We spoke with Sara Winter, owner and creator of Squag. Sara is creating a community and fostering positive change for tweens and teens on the autism spectrum. We found out what Squag means, how a big heart can change the world, and what makes Sara totally lose it.
Squag isn’t in the dictionary yet. Is it a verb, a noun, what does it mean?
Squag can be both a verb and a noun! Squag is a curated online social space for kids with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) to build ideas about themselves to share with their parents and (when they’re ready) with their peers. We called it “squag” because that was the word my nephew first used for the word “square” when he was little. It reminds of how far he’s come and how far we know he will go.
Who needs to Squag?
Kids 7+ anywhere on the autism spectrum who could use a quiet safe place to decompress after a long day. (Sounds like we could all use that!)
A support program is usually created out of a personal hardship. How are you connected to this cause?
I’ve had no hardship, but I’ve been gifted with the opportunity to be alongside my nephew as he navigates his life at home and at school. He has ASD and I’ve been his aide since 2001. I don’t work in his classroom anymore, but when I did, I helped kids navigate their school day; everything from organizing their materials, to homework, to recess (recess is often the hardest!). My nephew is the strongest and most open-hearted person I know. He’s changed the way I look at everything.
Squag is a super innovative social platform. Do you have a background in technology?
Thanks! I have zero background in technology! I worked professionally in theatre for a decade before I literally fell into working with kids on the spectrum. I never thought I could be as passionate about anything as I was about performing until I started working with these incredible kids. After ten years of being with my nephew and others in a classroom environment I decided to build something in the space that I was most committed to: social and creative opportunities for underestimated kids. But I’ve gained huge appreciation for what it takes to build quality technology from scratch. We designed Squag to make it easy for people like me (who get overwhelmed with tech easily) so it would be beautiful and accessible and easy to adopt at the same time as their kid, so they didn’t always feel two steps behind.
If you could sit down for lunch with anyone who would it be? Why?
My grandfather. I would love to be able to speak with him as an adult and get his perspective. (We love speaking with older generations! This quote nails it!)
As a mother and business owner working with autism, you must have a lot of patience. What makes you lose it?
My own kids. No, really … patience has never been my strong suit because I’ve never known what it’s like to be fully engaged until I started working with kids on the spectrum. I had always been a muscler. Couldn’t get something done? Work harder. Be louder. More creative. Sing it. Dance it. Whatever it takes to get “results.”
Through my work I had to learn patience, and that was easy to do because the moments of connection that are created are so valuable it makes you want to linger longer to find more and more. My work with kids informed my parenting and vice versa. And believe me, not without help from great professionals guiding me.
What scares you?
Small spaces and paperwork.
What’s your hidden talent?
I don’t think there’s anything about me that’s hidden. I wish there was!
If you won the lottery today, what would you do with the money?
I would build a performing arts facility for kids with disabilities, fund interesting projects, support unexpected leaders, and travel with the people I love.