Laurie Elinoff is a disability advocate from Anne Arundel County who is very beloved by the Maryland Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) and the Centers for Independent Living (CILs). In honor of Brain Injury Awareness Month, she recently shared her personal path to advocacy. Laurie was an employee of the Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) for over 20 years working as an evaluator. She loved her job, loved empowering people to find employment, and using evaluation as a time to learn what people wanted to do and what they were interested in. In 2001 Laurie obtained a Brain Injury from a car accident and soon after she medically retired from DORS. In some ways, Laurie felt lucky that she could use the information she already knew about Brain Injury and disability and apply it to her life. Ironically, during graduate school, she did a project on Brain Injury and during her employment with DORS, she served on a Committee on Brain Injury.
Around 2006, people encouraged her to get involved in SILC. She was excited to learn more and quickly wanted to become a council member.
“Once I was serving on the SILC I truly appreciated the wonderful work our CILs are involved in. I didn’t previously know all the services that CILs provided. Being a part of the SILC and understanding CILs allowed me to better make referrals for people to access the services at the CILs.”
During this time, Laurie also attended a statewide conference with the Brain Injury Association of Maryland. She learned so much about Brain Injury from the conference and soon joined the planning committee to help work on future conferences. There were different tracks at the conference so many people could attend and learn. Laurie describes the Brain Injury Association conference as one big group hug! Laurie’s leadership continues in the Brain Injury network as she serves on the Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Board.
To gain support many years ago, Laurie began attending a local Brain Injury support group once a month. Laurie speaks very highly of her support group meetings which are accessible both by Zoom and in person. The support group is a wonderful opportunity for people to share resources, hear from guest speakers and simply provide support to each other. In addition, Laurie uses the support group as an opportunity to mentor others with Brain Injury.
Brain Injury Association of Maryland hosts a weekly check-in chat where people come together and learn about resources. Many people attending have never attended a support group and they learn a lot! It’s a great opportunity to check in and learn about the Brain Injury community since people come from all over on Zoom and connect. Laurie considers herself an ambassador for the SILC, CILs, and Brain Injury Association of Maryland making referrals and sharing information with anyone who could benefit from them. “These organizations are the best-kept secrets,” Laurie says and she is determined to change that!