(Editor’s Note: I was contacted by Fun and Function with an incredible offer: would you like an equipment donation to your nonprofit sensory gym? No strings attached? The answer was an ABSOLUTELY YES AND THANK YOU! And, well, when someone does something that amazing for you, of course I’m going to write about it. I’m a blogger and a business owner. That’s what I do.)
It’s an interesting journey – this special needs parenting gig.
When you get your child’s diagnosis, whatever it might be, initially you can feel quite alone. You think no one has a kid like mine. No one will understand the challenges he faces. No one knows what he’s feeling or what I’m feeling.
And then slowly you find your village. Maybe it’s in person at the drop off for your child’s special preschool program. Maybe it’s through a support group. Maybe it’s online. At some point, you discover that you are not alone and neither is your child. There are people out there who “get it” and will do whatever it takes to help you “get it” too.
I’m very lucky to have found my village both in person and online. I have friends who have helped me when I was lost and friends who understand my children better than I do. We have a team of support, not just for me but for our whole family.
And it’s because of that support that my friend Tina and I were able to open our sensory gym. We saw a need and wanted to fill it. We believed in the fact that all children deserved access to the types of therapeutic equipment used in their schools and their private occupational therapy clinics. We wanted the gym to be a place where parents and children could go to socialize with other families who shared similar challenges. To help them find that village.
As we started the business, we found that there were other businesses out there with a similar goal.
One of these is Fun and Function. It was started by Aviva Weiss, an occupational therapist and a mom of six. She was frustrated by the lack of fun toys for children with special needs so she began creating her own. And now she’s on a mission to make “different” play fun.
Just like us.
Her company contacted me recently with this incredible offer: “At Fun and Function we believe that special needs children are awesome, and are always on the prowl to connect with likeminded individuals. We would be honored to make a donation to your SenseAbility Gym and we were wondering if there was something in particular that you might have your eye on.”
Who does that? Oh right. Companies started by people who “get it”.
After saying something like “Oh my goodness, thank you! This is huge and amazing!” I asked if there was a way that I could interview Ms. Weiss for our blog.
I asked her what inspired her to start the business and where the idea came from. Ms. Weiss answered with a familiar answer – she was inspired right at home, by her daughter. Her daughter needed the types of equipment for deep pressure and calming, but at the time all she could find were things that were too clinical looking and/or very expensive. She knew she had to change that and knew that if her daughter needed it, there were other kids out there who would need it as well.
We talked about the challenges she’s faced along the way and what kept her going. We discussed how hard it is to start your own business, to find the money to do it, to spend your own money to keep things going. But the mission keeps you going – knowing that you are helping families just like yours.
Every word she said rang true for me. It was as if she was saying the words in my head – all the reasons why we started SenseAbility Gym were the same, all the challenges were the same, and the driving force is the same.
I asked the question that many people ask us here – is there one thing that could help a child with sensory processing disorder? If you could recommend one product, what would it be?
She answered with a very familiar answer. There is no one thing. Every child is different. Every child’s needs are different. And they change. There is no one sensory “tool” that helps every person. “I can tell you what our top sellers are. Things like our weighted compression vests are very popular and have been from the start,” she said. “But not every child needs every item on this list. It’s why we created the ‘Find Your Solution‘ filter at the bottom of our website. Parents, caregivers, teachers and adults can enter in their age, budget and need and we’ll help them find the best products for them at the right price.”
I asked her what those favorite items were and what were best sellers from the website. She suggested their weighted compression vest, the Soft Saddle Scooter, Sammy the Seal Swing, Social Emotion and Guess How I Feel Games, Squishy Gel Cushions, Cool Chews and Bite Bands.
Here at SenseAbility Gym, we’re in love with the Air Lite Junior Bolster Swing. Generously donated to us by Fun and Function.
Ms. Weiss and I talked for about 15 minutes until I asked the question that I ask many parents who have older children. What advice do you have for families who are just starting out on this journey?
Her answer was the best. Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel or what your child won’t be able to do. It’s okay to grieve and be angry. But then it’s time to get back to figuring out with your child what they need and what can help them. Then anything is possible.
Anything is possible. And when you believe in your child and yourself there isn’t anything they – and you – can’t do.
Like start your own business. Or your build own community.
I am so grateful to Aviva Weiss and people like her who have blazed the trail for parents like me.
All it takes is an idea and the will to do it.
She found her will by looking at her daughter.
I found it by looking into these eyes here.
Build it and they will come.
“I had a lot of good intentions
Sit around for fifty years and then collect a pension,
Started seeing the road to hell and just where it starts.
But my life is more than a vision
The sweetest part is acting after making a decision
I started seeing the whole as a sum of its parts.
My life is part of the global life
I’d found myself becoming more immobile
When I’d think a little girl in the world can’t do anything.
A distant nation my community
A street person my responsibility
If I have a care in the world I have a gift to bring.” – Hammer and Nail by Indigo Girls