Business in New York: Iranian Entrepreneur Created a Network of Clinics for the Treatment of Autism

3:02 pm  |  18.12.2023

Doreen Granpeesheh, founder of the Center for the Study of Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), grew her center into a vast national network and sold it for $600 million to the investment fund Blackstone. Now she faces a new challenge – buying out a bankrupt company.

Since June, CARD filed for bankruptcy. Granpeesheh and a partner offered $25 million for the buyout and repayment of debts. Despite previous success, the company faces financial difficulties with a network of 130 centers.

Over the past five years, CARD has faced challenges such as the pandemic, inflation, changes in insurance regulations, and staff shortages. Granpeesheh, who became one of the richest self-made women in America after the sale, now aims to return the company to prosperity. Granpeesheh acknowledges the complexity of the situation and her willingness to help CARD achieve success again. 

Despite the financial difficulties, the entrepreneur is confident in her ability to get the business going again. She faces criticism of CARD’s treatments but says her only motivation is helping the company succeed in treating autism.

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The Path from Tehran to California: Iranian Entrepreneur in the USA

Doreen Granpeesheh not only created a successful company but also went through a difficult path from her native Tehran to Los Angeles. In 1978, at the age of 16, she came to Los Angeles, where her story in the United States began.

Faced with political tensions in Iran, Granpeesheh remained in the United States while her parents went into hiding after the Islamic Revolution. Independent and without support, she recalls the difficulties of starting student life, working 36 hours a week to pay for tuition and housing.

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Striving for Understanding: University Years

While studying at UCLA, Granpeesheh developed an interest in autism. Behavior modification classes led by Professor Ivar Lovaas, known as the “Father of ABA Therapy,” sparked her interest. She delved deeper into research, building on Lovaas’ work, and concluded that ABA therapy could effectively teach skills and behavior patterns to children with autism.

However, Lovaas’s methods have been criticized and questioned, especially in the use of harsh punishment to correct the behavior of children with autism. Additionally, after Lovaas died in 2010, his work was criticized for classifying autistic people as “non-human in the psychological sense.” Despite these aspects, Granpeesheh continues to strive to develop effective treatments for autism through her company.

After receiving her doctorate in psychology from UCLA in 1990, Doreen Granpeesheh began her entrepreneurial journey working privately with families seeking help for children with autism. This is how the story of her clinic began, which she opened with her funds.

Having raised enough funds, Granpeesheh opened her first clinic in Los Angeles. Located in the Encino area, she rented office space, brought in additional therapists, and trained them in management. Many of them remained with the company for many years.

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Expanding to New York and Beyond: Global Response

The spread of Granpeesheh’s fame began with her book and requests from families from different parts of the world. At the request of parents of children with autism from New York, a second clinic was opened in 1994, and soon a third in San Jose. This experience became the starting point for large-scale marketing, which led to the opening of hundreds of clinics around the world.

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In the early 2010s, Granpeesheh’s business began to boom as ABA therapy began to be viewed as a “medical necessity.” Insurance companies have become major sources of revenue, replacing private payments and government grants. The company grew rapidly, opening dozens and hundreds of clinics within a few years.

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Criticism and New Challenges: From Film to Detoxification Theory

The mid-2010s brought not only business growth but also criticism from the scientific community. Granpeesheh’s participation in the film “Vaccinated” received mixed reactions, and her theory of detoxification and the link between autism and vaccines faced opposition from many experts. Despite this, the entrepreneur continues to support the importance of vaccination, arguing that her hypothesis does not deny the importance of vaccines in the fight against infectious diseases.

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