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How CEO Liz Holland raises awareness for Sensory Processing Disorder

CEO Liz Holland, Sensory Product Design

I often feel cold. So, I was intrigued when I heard about two unique patent-pending calming blankets that have the potential to help those who find it difficult to stay warm. CozyThrow💤 (adult-sized) and CozyCo💤 (toddler-sized) are the blankets from Sensory Product Design, and CEO Liz Holland was kind enough to tell me about the Cozy💤 line in an interview. Liz explained how the revolutionary products shine a light on Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), how you can order yours in the live Kickstarter campaign, and why the blankets are unique. Find the full conversation below!

Disclosure: This sponsored interview intends to help those who have challenges with getting and staying warm, and aims to bring more attention to Sensory Processing Disorder.

Interview with Liz Holland

Liz Holland is a 6-time international award-winning industrial designer and entrepreneur. After realizing in mid-life that she has Sensory Processing Disorder and had been struggling for decades with it, she sought to get control of it.

To help those having trouble with temperature regulation, she formed Sensory Product Design, where she is CEO. The bigger vision for her company, as she explains below, is to bring attention to the neurological condition. And the products are one of a kind.

Now, let’s get to the interview!

Let’s talk about the sensory-soothing CozyThrow💤 & CozyCo💤 blankets! What is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?

Well, first, I would like to emphasize that my whole Cozy💤 line (always WITH the 💤” because of our trademarks) is for anyone that struggles with staying warm. I intentionally decided that this first line should be for a much broader audience than just people with SPD. My larger vision for my company is to shine a light on Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).”

SPD is a complex neurological disorder that is on the Autism spectrum [my brief layman’s explanation]. Each person’s triggers for any given sense combined with how that sense is triggered and experienced makes SPD difficult to diagnose and more so to treat. Combine that specific nuance with what combination of senses are being triggered makes it even more complex.

For me, if I get hit hard by a sensory overload, the other senses can domino — meaning that the other senses become even more likely to be affected. Then, if I’m in an environment that I can’t get to solutions and/or there’s a lack of compassion, then sometimes panic can set in, which can also send me into a really bad state of pain! All of that is a simple example of what can happen thats specific to me. Each person’s triggers/combinations/specific reactions are unique to them.

I think that literally, no two people with SPD are alike. However, there is plenty of crossover that can help individuals find solutions.

Can you please share a bit more about your personal connection to SPD?

I have struggled all my life but had no idea I had SPD until my early 50s. With this diagnosis, I was finally able to put the pieces together.

Prior to my diagnosis, I would get “hit” with multiple sensory overload triggers, and my headaches would get intolerable and nervous system would shut down completely. I didn’t know what was happening, and I only got madder at myself for not being able to move. I later learned, when I finally found a doctor to help, that this was known as “freeze” (the deeper trauma response to fight or flight”).

Beyond being in pain, unable to function, others would have their own reactions, which were rarely compassionate. In this “previous life,” most people responded with “what’s your problem?” and/or “Just get over it!” Which I thought I SHOULD just get over it… but I couldn’t with willpower alone, I needed help!

Finally, I started working with an amazing doctor, who helped me to understand the series of events that lead to this “freeze.” I would think of it as “untangling the mess.” As a lifelong problem-solver/inventor/industrial designer, I got to work untangling and solving one problem sense at a time!

I’m glad you finally got the diagnosis, and how amazing of you to look for ways to help others. How did the idea behind the Cozy💤 products begin?

I actually designed the CozyToes💤 first, one night that I couldn’t sleep because my feet were too HOT! I was lying there for hours thinking about how frustrating it is when I couldn’t sleep due to being too hot OR too cold.

As I applied for utility patents and developed prototypes for the CozyToes💤, this throw blanket idea had been percolating in my mind for years. I decided that since I was investing in Intellectual Property, I thought I should add in the CozyThrow💤. After people saw the adult size, so many wanted a child size. This is where CozyCo💤 was born.

Honestly, beyond solving for my own SPD issues, I found the market was filled with other “hanging around the house warming” products that were wildly successful (financially), and it bothered me so much because, in my opinion, they were terrible designs. As an inventor, and 6-time International Industrial Design winner, I am always analyzing design. I really value good design, and personally work in the “form follows function” school of design.

Functionality is most important, and “form” (the “visual look”) follows. Next, I really analyze whether we have solved the problems thoroughly. Are the products working with intuition and ease?

Next, I like to take all of this “form & function” thinking to production, making sure that the manufacturer really “gets it.”

Marketing and distribution have to be in alignment too. A beautiful design that isn’t made well or marketed to the right people in a way that they get it, too, can have a beautiful design [but] be sold off at clearance.

While I was at it, the CozyGo💤 had been noodling around my brain as well — our “on the GO” version that has a hood and is cozy on the inside, 100% waterproof fabric behind had to be created too! You can be in a full-on rain and be dry and warm from your head to toes.

It also doubles as the best picnic blanket ever! No wet butt when you are on grass that you thought was dry enough!

This version rolls up quickly with elastic straps to secure the blanket and handles for easily taking it anywhere! The pockets are a great place to stow your valuables too! I have patents pending, trademarks, and prototyping the whole of Cozy💤 products. Regarding the utility patents and trademarks, the whole line makes the IP much stronger than had I applied one by one.

How can CozyThrow💤 and CozyCo💤 help those who have sensory issues?

While they are for ANYONE who wants to stay warm. The micro-adjustments are key! Temperature regulation is very important to MY SPD. Not everyone with SPD will have the same triggers as I mentioned.

Since our mission is to Shine a Light on SPD, I like to give people a little exercise to understand using their own experiences. Imagine, for simplicity purposes, we have five senses (there are more, but we’ll start here). Within those senses are nuances experiences. For example, my “touch/tactile sense” requires several individual solutions:

  • Anything that touches my skin HAS to be soft. I literally shop by touch — IF it is soft enough, then I decide if I like it.
  • I cannot stand tags on my clothing. When I buy something, ALL tags have to go!
  • I only take baths, showers hurt. Every place I have ever lived, a bathtub is a requirement.
  • For temperature, I have a very narrow range of comfort. If I don’t warm my extremities, then I simply will not get warm. But if I let any part of my body (especially my feet) get too warm, they will start to burn. If I don’t stop that immediately (preferably before), too hot can be worse than too cold.

These are just a fraction of what I struggle with in my SPD. I have learned that if I tune into the “sensory experiencebefore it gets bad, then I can exist fairly well. But as soon as ANY sensory experience goes too far, I now have to “recover,” which can be much more difficult and take quite a bit longer. Beyond that, if I experience the domino effect, which can make my other senses hyper-anxious, which can get really bad, really fast!

My CozyThrow💤 not only helps with those tactile issues, but I find that it can help settle all of my senses, because it really has a magical quality of feeling calm when youre wrapped up. Depending on exactly what I’m recovering from, I might need to supplement it with one of my other “fixes.” Between trying to be ahead of all my sensory triggers and taking care of health issues that I wouldn’t have without this very finicky nervous system, I feel like I do about a hundred little and bigger things on any given day just to stay ahead of the possibility of being knocked down.

Even though most of those 100 things are trying to get ahead of bad triggers, there’s definitely recovery needed, too. Even though it’s a pain to do so many things just to live in this body, it is all MUCH better than living my life feeling bad and wrong and having no idea how and why I would get so knocked down!

The feedback I have gotten from everyone that has used our CozyThrow💤 is this same beautiful sense of feeling safe and calm. In these crazy times, who doesn’t need a little of that?

While we are talking about sensory struggles, I think it’s important to note that emotional and mental states affect our nervous system too! More than anything, we want people to NOTICE their nervous systems. What makes you feel very amped? How to you recover from that? If our products can help people CHOOSE to seek out the feeling of having their nervous system relaxed, that would be so amazing!

Most people have never even thought about their nervous system. They might not even know how to check in… It’s much simpler than we think, and there’s no reason to overcomplicate it:

  • Take a moment to imagine when you were really cold. It’s pretty hard to feel relaxed in that state, right? Now imagine that situation, but now you are completely warm (it doesn’t matter how, for now). When you finally are warm, you can feel relaxation come into your body.
  • Imagine this time that you experienced something really upsetting — road rage, someone attacked you out of the blue, or even just watching the news! This can amp up anyone’s nervous system just as much as sensory triggers. Now, just like the “being warm” example, imagine being able to feel relaxation come into your body, but this time it’s stress that melts away.

Personally, my CozyThrow💤 really helps with calming mental/emotional stresses as well as other sensory triggers. I can’t promise it will do the same for all, but the first step to healing, growing, and understanding oneself, is to be aware of what’s going on in your body. What is causing the distress?

And having some tools to recover faster – whatever they may be. The more we set ourselves up to tune in to these things, the more “at choice” we are about what to do about the negative patterns that exist.

By sharing your sensory experiences, you are helping many people realize they are not alone! Design-wise, how are these calming blankets different than what’s already on the market?

Two things:


All the pockets are lined with polar fleece plus they have 4 additional layers, so they are super warming. The foot pocket flares around the ankles to help with the exposed ankle that between your pants and shoe/slipper. My favorite part is the hand pockets that have finger and thumb openings, so you can hold almost anything WHILE keeping your hands warm!

2. The ability to completely envelop yourself!

The CozyThrow💤 blanket fits you head to toe (if you’re under 62”). They are made of the highest quality non-pilling fleece. Both the CozyThrow💤 & CozyCo💤 have two layers so that both sides making both sides the “nice side.” Statistically, two layers are warmer than one, even if they are equal in thickness. Most of the thickest, plushest fleece is not thicker than 350GSM, with one side looking less appealing. Ours are made with two layers of 220GSM, making the whole blanket 440GSM. Plus, the pockets are FIVE layers (3 behind and 2 in front), but the way they are designed, you can still hold anything. They fold up with all the pockets folded neatly inside, so it looks like an everyday throw!

Weighted blankets have been very popular and definitely have their place, but they are really for lying down and don’t function well in any other position, and of course, they are not addressing the hands and feet.

I can promise that my CozyThrow💤 & CozyCo💤 is far superior to all these products! I’m very confident that once you have yours, you will no longer be searching for ways to stay warm. Your only problem will be who gets to use it— for family unity, I highly recommend that everyone gets their own!

CozyThrow💤 for the family. Photo used with Liz Holland’s permission.

I like the emphasis on warming the hands and feet. I’m curious, is there a cure for Sensory Processing Disorder?

No, sadly, there is not a cure and no meds. When I was first diagnosed in 2015, I only found ONE book for adults with SPD – Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight. It was incredibly helpful, but my doctor and therapist were absolutely necessary too! All the rest of the resources were for children. Fortunately, she fully understood SPD, and she helped me understand my triggers and really helped me CLAIM MY LIFE!

While I completely support the earlier, the better to help kids and parents to understand sensory issues, I was shocked that there was so little for adults. Thankfully now you can find support sessions through a few resources for adults that might have a subject like “tactile” or “smells” where all the participants with struggle with tactile or any specific issues, and people share their techniques to avoid specifically that sense. I have listed my favorites below.

Until that period of my life, trauma and extremely unsupportive people was all I knew. I have found that when I have met other adults with SPD, this pattern is fairly common — this deep history of trauma to accompany their sensory triggers.

I have so many vivid memories where I tried to communicate (as a child) that I was struggling and the extreme lack of support for any of it. Plus, even though I do so many things to try to catch triggers before they happen, I can feel how some of my senses are progressively getting worse through the decades!

It took a lot of deep work to get to where I am today, but it’s not to say that I don’t struggle every single day. Just knowing how my body/nervous system works and being willing to accept myself as I am, is much better than things just happening to me that lead to not being able to function!

True! Why do you think a lot of people still don’t know about SPD?

I think that whole pattern of “just get over it” is so common! Lack of compassion compounds struggles. When people feel so judged, it’s hard to even admit it to yourself, let alone a loved one or doctor.

With my 45-year history of headaches, I had been to every doctor and practitioner of healing that you can imagine! I told them about the struggles with headache every time, not that light, touch, smell, sounds tastes were very difficult. They tried to help with that, but not SPD, because I honestly thought I was just flawed in so many ways, even embarrassed to tell them, even if I could find the words.

Fending off the sensory overwhelm helps the headaches not get worse, but even this diagnosis, and the hundred little things I do to get ahead of it, I’m still in pain every single day. The people that I have connected with that have also have severe SPD have a very similar experience of feeling embarrassed by their struggles.

This is why it IS good that they are learning about it for children so they can live their lives and grow up knowing that this is how their body works. This is also why my bigger vision for my company is to SHINE A LIGHT ON SPD!

I want people can learn about themselves and their loved ones and be supportive! A supportive environment is critical to be able to make necessary choices to feel better and LIVE BETTER!

What is your hope for those who use the calming blankets?

I just want everyone to wrap themselves up and NOTICE how their nervous system FEELS (before, during, and after). If your CozyThrow💤 works for you (beyond warmth), use it to find your center.

I believe that in these past few years, the world has gone a bit crazier. Between COVID, climate change, racial unrest, crazy extreme politics, who doesn’t NEED to have a place or method to feel safe, warm, and centered?

Once people feel the difference, then we have choice! In that space, there’s room to grow and be better — to each other and to ourselves!

A few last words from founder Liz Holland

My company, Sensory Product Design, and this flagship line of products are my mini-meditation gift that you can literally do in your sleep! Wrap up, tune in, and FEEL the stress melt away!

As you come to being able to count on that feeling while in your CozyThrow💤, expand your awareness to other situations that help and do not. Expand even more to family, community, and the world around you!

It starts with subtly different ways, and let your nervous system be your guide! When you give yourself this subtle guidance, you be surprised how easy it is to start listening!

These are my favorite resources for Adults with SPD:

Thank you for being here, Liz Holland

Thank you, Liz, for sharing your story as someone with Sensory Processing Disorder, from pre-diagnosis struggles to what helps you cope better post-diagnosis.

When you did not see any products to help you on the market, you set out to create some. Now you have crafted a series of patent-pending products! They have the potential to help many people who have problems warming up and staying warm, including those who have SPD.

Connect further with Sensory Product Design and CEO Liz Holland

Find out more about the unique solutions for staying comfortable at the Sensory Product Design website.

Sensory Product Design is on social media too. Connect on Instagram and Facebook. Liz Holland is also on LinkedIn.

Check out the Kickstarter campaign – Pre-order now!

The CozyThrow💤& CozyCo💤 Kickstarter campaign launched on Jan 24th and runs through Feb 21st. They reached their funding goal in only 5 days, and it keeps growing! People who pre-order here will get the first products and great discounts.

There are only 10 more days left for the Kickstarter campaign!


Top photo: Meet Liz Holland, CEO of Sensory Product Design. Photo used with Liz Holland’s permission.

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