International Brain Injury Association’s World Congress on Brain Injury 2008

Posted 11th August 2008

CMSUK Member Kim Russell has very kindly provided this informative article on the IBIA World Congress she attended a few months ago. 

We'd love to hear from anyone else attending similar conferences.

I have just returned from attending the IBIA World Congress on Brain Injury in Lisbon, Portugal.  This was a 4 day conference held at the prestigious Pestana Palace Hotel.  I had submitted an abstract to present a case study entitled ‘How Creative Thinking Can Lead to a Very Person Centred Approach to Care Provision', which was about the process of recruitment of a care team for one of my clients who has a severe brain injury as well as multiple physical injuries, including a spinal cord injury.  Thanks to generous sponsorship from Brownbill Associates Limited, CMSUK and BISWG (The Brain Injury Social Work Group), I made a 10 minute presentation on the Friday afternoon, and this was very well received.  A copy of my presentation is available if you would like to contact me via CMSUK. 


The conference was very well attended by delegates from all over the World, and there were 4 allocated rooms where lectures by invited speakers, workshops or presentations took place simultaneously throughout each day on a range of topics related to Brain Injury in adults and children.  There were also poster presentations on Thursday and Friday.  Whilst a high proportion of the presentations and posters were related to medical issues (and I have to admit that a few went completely over my head), there were a good number which were of interest to me, and at times it was difficult to decide which presentation to attend.


There were around 800 delegates, including Doctors, Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Psychologists and Social Workers and it was good to meet with so many interesting people both for networking and socially in the evenings.  I didn't meet any other Case Managers during the Congress, but was able to attend an evening meeting of INSWABI (The International Network of Social Workers in Acquired Brain Injury).  Their on-line network is free to join and more information is available from the Brain Injury Social Work Group's website .  It was disappointing that there was no notice board, for likeminded people to arrange breakaway meetings.  It would have been nice to try and find some other Case Managers in this way.  This is a suggestion which has been made for the future.  


There were so many different topics and areas of interest that it is impossible for me to report on them all here, but one which particularly stuck in my mind is:  ‘Brain Injury, Abuse and Being a Young Female'.  This was a presentation from Jane Gillette of Canada, where the incidence of abuse in young people under 16 in the general population is reported as 22 per 1,000.  It was stated that this needs to be multiplied by 4 to give a figure for disabled people.  However, the incidence in young brain injured women, based on a retrospective study, was only 11.6 per 1,000 rather than 88.  The conclusion was that symptoms of abuse were being missed, as they are similar to symptoms of brain injury - low self esteem, risky behaviour, use of drugs and alcohol, depression, etc.  It was suggested that a much more proactive approach in considering issues of abuse is required, and whilst no strategies were given in this presentation, it is certainly something that I will be keeping in mind.   


There was an interesting lecture entitled Education as Rehabilitation.  The presenters, Ron Savage and Beth Wicks, referred to the widening gap which children recovering from a brain injury face, as their peers progress in their education and development.  They stated that schools and families are the largest providers of rehabilitation services to children with brain injuries, and suggested that rehabilitation services should be co-ordinated with school as the central focus.  They cited one case where a child had 21 professionals involved and the family was labeled as ‘non-compliant', whereas they were just unable to follow all the differing advice and instructions they were being given.  The presenters stated that schools may need to consider adaptations to the environment, curriculum, teaching methods and materials, and assessment methods, in order to provide a co-ordinated approach to rehabilitation and support the child's rehabilitation and development.  They recommended that education professionals should be working in partnership with parents, medical professionals should emphasise long term needs, and specialist provision, training and advice are all needed.  They ended with a reminder that children with brain injuries become adults with brain injuries, so it is important to get their education and rehabilitation right.


Overall, I would say that this Congress was well worth attending.  I have certainly learned a number of things which I intend to use to enhance my practice.  One negative was that the site was not wheelchair friendly.  All the pathways were steep and cobbled, and the meetings were held over two sites on opposite sides of a busy road. 


Further information about the International Brain Injury Association can be obtained from .   I understand that the next World Congress will be in the USA in two years' time.   If you would like any further information about my trip, or my presentation, please contact me via CMSUK.  Thanks again to my sponsors, Brownbill Associates Ltd, BISWG and CMS


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