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Eliya Who Didn’t Like to Go to the Dentist

Eliya painting

Bulgaria is in Europe. Plovdiv is in Bulgaria. And Eliya lives in Plovdiv.

Eliya is 13 – a beautiful, vibrant and healthy child who has a small autism. She lives and  grows with it.

Autism is a condition in which the world outside is so scary that the child closes into a world inside, squats in the corner of her soul and does not want to hear about anyone or anything. She  doesn’t want to know anything about the fears, she doesn’t want to look at them, she doesn’t want to talk about them.

Some children with autism like to paint. Others count to infinity  or play endlessly with  numbers. Third ones arrange objects in colours and shapes, as if they would like to  rearrange the world.

Eliya loves jumping on a trampoline, sticking stickers, painting with fingers on the sand, climbing, playing electronic games. However, like all people, she hates going to the dentist. This upsets her to the sky, her resistance has no limits.

Until recently, her parents were trying to get the dental procedure a little more relaxed – explanations, promises, even white lies. But resistance continued to be strong. In 2016, however, they founded the Eliya Foundation and sought  good practices  to advance communication skills not only for their daughter but also for other children with autism.

In 2018, they contacted Australian speech pathologist Summer Elizabeth  (HYPERLINK “” and trained themselves to visualise Eliya’s environment. The parents created a picture schedule of Eliya’s routine activities, demarcated the spaces, introduced communication maps with images and texts in Bulgarian.

Communication folders have also been developed to stimulate  speech with 100 images and 6 templates to visualise key activities. They also included mobile applications – RoutineFactory / for structuring and organising time /, JABtalk / for communication /, LetMeTalk, Vocaliser, Visual Timer. Elijah’s father translated the first two applications into Bulgarian, and the images in the folders were adapted to them.

Thus, for the first time in Bulgaria, a comprehensive product is available to help children with autism and other communication disorders – Communication Folder, plus on-line and off-line applications in Bulgarian.

The best illustration of the effectiveness of this approach was the dramatic situation in the spring of 2019 when Eliya had to go to the dentist to have  11 baby teeth extracted.

With the use of visual non-verbal communication tools, things are not just eased, but everything is going perfectly smoothly – only with good prior preparation.

Eliya goes to  the dentist and undergoes a terrible procedure without resistance because she learns several important things for herself in advance.

She knows that on this day and time she will be outside the protected home environment, in a foreign place. Her family shows her exactly where she is going – she sees pictures of the building in the mobile app. Also – a picture of the dentist so that he is no stranger to her.

The pictures show her that she will fall asleep first and then get Dory the fish , her favourite cartoon character,  a real fluffy toy.

And Eliya really got Dori – as soon as she woke up calm, vibrant and healthy, somewhere in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Europe.


About the Author

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Plamen Assenov