I met Sara after finding her beautiful website Squag™ – a wonderful
curated, online space that offers kids on the autism spectrum
as well as other disabilities (and their siblings) a safe, beautiful corner
of the web, where they can self-reflect, initiate ideas, and
build confidence to take with them where ever they go.
The minute I landed on the site, I felt like I wanted to stay in that calm little oasis called a Squagpad™. There is something about it that takes you back to being a kid- it feels like the 2013 version of building a fort in your room . It’s your own space, with all the things you like in it, and, of course, you have your journal. It has
that same safe, comforting feeling that your fort did, but yet you
still feel like your on an adventure.
I’m convinced that the platform they built is going to change the way all kids use the internet. Like many of the things initially developed for people with disabilities- the telephone, the touchscreen, closed captioning- it really benefits everyone. I wish it had been around when my kids, now 17, 15, and 13 were getting started with screen time.
Sara is one of those friends that you feel like you have known forever. Kind of like the feeling in the Squagpads™- you just feel very comfortable talking to her. Her kindness, humor and generous spirit are apparent immediately -even online. We instantly connected over our mutual love of :) and ! .
Having had the wonderful opportunity to meet her in person , I can honestly say that she is even more fabulous in real life. I didn’t think I could possibly like her anymore than I already did, and she ends this interview with a line from one of my favorite movies.
We have been on parallel paths in many aspects of our personal lives and with our companies- I am extremely grateful for our friendship for the last couple of years. She is a wonderful person who is out there doing good.
Sara Winter answers our Change Leader Questionairre.
What do you do and why do you do it ?
Sara Winter: I am the founder of squag.com – a curated online experience for kids with autism to build ideas about themselves. I built Squag™ out of the incredible experience I had being an aide (both at home and at school) to my nephew who is on the spectrum. Being with him every day changed the way I looked at everything, and as he started to get older and need some autonomy from me, I wanted to build something using everything he had taught me.
How did you get involved with software development?
Sara Winter: I have always been intimidated by technology but I saw an opportunity to use it not just for gaming or for therapy but to build real confidence. It took me years to understand what’s involved in building good technology. I have a lot of respect for people who do it well.
Are you involved with any non-profits? Want to tell us a bit about them?
Yes! Lots! There are so many great orgs doing amazing things. One of our favorites is The Art Of Autism project out of California. (Click here to read more about it. )They have a collective of professional artists on the autism spectrum. They do exhibits and promote their artists on their website. We buy their work and feature it in our SquagpadsTM.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Sara Winter: You know when you catch yourself in a moment where everyone is present, calm and open? When the connection between you is unspoken but so solid? Being with the people I love and experiencing that at the exact same time is pure happiness for me. It usually happens when witnessing something beautiful or one of us making a personal discovery.
Who are your heroes in real life?
Sara: My nephew, hands down. He is the strongest and most open-hearted person I know.
What have you learned as a classroom aide, an Auntie, and through your work with Squag?
Sara: One thing I’ve learned from the gift of this experience is that it’s not really about helping, but rather about supporting. There’s a big difference. Supporting someone means having the confidence to pause your own agenda to consider theirs. That’s where all relationships begin and sometimes with kids, we’re so busy “teaching” them we forget that.
What change would you like to see in your lifetime?
Sara: The education system.
What trait do you most value in others?
Sara: Honesty, transparency and courage.
What is your motto?
I don’t think I have just one but I love this quote from the movie Almost Famous. I read it every day:
“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool.” ~ Cameron Crowe