Carissa Tozzi and Gena Mann, co-founders of Wolf + Friends
The app Wolf + Friends was co-founded by Carissa Tozzi and Gena Mann, long-time friends, who wanted to change how parents of special needs kids connect. The app was originally conceived of as an online shopping platform featuring curated tools and toys for kids with developmental challenges. Wolf + Friends now provides a judgment-free online space for members to create their own support systems, something special needs moms crave.
We caught up with Carissa and Gena to learn more about how they’re bringing the special needs community together online.
Psst…Read this inspiring mom’s story, “10 Things I Wish I Knew When We Received a Special Needs Diagnosis“
What prompted you to create the Wolf & Friends app?
There are 60+ million moms worldwide raising children with special needs such as autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, developmental delays, behavioral challenges, mental health issues, sensory processing disorders, and Down syndrome. And yet, moms raising children with special needs are often so isolated! We found that while many platforms were addressing new moms, nobody was explicitly speaking to special needs moms. We wanted to help these moms find their pack because having friends who “get it” can make all the difference.
What can a parent expect from the app?
When you download the Wolf + Friends app, you build a profile that incorporates your interests and strengths as well as what makes your child special. The app then provides you with all of the other moms in your area, raising children with different needs so that you can friend them, message them, and, ideally, connect in real life. The app has a rich content feed featuring interviews with special needs moms and tips from all kinds of experts. Think speech pathologists, occupational therapists, behaviorists, etc. There is also shopping advice for developmentally appropriate toys, tools, furniture, and clothing, all with clickable links to our amazon shop.
Special needs parents all know that there can be moments of feeling quite isolated. Do Wolf and Friends have these parents in mind?
These are our people! Not every mom is ready to dive in and make new friends. Some want a place to know they are not alone, some come for resources or inspiration, some follow our Instagram feed so they can laugh (instead of cry). We are a judgment-free space for everyone whose parenting journey is a little different.
You have something called a SPECIAList Directory, how does this work?
The SPECIAList Directory is where moms can find local providers for their children. The directory is designed for special needs families to connect with developmental pediatricians, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, behaviorists, psychiatrists, psychologists, art therapists, feeding therapists, social skills therapists, telehealth therapists, specialized schools, classes, camps, non-profit organizations all serving the special needs community. The listings are arranged by location across the United States.
What types of special needs does the app cover?
We have a long list of differences, including everything from ADHD, Anxiety, Autism, Down syndrome, Sensory Processing Disorders, Speech and Language delays, etc. We also, of course, have an “Other” tab as there are many less common disorders that present with similar delays.