Welcome to Chicago North Shore Moms Local Nonprofit Spotlight, where we highlight and introduce a local nonprofit’s inception and mission. But first we’d like to extend heartfelt gratitude to our Local Nonprofit Spotlight Sponsor, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Thank you Lurie Children’s for connecting a voice from our local nonprofits to our local communities!
This week we are spotlighting Twenty-One Senses whose mission is to support families with sensory-sensitive children by providing online resources, community, and coaching. Sensory overload can be experienced in many ways, and oftentimes go beyond the five senses. A person can be born with sensory processing disorder, and sensory disorders can be a side effect of a broader disorder. Co-founder and President, Jen Puccini also makes note that, “Kids who have experienced trauma can also have sensory issues. Given the entire world has been in a pandemic for the last year, that really means we are here to help everybody!” Thanks to Jen Puccini for sharing her vision with us and thanks to you, reader, for taking the time to learn more!
Hi Jen! Thank you for introducing us to Twenty-One Senses! Can you please introduce yourself?
Hello, my name is Jen Puccini. I grew up in central Illinois in a small town called Sunnyland, but I went to Woodstock High School, which is pretty close to the WI border. My husband and I live with our two kids in a northside neighborhood of Chicago called Forest Glen.
I’m the co-founder of Twenty-One Senses. I serve as the President of the company and the board, and I also wear the designer usability hat along with being one of the Caregiver Coaches. I’ve been working on the idea for the company for several years, but we launched in November of 2019, just four months shy of the world shutting down for the pandemic.
Yes, I imagine that timing has been rough on getting the word out. Please tell us about Twenty-One Senses and why you began this journey.
Twenty-One Senses was established in 2018, but we didn’t get our 501c3 approval and started with a team until late 2019. Our mission is to support families with sensory-sensitive children by providing online resources, community, and coaching.
I have two special needs kids. They have very different diagnoses, but the thing that unites them is their sensory sensitivities which are common to many special needs kids. I believe that their sensory issues make it challenging to integrate into public and social settings. I want to help businesses understand how to better accommodate special needs kids by supporting their sensory needs. I also want to help parents better understand what their children are going through from a sensory perspective to better advocate for their kids.
What is sensory processing disorder?
Sensory processing disorder (SPD) occurs when the brain receives and organizes information from external sources, such as light or sound, and internal bodily cues, such as hunger or balance. Individuals with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) do not respond to this everyday sensory information the same way most people do. They may feel bombarded or assaulted by even the smallest bit of stimulation, or they might be unable to recognize even very extreme sensations or changes in their environment. Studies suggest as many as 1 in 20 people have sensory processing issues, and symptoms are typically much more pronounced in children.
Our kiddos (and grownups) need your services more now than ever. Who specifically do you help?
We serve families and businesses that are family-friendly. While our initial focus was on special needs kids, we have learned through our research that sensory issues often affect more people than just the special needs community. Kids who have experienced trauma can also have sensory issues. Given the entire world has been in a pandemic for the last year, that really means we are here to help everybody!
You’re launching an online shop soon – How will the shop help support the mission?
Yes! We are in the middle of launching an online shop to sell products that were donated to our organization. The products will all have some sort of therapeutic value from either a social, emotional, or sensory perspective. We hope you all keep checking back in July for this launch by visiting https://shop.twentyonesenses.org/.
Specifically, what services do you offer for individuals in need of sensory help?
Our primary offering during the pandemic has been caregiver coaching, helping caregivers better understand their kids’ sensory needs and how that ties in with behavior, school, and social success. We also have many online resources…a blog, webinars, a virtual list of learning materials, and a listing of businesses that support sensory needs.
How did Twenty-One Senses survive the pandemic?
Our donors. Without donations, large and small, we would be unable to keep our virtual doors open. Frankly, without the PPP (payroll protection program) in the C.A.R.E.S Act, we would not have survived. We would have laid everyone off. So I’m very grateful to the federal government for helping small businesses and nonprofits like mine survive the pandemic.
How do people who directly need sensory support learn more about Twenty-One Senses?
They can find us on social media, our website, give us a call, or send an email!
And if you have four minutes, you can check out our video: https://youtu.be/axZKG_U4Jcw.
And of course, please reach out: [email protected] or (847) 238-2535
What’s next for Twenty One Senses?
With vaccines being administered, we are starting to see family spaces open back up. We’re excited to get back out in the community working with businesses, service organizations, and other nonprofits to make their spaces welcoming to all families.
How do our readers contribute or volunteer their time or get involved?
First up, please join us for our Virtual 5k! You can join a local team and walk together or head out on your own.
There are tons of ways to get involved, from donating, setting up an Amazon Smile account, volunteering your time, making business suggestions, or hosting an online fundraiser. Information on these and other options are available on our get involved page: https://www.twentyonesenses.org/getinvolved/. Thank you for learning more about Twenty-One Senses!