The Autism Puzzle Piece – All this week we are sharing the many opinions within the autism community surrounding the “autism puzzle piece.” There is no way that you can miss this symbol as it is everywhere. It is used as the symbol for many autism organisations including Autism Speaks, (I am not going to talk about them as this article would become a rant,) as well as for many local groups and organisations. People also add the symbol to their blog or homepage. It is everywhere, different shapes and sizes and with differing colours, but all the same it is a jigsaw piece, much like this one.
So, as many people are writing about what they think, I thought that I too would add my thoughts. I am not on the autistic spectrum, but I have a 6-year-old son who has autism and so I am writing my views as a parent. My views are based upon how this symbol affects me as a parent and of how I feel that it represents my son.
Many, I know, may argue that the symbol represents hope and unity, as the pieces can all be joined together, along with the fact that the piece itself is made up of vibrant primary colours that represent an almost rainbow like quality, that they therefore represent the ‘spectrum of autism’, but I disagree.
Firstly I do not see the puzzle piece representing unity but rather fragmentation, a piece that is adrift, alone and needs to join the ‘whole‘ in order to be heard. This singular piece is perceived by me, to be different because of this. What is wrong with being different? Surely we are all different anyway, both autistic and NT.
I view the puzzle piece as a symbol that cries out that that to be autistic is to be broken.
With reference to the colours used, well, I do like the use of the colours, they are bright and happy colours and I do hope that that the original intention was to represent the spectrum, but to be truthful, I have no idea what they represent. I did read somewhere that the colours are meant to represent hope, but to be honest I can’t see that either myself. The colours are primary colours, simplistic, but autism as we know is complex. Every individual is different, so surely the use of these colours cannot convey this fact.
So is the autism puzzle piece a bad thing? Well I don’t like it but I would have to agree in that it does raise awareness surrounding autism. It gets people talking, as the puzzle piece is after all highly visible and attractive and can be seen splashed EVERYWHERE. You see people wearing necklaces and bracelets bearing the puzzle piece as well as it being plastered all around the internet.
However does it raise acceptance? I feel that the answer is sadly not. The National Autistic Society (NAS) did the right thing in changing their logo from that of a puzzle piece to the logo it uses today.
Two people touching, offering support with an unseen and unsaid mutual acceptance.
This is what we need. Not a missing puzzle piece.