Understanding paralysis science and advocacy at the Working 2 Walk Symposium

One of the most intimidating aspects of advocacy for spinal cord injury research is understanding the science. For the general public or those not familiar with all the research projects that are taking place, they often wonder if they can learn the important aspects of the research and speak knowledgable about what is happening in the spinal cord injury community.

Once a year, the most well-known conference for the paralysis community in the USA called Working 2 Walk is hosted by U2FP and their sponsors. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn about the most cutting edge projects and recent developments that have taken place and we are invited into the wonderland of efforts being made to help those with chronic paralysis.

One surprising aspect of the conference organized by U2FP is how well the attendees grasp the concepts being presented by some of the world’s top neurobiologists and advocates. One would normally think that lay people would be completely lost. However, I’ve observed the opposite to be true.

Our scientists, supporters and advocates are the ones tackling our grandest challenges in providing regeneration, restoration or recovery among others. But if we don’t know about it and understand it, then our work isn’t done. So the scientists can talk a bit nerdy to us and we absolutely love it! They make sure that we can see their science is thrilling and that we are engaged in the presentation. They provide sometimes very complex information with beautiful slides, photographs and simple explanations of their research work and therapies. In the beginning, I’d thought that the science would need to be “dumbed down” for me to understand, but I realize now that was a flawed perspective. At this symposium there is an emphasis by the speakers to communicate their science or advocacy clearly without compromising their ideas. After each presentation, there is a question and answer session that most often have participants begging for more time to participate and engage the speaker. The audience is always passionate and captivated by their experience at the Working 2 Walk Science and Advocacy Symposium.

After the general session presentations and the Q & A segment is completed, the breakout sessions begin. An excellent technique used by the researchers is they anticipate the additional questions the audience will ask and then use those questions to frame the content they cover in the smaller breakout sessions. This creates an instant connection and the audience understands the scientist or advocate is invested in their understanding of the presentation or the research involved so everyone clearly sees they are relating to our needs. These small sessions help technical information to “come alive” as they anchor a complex technical idea to a concept that the audience already understands. There is a much deeper form of learning and the retention of concepts explained is even greater at this point.

The energy and enthusiasm for the research is because the paralysis community is passionate about the data being presented. Although it is crucial to understand the science, it’s much easier to grasp when the community is engaged and enthusiastic about the progress from around the world that is being made toward curing chronic paralysis at the Working 2 Walk Science and Advocacy Symposium.

Without your financial support of U2FP, the Working 2 Walk symposium would not be possible for the spinal cord injury community. Please give generously to support the work of U2FP!

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