Do you or someone you know have a special needs child?
Listen to our talk as Swati Shah shares her best advice for families.
She would know.
Swati Shah has the heart for serving special needs kids and their families. Her passion for making a difference in the lives of children and their family members is apparent in all that she does. She believes every special needs family deserves the ultimate care and the best advice. In her words,
“This is not just a job. It is changing lives… I feel like we’re impacting the community as a whole.”
Swati is the founder of Ascend Rehab, which she started in 2004. She has been an occupational therapist for 20 years. As a mother of a special needs child herself, she is deeply connected in the special needs community.
Ascend started in 2004 with one employee. Now, they have around 50—and that first employee is still with her! Her staff retention is incredible for the industry because she works hard to make sure her employees are heard and happy. Another unique thing about Ascend is its all-female staff, which is intentional. Also, nearly all the staff have a special needs kid or relative in additional to being trained professionals in the field. This gives them the ability to connect deeply with special needs children and caregivers. You can tell when staff loves a company as their own. And I could see that Swati’s team was truly involved and excited to work there.
Ascend’s staff is spread out across three main areas: schools, homes, and Ascend’s own Union City center. At the Union City site, they provide multiple therapies including occupational speech therapy, and they just opened a brand-new special needs preschool for 2-3-year-olds, run exclusively by therapists.
One incredible thing about Ascend is that its diverse range of therapists offers communication in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Tagalog, and more. As one of the most diverse cities in the Bay Area, Union City has a need for therapists who speak different languages and who can connect with different cultures. Ascend definitely fills these requirements!
If she could go back and give her younger self advice, Swati says,
“be the change you want to see in others” and “be brave, be bold, sit at the table. Do things that make you uncomfortable.”
As for advice for parents of special needs children, Swati suggests the following: Caregivers need to take care of themselves… a lot of self-care is #1. You need a lot of support around yourself. Knowledge is powerful. Don’t rely on outside teachers and therapists—become the best therapist yourself. And give yourself time. There is no quick, short-term solution to a child with special needs. We’re in this together long term. She goes on to give even more great, targeted advice.
Swati’s favorite success story involves a boy with cerebral palsy. CP affects everything—the way you move, talk, walk, etc. When Swati met him, he was in a wheelchair, he couldn’t feed himself, he couldn’t connect with people. Now he’s a teenager, and it is Swati’s motivator to see that he can walk, talk, communicate! What Swati has done has paid off and changed this boy’s life. He goes on to touch countless lives through the skills he has learned. He inspires Swati to work harder and to be a better therapist so that she can impact more lives the way she has influenced his.
To connect with Ascend Rehab or get involved, visit the center’s website at
You can also find their Instagram at @ascend_kids
They are located at 29516 Kohoutek Way, Union City, Ca 94587
Phone (510) 441-8240
Ascend welcomes volunteers, so don’t hesitate to get in touch!