may be inspired to assemble their own squad to do the same.” 

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