NORTH SALEM, N.Y. -- Little did North Salem occupational therapist Christina Kozlowski know when she opened the present her husband had given her one recent Christmas that it would, literally, be the gift that kept on giving.
The subscription box of goodies planted the seed of an idea in Kozlowski’s head that would eventually bloom as a business.
The young mother, who works with children on the autism spectrum, had often heard from her clients' parents about how hard it was to find fun and functional toys that their kids enjoyed -- or actually got something out of.
Many people on the spectrum have a hard time processing everyday sensory information gotten through sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. They can be either overly sensitive, numb or both at different times and this can affect behavior and profoundly affect their lives.
There are now a number of companies out there that make products such as calming fidgets, chewy jewelry and sensory toys for people with Aspergers Syndrome, PDD and other disorders.
Kozlowski had already been compiling lists of toys she thought her young clients could use, but because of her job, she never had the time to put a business plan together.
Then she went out on maternity leave last year. She recalled the subscription box and realized that there wasn’t one out there with products -- chosen by an occupational therapist -- for kids with special needs.
Last August, Kozlowski launched Sensory TheraPLAY Box LLC.
In less than six months, just from word of mouth and the use of social media, the business grew to more than 150 subscribers.
“I really had no idea how quickly it would pick up,” she said, adding that it, besides caring for her two children, is now a full-time occupation.
Every month subscribers get a surprise assortment of toys and goodies such as silicone-based color-changing putty, tactile gadgets like spiky, inside-out balls, soap foam, light-ups and appropriate craft activities.
One product, "Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty" was actually developed by a real person as a de-stressing toy for his co-workers, Kozlowski said.
The boxes cost $39.95 a piece.
Subscribers can get a bit of a discount if they go for the pre-paid three-month deal. They can also subscribe on a month-to-month basis, and cancel at any time. The boxes ship on the first of the month.
Each box contains postcards with suggested activities and ways to use the items inside.
Kozlowski said she searches the internet for appropriate products and also tries to source as many things as she can from small, local makers.
Sensory TheraPLAY boxes have been ordered by folks as far away as Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, she said.
The Somers native hopes to expand the business by offering different product options and “price points.”
The boxes are “really great for all children, even typically developing ones,” like her two girls, Kozlowski said.
You can also reach Kozlowski by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org