Brain Quest

Anna Schwengle, creator of the Moodies from her company Owl and Oak, relays how her lifelong struggles being neuroatypical led to her triumphant and award-winning present.

Anna Schwengle used her own ADD
diagnosis and research to develop an invaluable tool for neuroatypical children.

Dear Anna,

Growing up in the 1980s with Attention Deficit Disorder has not been easy on you. The diagnosis didn’t exist and the ’80s were just not a time when people talked about mental health, let alone in children.

You’re constantly told that you’re way too much. Mom feels overwhelmed and you know it; she just doesn’t have the tools and community she needs to understand a kid who is different. But that doesn’t stop her from loving you and constantly cheering you on—because what she sees is a fearless little girl full of determination. (That’s why she let you jump off that 10-foot diving board at the age of 2 ½.)

You know that you don’t exactly fit in and that people think you’re weird.  But I’m telling you that it’s your weirdness and the parts of you that don’t allow you to fit in that lead you to all of the amazing things you’re going to accomplish.

You won’t believe it, but at age 23, you will sell everything you own and move from Berlin to NYC with nothing but an old suitcase and a whole lot of blind optimism.

Over the years, you will see how the demand for organic baby clothing is quickly growing, but you won’t like what the market has to offer. You will take your optimism and turn your dining room table into an office, and Google how to write a business plan. Voila, your clothing line Finn + Emma is born.

Ten years later, your little idea to change the organic baby market has now grown into a multi-million dollar business and one of the leading baby & kids organic product brands in the U.S. WOW! I know right?! I promise you though, you are far from done.

You will turn 40 years old and embark on an emotional pilgrimage in search of the answer as to why it feels like your childhood experiences are still in full control over your life. As you stumble through your ‘eat-pray-love’ journey, you will discover that you are far from alone!

You will think about how your personally different childhood experiences would have been had society given our parents permission—permission to ask for help and tools to deal with emotions and normalize discussions about mental and emotional health. You will once again roll up your sleeves and create a company that produces social emotional learning toys, Owl & Oak, and the Moodies.

What are the Moodies you ask?! They are cuddly toys with a build-in book on the back that tell playful stories about different emotions. They encourage open discussion between children and their families to build a bond of communication, teach empathy and emphasize that all feelings deserve a space to be shared.

And now buckle up…the Moodies are a great hit! Parents rave that the Moodies allow for that connection and communication that both parents and kids are craving. And you helped create that.

You did that! You will never stop feeling grateful for the fact that you’re able to bring some relief to a generation that has been so misunderstood. Through Owl & Oak, you’ve helped your community more than you’ll ever be aware of.  You’ve nourished your inner child and grown more than you ever thought was possible, in the best way possible. You have been your own champion. 

So, Anna, here are my final notes to you. You are not too much. You will find your way and have the courage to be imperfect. You are not as alone as you think you are. Being imperfect will allow you more opportunities and insight than you ever thought possible. It will encourage the people around you to also be boldly imperfect. This is a superpower that you will never stop being grateful for. So, keep jumping off diving boards. Keep being loud and adventurous and curious. Keep being every inch of weird and imperfect that you are.

Lastly, little Anna, I love you. I believe in you. And I’ve got your back.


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