Early Intervention Makes a Difference: Emma’s Story

By 29.05.2020Blog

Emma is a five-year old girl who takes part in the Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program of the Sofia-based For Our Children Foundation (FOC). The girl has been attending the program since June 2018 after recommendation by a social worker at FOC’s Community Support Center who detected problems with Emma’s communicative and social skills. Emma is one of 30 young children who receive support, together with their families, by FOC’s ECI program. Thanks to the work with FOC’s specialists in the course of 2 years, Emma made progress towards overcoming the problems in her development. The ECI program was launched in 2012, after FOC’s specialists were trained by the ECI specialists Prof. Hollie Hix-Small of Portland State University and Professor Judith Newman of Oregon University.


During our first meetings with Emma, she had difficulties playing games in a structured way; she was not able to stay still and focus her attention on a single activity.

She could say a few words, only in English, which she had picked up from movies and songs on TV. Her first assessment established that she needed stimulation of her communication skills, fine motor skills, and ability for problem solving. She also needed support to improve her concentration through various stimuli, play based activities and activities in a sensory room.


We discovered that Emma liked the developmental toys at our Center’s Toy Library, and we started our sessions with them. Gradually, she was able to get engaged with animal puzzles, forms and figures, she cut wooden vegetables, and played the xylophone. When we gave her the toys, she was able to keep her attention focused on them for a longer period of time.


While Emma was part of our ECI program, the advice and the support we provided to her family was key for securing adequate care and stimulating environment for her development.

Our psychologist helped the family go through the process of defining Emma’s condition and accept her actual abilities and difficulties. The parents were advised to take the child to clinical examinations as well as to consult a neurologist and a speech therapist.


As a result of our work with Emma, she progressed towards a more structured play with a beginning and an end.

She was able to focus on a given task, keep her attention on a specific activity, and she did not display hyperactive behavior.

She was offered different activities and stimulating games according to her interests and she would cooperate according to her ability. She no longer uses monotonous games with moving balls and sounds. She could make a puzzle with animals and imitate the sounds that they make. She could recognize and name the animals. Thanks to the puzzle with figures, she could count from 1 to 10 in her native Bulgarian language. She likes cutting wooden foods and can name some of them – banana, apple, fish, carrot.


Petia Uzunova, Senior Early Intervention Expert

Emma understands instruction and performs the tasks that the therapist gives her. Sometimes she defines the action that she sees on an illustration in a book. According to her mother, Emma can respond to the question “What’s your name?”. She reacts with gestures and words to express “hello”, “ciao”, “bravo”, and “kiss”. She uses words and short sentences. She could keep her attention and follow the reading of a short story until the end. Emma’s mother says that the girl is happy with the activities at our Center.


In 2020, FOC’s support for Emma comes to an end, however she will continue working with a special education teacher at the kindergarten and will benefit from individual therapy with a speech therapist and a psychologist.



Petia Uzunova,

Senior Early Intervention Specialist


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