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Old 11-30-2015, 07:54 AM
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Default A Special Boy Inspires His Mom to Open a Store on Staten Island New shop sells therap

from The Wall Street Journal: http://www.wsj.com/article_email/a-s...NjI2NzcyNjczWj
A Special Boy Inspires His Mom to Open a Store on Staten Island
New shop sells therapeutic toys, clothing and tools for special-needs children

By Zolan Kanno-Youngs
Nov. 26, 2015 5:03 p.m. ET

Not long ago, when Melissa Palermo wanted to purchase a therapeutic product such as a chewy tube or a weighted vest for her special-needs son, her only option was to shop online.

The result was disappointment. Some products took days to arrive, and when they did, Mrs. Palermo often found they didn’t meet Alex’s needs in the ways she hoped.
The 30-year-old Staten Island resident wished there was a local store where she could get therapeutic toys, clothing and tools. So, with the help of a $40,000 business loan taken out with her husband, a sanitation worker, she opened one herself in October.

In the weeks since it opened in Staten Island’s Eltingville neighborhood, the Island Sensory Shoppe has served teachers, tutors, therapists and parents of special-needs children. “I wish this was around when my son was little,” Mrs. Palermo said of Alex, who is now 6 years old. “It’s why I did it.”

On first look, the shop appears like any other toy store, with jovial background music and shelves of multicolored trinkets. But parents are finding that the elastic animals, squishy putties, body socks and blankets are beneficial to children who suffer from high-functioning autism, Asperger’s and other sensory issues.
Lisa Allen, 42, of Staten Island, went to the store to look for something to ease the stress of her son, who has Asperger’s syndrome. She said he would get flustered when working on homework assignments and feared he would accidentally hurt himself.

“He gets very dramatically over the top and frustrated when he’s working,” Ms. Allen said. “And it’s very painful to see your child’s just day-to-day activities having such a hard time.”

Ms. Allen smiled when she saw one of the squeezable “crawly” toys. “I figure it will help him get the fidgets out if he can have something that he just manipulate—and not break a pencil out of frustration,” she said.
The elastic toys are also the favorite of Mrs. Palermo’s son, who she said was diagnosed four years ago with PDD-NOS, or pervasive development disorder-not otherwise specified. Most of her shop’s products focus on ways to help special-needs children who have episodes of frustration.

Children who have trouble sitting still can sit on the shop’s vibrating pillows. And the body socks and blankets provide a sense of security.

“Some children with sensory issues, they feel like their skin, they might want to crawl out of it,” Mrs. Palermo said. “Something like this can give them that calm, relaxing feeling.”
Discovery Putty has been especially popular with special-education teachers and occupational therapists; both groups receive a 10% discount on all products. Teachers can hide tiny toys inside the putty and ask their students to find them as a way to help special-needs children strengthen their fine motor skills.
In addition to products for special-needs children, the shop carries organization tools, some for visual learners.

Angela Klein, a 54-year-old tutor from Staten Island, bought one of the organizing charts last week for her 13-year-old son, who has dyslexia. “It will make it a little more fun than mommy’s homemade list,” Ms. Klein said.

Business has started out slow, but is building as word gets around among parents of special-needs children. Mrs. Palermo said on a good day she has as many as 10 customers. On other days she might only see two. But she said that’s fine for the early days of a specialty store like hers.
Mrs. Palermo, who has a business degree from Baruch College, said she spent months researching products that would fit the needs of a variety of children. It is how she found the ID bracelets, which helps lost children get home.
If someone finds a lost child, they can text or scan the code on the bracelet and they will receive a text informing them they have found a lost special-needs child. The parent of the child will also be alerted their child has been found.

As Mrs. Palermo explained the bracelet, Ms. Klein interrupted her. “I wish I had it when my son was younger,” she said. “He couldn’t remember his address, his phone number, his daddy’s last name.”

Mrs. Palermo smiled.

“Every time I hear a parent say something about, ‘Oh, this store is great,’ it makes it worth it,” she said later. “As many children as I get to help, it makes it worth it.”
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