Bravo to The New York Times for exposing Cheon Park (on the front page of last Friday’s paper), a contractor that was supposed to provide services for developmentally delayed 3 and 4-year olds. There are countless criminals to be pursued, but someone who preys on developmentally delayed toddlers and their families is especially repugnant to me. As the mother of a daughter on the autistic spectrum, I know how it feels to be desperate for the early intervention services considered critical to cognitive development. My heart goes out to the families who were lured into a lavish building with marble floors, red carpets and promises of state of the art therapy.
Desperation can be blinding. Sarah once had a speech therapist, who double-billed us and another family by taking our daughters out together instead of individually. The speech therapist also bought stockings while she was supposed to be working with our daughter, and she did other personal errands under the guise of “helping the girls develop pragmatic language in the real world.” Sarah’s speech therapist also acted as a sub-contractor, persuading us to hire a tutor for Max. When the tutor admitted to me that Max had refused to focus on academic work and wanted to work on athletic skills instead, my blindfold came off. I fired both “tutor” and “therapist.” Who would not lament the money wasted on these fraudulent “service providers?”
To add insult to injury, New York City and New York State paid Mr. Park for expensive renovations to his buildings as well as for the “services” rendered to the children. Some of these children, whose first language was Chinese, were placed in classes taught in Spanish. Others , who were supposed to receive individual therapy, got shoe-horned into groups of kids with a hodge-podge of disabilities. Even more shocking was that some kids had no disabilities, (and were in fact gifted). These children were being used to produce greater billings, and they cost the government more than $50,000 per year, per child. Bottom line is Mr. Park made millions, not just on these vulnerable children, but also on real estate transactions involving the sale of the schools and buildings.