OTSH 77: Friendly Adapted Shoes with Joseph DiFrancisco, MS, OT/L, Chief Friendly Officer




Press play below to listen to the podcast

Or click on your preferred podcast player link!


Welcome to the show notes for Episode 77 of the OT School House Podcast.


Today we are talking with a former school-based OT who is well aware of the struggles OTs come across while working in the schools. In fact, it is that school-based experience in conjunction with other OT experiences that led Joseph DiFrancisco, MS, OT/L, (AKA - Joe Friendly) to create a new line of adapted shoes for people of all ages!


If you have ever had a parent ask about a shoe tying goal, be sure to listen to this episode. You may have a new favorite recommendation for those parents.


After you listen, be sure to check out Friendlyshoes.com to see all the styles Joe and his team have come up with to support those who may benefit from an easy to put on shoe.



Links to Show References:



Episode Transcript

Download or read a rough edit of this OT School House Podcast episode



OTSH_77 - Friendly Adapted Shoes with Jo
.
Download • 164KB

Amazing Narrator

Hello and welcome to the OT School House podcast, your source for school-based occupational therapy, tips, interviews, and professional development. Now to get the conversation started, here is your host, Jayson Davies. The class is officially in session.


Jayson Davies

Hey there, welcome back for another episode of the OT School House podcast. Thank you so much for joining me today. Whether you're listening in the morning on your way to work, in the evening on your way home, or maybe on a walk during the weekend, I really appreciate you taking the time to spend a moment with me and talk about school-based occupational therapy. So today we are talking with a former school-basedOT who knows all the struggles of what it is like being a school-based OT, but we're actually not going to talk about OT too much. We're actually going to talk more about his new company. Well, it's not too new anymore. But he is an occupational therapist, he still has his credentials, but he has gone on to use those credentials to create a product. That is for all abilities, people of all abilities will be able to use his. Well, I'll just share the news. Now. It's an adaptive shoe. But it is a shoe that can be used by anyone. He's here to share it with us. His name is Jo DiFrancisco, and he is the Chief Friendly Officer as he likes to say, of friendlyshoes.com. So let's go ahead, we're going to jump into this interview. I'm going to let Joe give a little background into himself and his career as an occupational therapist, and how he came up with the idea of making that adaptive shoe for everyone, kids, adults, whether you have a disability or not. Feel free to check out friendlyshoes.com and the rest of this interview with Jo DiFrancisco. Hey, Jo, welcome to the podcast. How are you doing today?


Joseph DiFrancisco

I'm doing all right, Jayson. Thank you so much for having me.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, definitely. It's a pleasure. Well, we met about a month ago in an OT program, entrepreneur type of deal, right?


Joseph DiFrancisco

That is correct. I believe it was the University of St. Augustine and Tech, USA.


Jayson Davies

The USA. St. Augustine. Nice. Love it. All right, man. Well, so I'm excited for this one. And I'm sure many of those who are listening will also be excited. Because as school-based OTs, we often get the question, what about shoe ties? What about the student's ability to put on their shoes, tie their shoes and be functional in the school? I'm sure you've heard that several times already from pediatric therapists. There's always a big question about shoe tying. So before we get into that, though, I want to give you an opportunity to talk a little bit about your career as an occupational therapist, how did you decide to become an OT? And where are you today?


Joseph DiFrancisco

Oh, great question. So I'm not really sure how I really ended up in occupational therapy I know that I grew up with a single mother kind of influenced me to help others. I finished my undergraduate and about physical therapy, ended up finding out about this thing called sensory integration while I was doing my kind of PT assistant work under an orthopedic in New Jersey. And no, it just seemed like there was so much more to it. So much of the unexplained I had gotten the opportunity while viewing the physical therapy stuff to watch the OTs, watch these children coming in maybe dysregulated. And then in the coming out, you're like, this is a whole new kid and, and the amount of information you were able to get into their brains during this sensory stuff. And I just one thing clicked and I'm like, Oh, my gosh, I would love to pursue this. It turned out. I think that my family and I were kinds of sensory kids. We chose sports to get this self-regulation. And I pursued it and then up at Seton Hall University.


Jayson Davies

Nice. And so where did life take you after college?


Joseph DiFrancisco

Ah, that's a great question. I have two cars, here, there and everywhere. I had plans to move to Hoboken, New Jersey, I was going to practice in Manhattan. One thing led to another my roommate fell through. So I moved to San Diego.


Jayson Davies

Oh, wow, big change.


Joseph DiFrancisco

Yeah, big change. I had the opportunity to get into San Diego Unified School District here and so out, practicing, you know, anywhere from high school mental health, middle school, elementary got to do special education, early childhood. Before I had actually come out here I practice for a couple of months by taking six months in early intervention. So it's interesting to watch through the lifespan, how much you've learned and how you can implement these things you've learned into other areas of practice. Give all of your listeners a lot of credit, school-based OT is not easy. Talking about the IPs. Talking about the data, talking about the interpretation of the data. We got out here initially, I'll never forget the first kind of tape recorder I had in front of my mouth and you're trying to do the right thing. I'm trying to help you guys. Like why are you trying to record me with this Your advocate there like it was, it was a humbling experience. But yeah, you guys do great things.


Jayson Davies

Thank you, Ben. So you're not in the schools anymore, though, are you?


Joseph DiFrancisco

I'm not. I made two years. And then my mom got sick, she got lung cancer. And then I kind of bounced around had some questioning of my whole life future had this OT education, my back pocket and just trying to think bigger, how I ended up in shoes, you assume that I wouldn't be a physical therapist. So now I ended up in shoes, I hate feet. This was also influential in my decision for OT. So I'm no longer practicing. But we still do have a rapport with some San Diego unified schools and giving shoeboxes for certain class projects and stuff. So it's good, I have a lot more insight regarding bureaucracy with my six and seven-year-old, you know, My son was having some learning challenges and speaking to the teacher, and definitely, some eye-rolling there when I said that he's having potential challenges with his Virtual Education. Like, I don't see that and you're like, Yeah,


Jayson Davies

Sure. Alright. Well, you kind of started to bring it up the shoes. That's what we're here to talk about today. And so I'm excited to have you on exactly to talk about this friendly. When I met you, you first introduce yourself as Joe friendly, because you are, as I like your title, the CFO of friendly. So you know, when I'm going to give you a second to just kind of tell us a little bit about what friendly is maybe like that elevator pitch.


Joseph DiFrancisco

The elevator pitch is always changing, I hate to say that, I've definitely turned a corner to a bit of a businessman, but I always appreciate opportunities to speak to OT. My initial kind of vision was being friendly, was helping others. And in practice, you know, starting out with, with the seniors, because I at some point was doing when I stopped doing the school-based, I ended up in skilled nursing and then home health. And then they would give us these, these hip kits. You know, these, these long handle repairs, and tight, nothing was working for me, there's a doctor told me this would work and outside of the socket, this thing ain't working. So I do this. And it just would frustrate me. In Home Health, I was able to kind of almost be friends, a couple of my patients where he had taken me when he finished his service. And we did private sessions, affluent guy here in Southern California, real hard worker, honest guy. And I had to adapt, I was looking at the shoes in the market. Everything was kind of you to know, disability shoes. If you look at some of those orthopedic shoes of the diabetic shoes, or even some of these, like easy access zipper shoes, just the upper is affected. And it's cool. But you know, people want options. So I did the right thing. And when I initially started, I started doing the fabrication of the shoe just like an OT would do a hacksaw zipper. I think I stuck a door hinge and the opposite side of the opening portal, we have Well, no, I got really unique and ended up getting something that I guess you'd call prototype, I'm not really sure. I met a cool patent attorney out here that was nice. And, you know, was friendly, in regards to prices. So I buy "be friendly", "friendly" and "friendly shoes" for trademarks. And they all went through. While that simultaneously was going on I just, you know, I was still practicing. And then I was working after hours to try to push this into real shoe manufacturers and took a lot of I guess adversities and a whole bunch of companies that just couldn't do it right and ended up in South Brazil. And then we got a prototype and I'll never forget looking at it just like now I'm gonna have to do this.


Jayson Davies

The real, the real moment set in, huh.