RTC:Rural researchers recently returned from the 2017 National Association of Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers (NARRTC) conference in Alexandria, Virginia, where the latest research findings on three RTC:Rural projects were presented. These included two presentations as well as a poster displaying the preliminary results of The Resilience Study, a collaboration between RTC:Rural and the University of Kansas Research and Training Center on Independent Living.
See the poster and a full text description below.
The poster session prompted conversations about how to develop interventions to foster various resilient characteristics, said the study’s lead author Dr. Jean Ann Summers, Director of Research at the Research and Training Center on Independent Living at the University of Kansas.
The poster, “How People with Disabilities Thrive in Rural Communities” presented results of Phase I of the Resilience Study. In collaboration with staff at Centers for Independent Living (CILs), researchers identified people with physical disabilities who were considered “resilient.” About 40 people attended focus groups and discussed what enabled them to live successfully as persons with disabilities in rural communities.
Instead of following the more traditional scientific poster format, the researchers decided to present their results using a schematic diagram of a tree.
“We wanted to represent our qualitative data in a way that encourages more public engagement than a traditional scientific poster might,” said Lauren Smith, Knowledge Translation Associate at RTC:Rural, one of the poster’s authors. “The tree provides a nice framework for the results, while also emphasizing their relationship to each other and to the overall definition of resilience.”Resilience is the ability to function well both mentally and physically in the face of major challenges, such as coping with a disability. It is the product of both personal factors, such as age when disability occurs or having a positive attitude, and environmental factors, such as education level and available social support.
The roots of the tree represent supports identified by the focus group participants: friends, family, agencies, and services. The branches of the tree represent what those roots supported: coping skills, such as problem-solving and advocacy; and strategies, such as positive attitudes and sense of purpose.
“Specifically, I wanted to move away from the unconscious ranking sometimes associated with a list, that something at the top of the list is more significant than the last item,” said Smith. “With a tree, each branch and each root is equally important. The tree also emphasizes that while there are many components to resilience, a person doesn’t need to have all of these factors to be resilient. A tree is still a tree if it has one or ten branches or roots.”
The poster, one of five presented at the conference, prompted a number of conversations including ideas on how to use the poster as an interactive framework, using the poster as a guide to identify existing training programs that might build these coping skills and strategies, and brainstorming ways to increase opportunities to recruit supports.
“Our poster was provocative in terms of stimulating conversation about what it might take to translate the experiences of these resilient people into training for those who need it,” said Dr. Summers.
RTC:Rural and our partners value the opportunity to share ideas and spark conversations with our fellow NIDILRR grantees.