The Journey of a Multi-Tasking Woman to Raise her Autistic Son


This post is by Fabiana Bacchini:

Her journey in Canada started 10 years ago. Nellie Terzieva, 45 years old, from Bulgaria, came to Toronto with a Masters Degree in Agricultural Economics and Management and an MBA from the University of Central Florida (UFC) where she also worked as assistant professor.

With incredible work experience in the US including working in the green house industry as well as at world-renowned corporations, Nellie thought it would be easy to get a job here in Canada. Her disappointment came when she started to hear from employers that she was overqualified.

The quick solution was to get a job at Starbucks. However, our Brilliant Woman of the week didn’t stop there. She started thinking outside the box on how to make a better living.

With a small business plan in mind, Nellie started to host international students. “It was an amazing experience. I had students from more than 30 countries and from ages 8 to 45”, says Nellie. “I taught the young ones to take care of themselves and to help around the house so they would do the same when they went back home”.

Soon she found out she was pregnant and no longer wanted to keep her job at Starbucks. Stoyan (Antony) Ivanov was born in 2004.

The diagnosis

When Stoyan was almost six years old he stopped talking. Nellie took him to numerous specialists in Canada and the US and he was eventually diagnosed with autism.

Nellie found a program at the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia. It was there that Stoyan started walking, reading and pronouncing more than 60 words. “It is a very expensive treatment and has to be continuous. Every time we go there we spend almost nine thousand dollars which I have to pay from my own pocket”, explains Nellie. The expenses include supplements,  the programs Stoyan attends, equipment, materials for teaching at home, transport and accommodation.

Nellie has no financial support from Stoyan’s father or from the government. Her parents moved to Canada from Bulgaria to help with their grandson and support their daughter emotionally.

Unfortunately, Stoyan cannot continue the treatment at this time because of the costs. “There must be at least two visits every year”. In addition, he needs supportive therapies which are not covered by OHIP, such as CranioSacral Therapy, Annet Baniel Therapy, Oxygen Chamber and other prescribed therapies that could be beneficial.

Searching for solutions

Nellie with Stoyan

With her son at home full time, Nellie had to stop hosting students. One of her solutions was to start a home day care. “The kids interact well with Stoyan and help him. As well, he can see how the kids develop which is great”, she says.

Stoyan who is now 7 years old cannot go to school so she teaches him at home. Nellie explained that if the child’s ‘problem’ does not fall into the main stream of regular therapies it is more difficult to get help. “I have applied for Intensive Behavioral Therapy Programs in Toronto, but he wasn’t approved”.

Besides the day care, Nellie received her real estate license four years ago in an effort to help other families, especially immigrants. “I love to help new immigrants get their first home here because we all come with the dream of owning our homes”.

Nellie explains that this is her evening and weekend job. “Time is limited so I have to work with what I have”.

Nellie’s mind is always working on making more money to help her son’s recovery. Recently, she joined a network marketing company, a great business model that does not require many hours of work.


The efforts to raise money for Stoyan haven’t come only from Nellie’s numerous working hours. Her friends from Bulgaria initiated HOPE FOR STOYAN fundraising and events campaign. The first event was last year and they were able to raise two thousand dollars of which will be used towards his recovery and speech development.

After the event, Nellie started the HEALTHY AND HAPPY CHILDREN FOUNDATION. “My dream is to help other children to improve their lives sooner than my son”, concludes Nellie.

Nellie Terzieva lives in Toronto with her son Stoyan and her parents. For more information on Stoyan’s treatment or if you would like to make a donation, contact Nellie at: 416-820-5551;  e-mail: or visit and

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