Helping children via early intervention for more than 40 years

The beginnings: In 1975 I was accepted to the Pető Institute, and started to study conductive education. This was the first time that I met physically, mentally, or verbally handicapped children. Those encounters did not shock me, and neither did I consider those children as objects of pity. I accepted them as they were, and I wanted to help them.

Early intervention “in infant shoes”

Having graduated in 1980 I found that I still lacked the expertise in the field of early intervention in the therapy of infants and toddlers.Therefore, I joined the hospital department of Prof. Dr. Ferenc Katona, who had developed a new method called neuro-habilitation. We examined newborn babies with injuries, and my task included determining individualized therapeutic programs, and also teaching parents how to provide take care of them. On the other hand, I was entrusted with developing therapeutic options for toddlers.

Starting to involve the parents and the rest of the family

Trying to find new ways, I followed emotional behaviour in childhood and anthropomorphic thinkingas my guidelines, so I recognised play as a road to development and improvement. The next step was making the parents humans beings at play (homo ludens), so that they could relate tto their children in a more effective way. I began to conduct in-depth interviews to find out more about the changes in the behaviour as well as the vegetative nerovous system of such parents.

Play as a novel means of therapy for multiply handicapped disabled children.

In a center funded by the local government of Budapest 16th Disctrict, which I directed from 1986, I started groups for promoting early development, where we applied already well-elaborated therapeutic solutions using playful tasks.The results proved to be so promising that I decided to break with the established therapeutic methods. My decision was made easier by the fact that there was no elaborate development program available for multiply disabled handicapped children.

My first book

The subject of my first – basic – book was just that. The first edition of Therapeutic Games (Werag,Wien-Budapest-Zagreb) was publisjhed in 1988. The follow-up was

A gyógyító játék

(Healing Play, Pannon Kiadó, Budapest, 1990).

The Foundation

After the Center ceased to work as a section within the local government's institution in 1991, it has been sponsored by the foundation Tunyogi Erzsébet Gyógyító Játszóház Alapítvány a Halmozottan Sérült Gyermekekért (Erzsébet Tunyogi's House of Therapeutic Games Foundation for the Multiply Disabled Handicapped Children).

Academic activities

Asz a lecturer at Apor Vilmos Catholic College, I held undergraduate and graduate courses inApplied Drama theater pedagogy from 1992/93 to 2005. Each academic year I taught game therapy to more than 100 students. I also taught didactics, educational theory, history of education, the theory of play, and the theory of personality. Since 2005 in most years I trained students' groups in game therapy. I was also a lecturer in game therapy to kindergarten teacher students at the Eötvös Loránd University between 1992 and 2012 in several academic years.

From 1991 our Foundation also held accredited courses to 20-30 students each year. Most of our students have been special educators, as there was a growing need for early intervention helping handicapped children. While methods and means were largely unavailable even for professionals, we could offer them effective solutions

My mission is to reintegrate as many children as possible to the standard preschool and school-age education programs.

Therefore, we have our own “normal” kindergarten and school groups for the integration of those children who have only partial capability disorders, or whose injuries are not complex. In these fields, I have held special courses for kindergarten and elementary school teachers. From 1991 to 2007 I gave lectures to large audiences all over the country about this new approach to handicapped children and their families, based on acceptance and integration; and I could demonstrate how game therapy works, together with the family therapy that is inseparable from it.

My book Gyógyító játék a családban was published in 2005 (Healing Play in the Family, Tárogató Kiadó, Budapest), summing up a whole phase in the development of game therapy.

Game therapy and family therapy with unconditional acceptance and love

The most important achievement of the introducition of game therapy has been a change of philosophy. Never again could playing, as a basis of all human activity, be left out from the developmental therapy of handicapped children. It was not impossible to ignore the family, family care, and family therapy any more either.

We have introduced a new approach to the child and the family: unconditional acceptance,together with solidarity, empathy, and lifelong learning.
Institutional history – we have outgrown the framework of the foundation

In 2005 the Foundation became the maintainer of an institution called “Tunyogi House ofGames” Center of Early Intervention and Care, Development, and Preparatory Education.

Since September, 2013 the name of the institution has been Tunyogi PedagógiaiSzakszolgálat (Tunyogi Pedagogical Assistance Service), where we apply early intervention from age zero to five, and give development education to children with multiple injuries. We teach speech, supply complex physiotherapy to children with physical injuries, provide mental developmental therapy to children with learning disorders, as well as professional health care and treatment by specialists.

Early intervention can be documented and standardised

Along with setting up the Center, I created a protocol and form for documenting game therapy results. For the “Case History” part I have elaborated on our amassed experience so as to set up a precise diagnosis.

With the Developmental Test Paper we can record the condition of the child at the moment, their advancement in the fields of movement, vision, hearing, manipulation, and learning.

Using all this, I can select an individualized program for rehabilitation, which can be modified or changed with the advancement of the child, whose exact data can be stored in a computer.

Events and accolades

In 2012, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Foundation with a successful conference, where working groups specialised in early intervention shared their methods and experience.

Our Foundation has beenwas in contact with EASPD (European Association for Service providers for Persons with Disabilities) mi ez teljesen nevén? since from 2014 to 2016, where we have a definitive role in the field of early development.

In 2005 I received Pannon GSM's Role Model Prize for my work.


Tunyogi Erzsébet: Therapeutic games, 1989. Werag, Wien-Budapest-Zagreb

Tunyogi Erzsébet: A gyógyító játék, 1990. Pannon Kiadó, Budapest

Tunyogi Erzsébet: Gyógyító játék a családban, 1995. Tárogató Kiadó, Budapest

Tunyogi Erzsébet: A művészeti nevelés szerepe az érzelmi nevelésben, 2004. in: Nevelés ötlet(l)esen, sorozatszerk. Dr. Balázsné Szűcs Judit

Tunyogi Erzsébet (vezető szerkesztő): Mókus Luca Tanodája, (gyermeklap) kiadó: Marshall Cavendish, szerkesztő: PressCon 2001.