Nearly one year after the city expanded the number of agencies it contracts to connect therapists to private school students and preschool-age children, many independent therapists in the area reliant upon Department of Education (DOE) contracts are struggling to survive. Meanwhile, parents of special needs students here complain too few qualified local therapists are available to provide services critical to their children.
Kids in Motion — a sensory gym that offered occupational therapy primarily to children with autism — closed this summer because it lost most of its clientele when the DOE expanded its use of agencies to provide therapy for students.
Today, some therapists based in the area say they decline DOE contracts and seek private clients because the department failed to properly announce the changes in 2012, complicating the process.
Dorian Pascoe, who opened a sensory gym called Pascoe Pediatric Physical Therapy in Spuyten Duyvil this summer, said she reduced by half the percentage of contracts with the DOE this year in effort to boost profits. Next year, she plans to accept fewer children whose families pay for her services with city vouchers.
Besides Ms. Pascoe’s gym, two similar facilities operate in the Riverdale/Kingsbridge area including RiverKids and Kouli’s Sensory Gym. An occupational therapist working at Multiple Intelligence School, PS/MS 37, runs Kouli’s, which prohibits the gym from accepting DOE clients younger than 5-years-old due to potential conflicts of interests.
Ms. Pascoe said in the last two weeks, more than a dozen parents have told her they are experiencing difficulty locating a therapist to treat their children because many are no longer working with the DOE after last year’s disruption.
“The problem is independent providers such as myself book up, and can’t guarantee those families spots, so they have to go through the whole process and in the end even if they have a contract [with an independent provider] there are no longer any therapists to fill it,” Ms. Pascoe said.
The DOE failed to respond to a request for comment.