Why a brain injury conference?

The Southwest Times, Pulaski, April. 11, 2002

By Pat Hall Guthrie - Disability issues

It has been announced by the Roanoke Chapter of the Brain Injury Association of Virginia that the first ever Brain Injury Conference will take place.
A conference such as this held in our region on April 26 and 27, 2002! It will be held at Holiday Inn-Tanglewood with the theme, “Transcending Brain Injury”. I’m excited! However, some may ask, what are you excited about, and why do we need such a conference? Let me answer these questions. I’m excited as the parent of a brain injured survivor who, along with my husband and son, struggled through 6 years with an injury we didn’t, at first, understand. I have encountered many people, professionals included, who also had little understanding of what an injury of this type means in the life of the individual. I have seen how employers turn away from individuals with disabilities as a whole, and that they have no understanding of the consequences of surviving brain injury, which they could incur themselves at any moment in time.
When my son was injured after the 6th grade, we did not know how that injury would impact his educational pursuits, behavior, and social function; or how these things along with his physical limitations caused by the injury would impact his independent functioning in the world and even his ability to get a job. I needed to be educated. I found this education through much struggle, mostly on my own, because our closest brain injury support group was in Roanoke, too far to drive each month in the evening. There were no conferences in our area of the state. Conferences are always in the Richmond or Northern Virginia areas and have usually passed by before any information is sent to this area to inform us about them!
Thus, I am excited to finally have a conference coming to our area. For me, learning is continuous and my mind is like a sponge, always learning how to help my son. He has now succeeded in graduating from high school and is moving on with his life, in spite of the lack of support we have found in the employment and housing areas of Pulaski County. It is my goal also to help others like him. If you read the newspapers or listen to the news, you must know how many people are injured each month, even each moment, with brain injuries which will affect them for the rest of their lives. We need information to help those facing these challenges.
A conference such as this will provide us with much needed information from experts in the field. I am hoping that many people will put this on their agendas, even if they have never heard anything about brain injury before.
If you deal with the general public, are a professional, especially in the field of education or in employment services, you need to be there. Those who are counselors or in other fields of psychology should be there, medical professionals of all types should profit by this conference, as well as anyone interested in learning and helping those with brain injury. Parents and survivors should both attend.
Through The Jason Foundation, founded by Greg and Fran Rooker after the death of their son, Jason, by anoxic brain injury, I must say that Southwest Virginia is finally becoming alive! Through the efforts of The Jason Foundation we now have not only their own efforts to help brain injured survivors and their families, but also their establishment of the new entity, Brain Injury Services of Southwest Virginia (BIS). Through this agency clients can call for help and personal services. The main office is in Roanoke and the phone number is (540) 344-1200. One might also e-mail Service Coordinator Kristin Beindorf, at Kristin@bisswva.org. Since the formation of BIS, there is also a newly formed Brain Injury Support Group available which meets at Radford University, Waldron College, Room 227 from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. on the last Tuesday of each month. For more information about this call Jason Foundation (540) 633-2225. Yes, I’m excited! It has been a long, hard struggle, essentially alone, in finding out all I have needed to know about brain injury, what to expect, services that are available, trying to find help in a maze of different agencies confined by their own rules and regulations; and many times not finding the help we have needed at all. It is an exciting thing to me to find that we are now getting organized with the help we need to service survivors of brain injury, their caregivers, families, friends, and others in Southwest Virginia.
The very name of this conference, “Transcending Brain Injury,” is inspirational, however, the only thing that will make this conference a success is if people take advantage of it! Don’t let the meal sit on the table uneaten! For more information call (540) 342-9531 or email: sandywillis @hotmail.com. Scholarships are available for survivors and their families/caregivers, and registration cost is really low - $20 for survivors and $25 for their families. The cost for students is $25 and for professionals $75. CEUs are available. For registration forms you may call Radford University (540) 831-5800 or email: conf-serv@radford.edu. Deadline on registration without the $10 penalty is April 15, 2002.

 


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