After spending years in the lifestyle industries, Carissa Tozzi and Gena Mann — the founders of the inclusive app Wolf + Friends — have finally found their calling. What initially started as an app on all things lifestyle has quickly become a go-to resource for mothers who have children with special needs. Created for women who have at least one atypical kid, the app gives moms who have kids with special needs — including diagnoses from autism to Down syndrome to even giftedness — a place to socialise, engage in mentorships, and even seek out specialists nearby. For women who are looking to build up their community, Wolf + Friends is a godsend.
"The concept of Wolf + Friends was originally a shopping and lifestyle destination that was inclusive and inspiring," Carissa told POPSUGAR. "If you had a typical child with a speech delay or sensory sensitivity, you could shop alongside kids who had actual more serious diagnoses. I felt like there was nothing out there in the world that felt inclusive and also helpful."
After doing more research, Carissa and Gena discovered that what mothers with kids with special needs desire the most is a support system. "As we were growing and talking to more moms — especially moms with kids with more severe special needs like autism, Down syndrome, and ADHD — [we learned they] felt very, very isolated when they got that diagnosis. Parents don't understand, friends don't understand, they don't know how to express themselves, and that topic kept coming up over and over and over again."
For mothers like Gena who have two children on the spectrum, having a way to connect with other parents who have similar experiences can be life-changing.
"You know that these people on the app want to meet other people. It's like a dating app in that respect."
"The app is meant to find people in your neighbourhood that you might want to have a coffee with, that you're like, 'Oh, she's from Westport? Great! I can meet this woman for coffee,'" Carissa explained. "It's not like a social network, even Instagram, where you're not going to really DM this person to have coffee. You know that these people on the app want to meet other people. It's like a dating app in that respect. Everybody on there is a mom raising a child with special needs, and as you look through the app, you'll get to know what diagnoses they have, what age they are, and what the mom's interested in. We just wanted to make people less alone."
And in case you were wondering, the app is completely free to use and includes handy shopping links so you can buy any product that catches your eye within the app. And thanks to a brand-new update, moms can also peruse lists of primary care doctors and other specialists who work with children with special needs as well as read expert-written articles that discuss different aspects of parenting a special needs child. But it's not all about the kids: Wolf + Friends is meant to be a form of self-care for moms.
"Part of the content in the app is for moms to really take some time for themselves," she explained. "Let it be meditation or beauty or podcasts they should listen to. And it's not all just special needs-heavy. We didn't want to make it like that. It's not a place to go to feel bad, to hear sob stories. It's actually a place to get inspiration and possibilities."
Make sure you download the Wolf + Friends app so you can connect with other mamas in your community!