Mina Lambovsky has created a parent-friendly support system and vital resource for families affected by autism in her native Bulgaria.
INTERVIEW BY POLLY TOMMEY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Mina Lambovsky has a background in finances in one of the best-known banks in Bulgaria and worked as a manager at one of the nation’s largest companies. When her first child was diagnosed with autism in 2002, she began to look for assistance in restoring his health and in educating other parents about biomedical interventions. In 2009, she created Tacitus Child Center, a day¬care center in Sofia for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). It was from that point that her real pro¬fessional development began.
► POLLY TOMMEY: Mina, can you tell us the background story with your son?
► MINA LAMBOVSKY: I was so happy at the birth of my first child, Boris: he was healthy and hit all his develop¬mental milestones on schedule. But after the first year and a half or so, I started noticing that he wasn’t like other children: he wasn’t smiling at me, he wasn’t talking—it was as if he was living in a world of his own. After a long and torturous evalua¬tion process, I faced the diagnosis I’d been dreading: autism.
► PT: That’s such a sadly familiar account: children born in good health and then later regressing. What kind of prognosis was Boris given?
► ML: He was just three at that time, and I was told that he’d never talk, build up close emotional relation¬ships with other people, or perceive the world adequately. I was told to leave him at a children’s home. I didn’t do it—I couldn’t! After a pe¬riod of total despair, I took a deep breath and decided to find a way to save him. I contacted international autism organizations, as well as parents of children with similar disorders from all over the world.
►PT: Autism truly is a global concern and in many places has become an epidemic. What did you find out from reaching out to others around the world?
►ML: I began learning what I could do to help my son through the efforts of leading professionals in the U.S. in particular. I learned about the im¬portance of diet, the health conse¬quences from consuming food ad¬ditives, gastrointestinal problems, and the biomedical approach to address the many issues children with autism face.
The results, at that time un¬thinkable for most Bulgarian spe¬cialists in the area, were very posi¬tive for Boris. At age four, he was eating nothing but French fries, he wasn’t sleeping, he was unable to do anything by himself. When I started making changes to his lifestyle he was seven and was suffering from one of the most serious forms of autism. But he started to pronounce sounds, then words, and then short sentences which turned into even more complex grammatical constructions. This development convinced me that the path we were on was the right one—the one that might lead us to recovery. I decided to share my experiences and help other parents in the same situation.
►PT: Why did you decide that something had to be done in Bulgaria to help people with autism?
►ML: Tacitus Child Center was founded in 2009 by specialists and parents united by a mutual cause—finding meaningful autism treatments and therapies that would truly make a difference. With more and more children in the world, including Bulgaria, being diagnosed with autism, the need for a quality and highly specialized team therapy is especially urgent. The lack of such centers geared specifically for chil¬dren with autism was one of the rea¬sons for the foundation of the center.
Our main focus is on the chil¬dren themselves: our love for them, our belief that there is a way to solve problems, that these unique children deserve a chance for a ful¬filled and happier life as a part of our society. Guided by these ideas, united by the common idea and the belief that autism is not a con¬dition of lifelong condemnation, we founded Tacitus Child Center.
►PT: Can you tell our readers about the school you’ve built for children with autism?
►ML: United by our love for children with autism and the successful work with Boris, the team of psy¬chologists, speech pathologists and occupational therapists who had been working with him for years, together with my husband and me, founded a family-like center. It’s situated at the foot of Vitosha mountain—far from noise and pol¬lution—in a pleasant, sunny house.
We selected the locale specifi¬cally for children with autism, who require a clean environment to heal and thrive. Toxins such as lead, hydrogen dioxide, alumi¬num, mercury, chlorine—even the dust on the big city streets—are especially harmful to children with autism, whose systems have already been damaged. At the peaceful and clean south foot of Vitosha, these children are making their first steps towards successful therapy and restored health.
►PT: It sounds like such a lovely and clean environment. I completely agree that children with autism are even more vulnerable to toxins than the general population and establishing a toxin-free environment is tremendously important.
►ML: Yes, and another important factor, in addition to the clean environ¬ment, was the need to create a sense of calmness, protection, and security through the coziness of a home setting. The center includes a house with rooms for play and relaxation, as well as a yard and a garden designed to resemble a real home as much as possible.
Our goal was to give the chil¬dren a chance to make the second important step towards a success¬ful therapy—as the environment remains unchanged, they don’t lose the sense of security they have at home, thus enabling them to fully develop their potential. All objects, furniture, and toys are in compliance with the needs of our children as well as with their therapeutic goals. Our approach to the children is guided by the principles of love, respect for the individual, patience, and positive reinforcement for each small step.
►PT: You have achieved so much and now Bulgaria is really on the map as a place families can come to get treat¬ment. That’s really remarkable prog¬ress and so encouraging for so many families affected by autism.
►ML: Thank you, Polly. It’s truly been a team effort that we’re all excited to be a part of. The family nature of the center drew parents and profes¬sionals together as a team, turning us into a big family where everyone is helping and supporting the oth¬ers. I run consultations with the parents every day. They know that they can rely on each member of the team at any time for advice or consultation. Just like hardships, successes are also mutual—shared between specialists and parents.
This friendship, this mutual support led to the foundation of a non-profit organization, Tacitus, which unites all parents of chil¬dren from the center, the entire team, and many other supporters of our cause. The organization’s aims go beyond the scope of Taci¬tus Child Center. What we all want is to promote the successful working method in Tacitus, combining the biomedical with the narrowly specialized multidisciplinary therapeutical approach.
The main goal of the Tacitus Organization is to educate the in¬creasing number of autism families on the fact that there is hope and to make all the latest findings in medicine and therapy accessible through outreach and conferences for parents and professionals.
►PT: Can you us about Dr. Arthur Krigsman’s new clinic in Bulgaria, and why it’s so important?
►ML: We were provided the precious
support and full partnership of the team of Tokuda Hospital in Sofi, and thanks to their help and self¬less work, more than 14 children were examined by Dr. Krigsman, who demonstrated for the first time in Bulgaria that narrowly special¬ized gastrointestinal examinations were proving the correlation be¬tween autism and GI disorders in children. This has made possible a future mutual cooperation with the team of Tokuda Hospital and has given us hope that Dr. Krigsman’s knowledge and protocols will be applied by Bulgarian specialists throughout the country. This could have a profound impact on so many lives—not just the children diag¬nosed with autism, but entire fami¬lies and communities.
►PT: How do you see the future of autism treatment in Bulgaria?
►ML: We at Tacitus will continue to work hard, with love and under¬standing for the children. Problems don’t stop us and temporary failures do not frighten us. We believe that our goals are big enough to engage not only parents of children with autism but our entire society and all the state institutions work¬ing with children.
►PT: How can people find out more about bringing a child to Bulgaria for treatment?
►ML: They can contact the Tokuda Hospital Sofia directly. Tokuda is a modern, fully functional general hospital which has established an International Ward dedicated to delivering innovative medical services to foreign patients, based on world-recognized best practices. Additionally, it is ded¬icated to increasing patient access to innovative treatments by expanding its network of international guest- doctors.
Dr. Krigsman is frequently hosted, providing an innovative autism diagnostic and treatment procedure for children from Bulgaria and the UK. The hospital has be¬come a preferred medical tourism destination because of its combination of state of the art medical care, competitive pricing, and travelling services for patients and family members.