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kristina.jpgAt right: Masha holds Anya in her arms. Names have been changed and Masha's face cropped to protect the family's identity.

What happens when a child with disabilities is born into a family that is already struggling due to social and economic factors? The weight of several challenges at once can prompt a family to turn to institutional care for the child out of desperation. In these cases, early intervention (EI) specialists can expand their role to help the parents deal with these stressors and keep the family together.

The EI team in Vladivostok has embraced this new challenge, as evidenced by Masha and her daughter Anya. Masha was raised in an abusive and alcoholic family and did not learn effective parenting skills. When Masha first suspected that her daughter had a disability, she took Anya to the EI center at Clinic 12. The specialists diagnosed developmental delays and set up a treatment schedule for Anya, but Masha inexplicably stopped bringing Anya to the clinic. A quick trip to investigate the situation turned into a regular schedule of home visits by the EI team.

Now, several months later, the EI team reports that they “have a very close relationship with this family. We visit Masha at home and teach her how to properly care for Anya so that Anya can remain with her family and not be removed from the home. We show Masha how to play with Anya and how to talk to her. We really praise her for Anya's successes, no matter how small, and tell her what a great mother she is. In the beginning Masha was very distrustful of us, not very talkative, and didn’t smile. But in just a little time she warmed up…In every way we are trying to support this family and hope that Anya’s life will continue to improve.”