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13 Sep

Community Spotlight: Rise High Therapy

The world of autism is vast and varied, with every individual and family navigating their unique challenges and triumphs. To gain more insight into this realm, we sat down with Vasily Shchegolev. Apart from being the founder of Rise High Therapy in Sydney, Vasily is a devoted father to Eddie, a vibrant child with Autism. Vasily’s commitment extends beyond managing a successful business; he is passionate about autism advocacy and is now deepening his knowledge by studying Autism at the University of Wollongong and is on the path to earning his certification as an ESDM therapist.

Hi Vasily, tell us about yourself and your journey.

My journey with Autism began with my son, Eddie who is now 5 years old. His diagnosis was a pivotal moment in my and my wife’s lives. Initially, our involvement with autism was purely as parents navigating our son's diagnosis. However, with Margarita's background as a school teacher, she was able to requalify and become a certified ESDM therapist. This not only transformed our personal journey but also started a newfound passion that is to assist other children on the spectrum to achieve personal growth.

We personally witnessed the effects of ESDM with our own son, therefore Margarita and I were really inspired to establish Rise High Therapy clinic, with a main focus on the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM). Margarita is now a certified ESDM Therapist working in our clinic, and also contributes her expertise and knowledge at both the University of Wollongong and the University of Sydney. In my case, I'm currently furthering my education in Autism at the University of Wollongong and am on the pathway to becoming a certified ESDM therapist. I see this as a journey of passion, commitment, and a deep desire to make a positive difference in the Autism community.

Can you tell us about Rise High Therapy and its importance in the Autism community?

Rise High Therapy, was founded in 2021 in Sydney, and for both me and Margarita, it’s much more than a clinic to us! We see this, as our family's dedication to the Autism community. Our clinic’s primary focus is the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), a therapy we both specialise in. I see this therapy as a game-changer and in my own opinion the most effective for children on the spectrum!

For those who might be unfamiliar, what exactly is ESDM and why do you believe it is pivotal?

ESDM is a naturalistic, developmental, behavioural intervention (NDBI) that is embedded in play and can be applied across multiple settings, including Early Childhood Education and Care Settings, Intervention Programs, Primary Schools and the Family Home. It has been manualised which helps to bring all the adults in the child’s life working towards the same goals. The teaching principles used in this model are informed by expertise from early childhood education and allied health professions. Major learning goals include skills that enable social learning and engagement in naturalistic play and cooperative activities. This method goes beyond traditional therapies by integrating a naturalistic and holistic approach, making it easily adaptable to a child's daily routines. It concentrates on enhancing social, cognitive, play, imitation, communication and even fine motor skills, making it a well-rounded and the most ideal therapy for children under the age of five.

However, what really sets ESDM apart from other therapies is its scientific evidence-base. It has a wide scope of research to support its use in working with autistic and neurodivergent children to develop skills across all areas of child development. In addition to being one of the leading approaches to early intervention for autistic children, there is also emerging evidence for supporting young children with a diverse range of needs.

In reality, the significance of early intervention for Autistic children cannot be stressed enough. Engaging in evidence-based therapies like ESDM during the earliest developmental stages of a child’s life, can dramatically change your child's trajectory, optimising their potential and quality of life. Research overwhelmingly supports this, highlighting long term benefits like improved communication, social skills, and reduced need for intensive support later in life. In essence, I see early intervention as the best gift we can give to a child on the spectrum.

You mentioned your personal experience with Eddie played a significant role in establishing Rise High Therapy. How does this personal connection influence the way you approach therapy and interact with families at your clinic?

Eddie's journey opened our eyes to the real-world challenges and achievements of a child with Autism. It's this firsthand experience that shapes the ethos of Rise High Therapy. Every child, like Eddie, is unique, with their own strengths and areas of growth. Our personal connection ensures that we approach each child's therapy with empathy, understanding, and individualised care. Furthermore, it's not just about the child; it's about the entire family. We understand the emotional roller-coaster parents go through, and our aim is to be that support, guiding them every step of the way. I always say to our parents: ‘it's a journey we take together, as a team!’

There's no doubt that early intervention is pivotal. However, how do you ensure that the therapy remains effective as the child grows and their needs change?

Great question! Autism, like any other developmental journey, is dynamic. As children grow, their needs, interests, and challenges evolve. We prioritise continuous assessments and tailor our strategies accordingly. ESDM is flexible, and its principles can be adapted to suit varying needs. While the foundation remains consistent, the specific activities, challenges, and interventions we introduce are modified based on the child's interests, progress and current requirements. This approach ensures that we remain relevant and effective in aiding each child's developmental journey. Furthermore, we place a strong emphasis on collaborating with parents and caregivers, equipping them with the tools and strategies to support their child's growth at home and in various social environments.

Vasily, for parents who might be noticing early signs of Autism in their children, what would be your immediate advice?

Firstly, always trust your instincts as parents. If you feel your child isn’t meeting developmental milestones or their behaviour seems different from peers, it's essential to seek guidance early. Early identification can lead to early intervention, which as we've discussed, can be transformative. It's also crucial to approach the situation with understanding and patience; every child is unique, and their journey will be as well. If you're ever in doubt or seeking guidance, Rise High Therapy is here to help. You can reach out to our clinic on our website www.risehightherapy.com.au; we are well-equipped to guide and support you.

Moreover, while it's important to act on early signs, it's equally crucial to be cautious. Always ensure the information or therapy you seek is from a reputable source. There are countless sources of information, but not all are accurate or beneficial.

And for those parents who are looking for reputable resources or places to support them on this journey, can you recommend any?

Absolutely. Apart from our clinic, I highly recommend the Early Start program at the University of Wollongong. They offer fantastic parent coaching programs based on the principles of ESDM. Parent coaching is a cornerstone of effective early intervention. It's not just about the child receiving therapy but empowering parents with the skills and knowledge to be active participants in their child's developmental journey. This will ensure the consistency and reinforcement of therapeutic strategies, even outside of formal therapy sessions. At Rise High Therapy, we are big supporters of parent’s knowledge and involvement. After all, the most significant impact often happens in daily life, at home, at the park, during playdates, and in countless little moments that shape a child's world.

Remember, every step you take, no matter how small, can make a world of difference in your child's life. We're here to support, guide, and walk alongside you in this journey.

Visit the Rise High Therapy website for more information and to make an enquiry.

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