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12 Comments

  1. Angela

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    I have a child with autism and he loves the puzzle piece symbol. Although he doesn’t like all the colors he likes the one that you can buy in blue. He doesn’t see it the way you have described he sees it as all people are different but when you get all the pieces together what a wonderful and beautiful pitcher it makes.

    • Jenna

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      Thanks for the comment Angela! I have heard other people describe the puzzle piece in the same way your son does. Some other opinions are discussed in this article: http://the-art-of-autism.com/the-autism-puzzle-piece-a-symbol-of-what/

      Individuals have the right to view/interpret the puzzle piece in their own ways. I think it’s important for parents to understand all of the interpretations of the symbol to raise awareness of the best ways to support autism acceptance. I think some people take issue with the symbol because the origins of it don’t necessarily fit the interpretation you are describing. That being said, I think the image has evolved to mean much more than what it did (as you’ve shown), and many are finding ways to use the symbol to promote autism acceptance. I love your son’s interpretation. I think it’s important to share. Thanks for sharing it!

    • Angelika

      Reply

      Angela, I love the way you described your son’s perspective. Similarly, our family celebrates the gifts that my son has because of his Autism, and how unique we all are. We have only talked about the symbol once because my son asked why it was used in association with Autism when we were behind a car with the bumper sticker. His twin brother (not Autistic) piped in right away to answer him. It was really sweet, and sounded much like what your son sees it as. We have never felt the need to have anything with a puzzle piece on it, but as a parent it makes me feel good to see all the people that are supportive and aware of Autism.

    • Le

      Reply

      Most Autistic people hate person-first language too. Your son probably will when he’s old enough to understand. It’s true- a lot of kids DO like the puzzle-piece. The trouble is, when you’re as old as me it just seems infantalizing. And we’re still Autistic.

  2. Joe Barron

    Reply

    I tend to think that we are all puzzle pieces, wandering the world, looking for a place to fit in. We all strive to connect, to fit with one another and guess being a mystery isn’t so bad, that’s why we form social connections. The element of being a problem to be solved, that had to come from somewhere in the culture, you look into the face of your child, you see nothing wrong…you see the person, not the label, and the something that is missing, isn’t that why we teach all our children to create and discover their own sense of purpose? However, my son, diagnosed at 22 months, likes many designs, he isn’t offended by the puzzle piece, but here’s a note, when he doesn’t like something, he lets me know quite forcefully.

    • Jenna

      Reply

      Thanks for the comment Joe! I like your puzzle piece analogy. I agree that we all are puzzle pieces in a way. Perhaps if the image weren’t associated so tightly and exclusively with autism for so many years, more people might be able to appreciate, recognize, and identify with it more (both on and off the spectrum). You said your son likes many designs (and he let’s you know forcefully what he dislikes). I’d be interested in hearing what he has seen that he especially likes or doesn’t like.

  3. joe

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    i have autism and i dont mind. in fact on facebook i have a group called puzzle joe where i give people insight on what its like to be autistic. i give advice and tell people about my experience with autism. i like the puzzle i think its cool. i also really like the colors too.

    • Jenna

      Reply

      Thanks for offering your opinion! I’ve talked to a lot of people with differing opinions. Some people like it, others are neutral, some like the symbol assuming an altered connotation, and others loathe it. Your group sounds wonderful! If you’d like to be interviewed for my blog, let me know!

  4. Raymond King

    Reply

    Hi, i have a son with Autism i haven’t a clue why the puzzle piece represents Autism, if there were a preferred symbol what would it be? i am currently designing a Tattoo for what i think represents my son and his amazing world, so just curious what other ideas of symbols might be.

    • Jenna

      Reply

      Thanks for the comment Raymond! Traditionally, the puzzle piece represented the confusion and mystery behind autism and how people on the spectrum appeared to be “missing” or “lacking” a fundamental part of human existence. Over the years, people have attributed a more positive message with it (that we are all different and a piece of the greater human race). Many (not all) people on the spectrum take issue with the symbol today. The most widely accepted alternative to the puzzle piece is the rainbow infinity symbol. This symbol has come to represent diversity within the autism spectrum and the larger neurodiversity movement. Many autistic self-advocates support this symbol.

  5. Reply

    As an “aspie”, I feel that it’s necessary to note that iconic statements like the Autism Puzzle Piece do not define us, but are defined /by/ us.

    The analogy of bullying comes to mind and breathes life into a concept that I think could help everyone struggling with the notion of labeling.

    A bully can tell you how worthless you are compared to him or how you’ll never amount to his stature as a human being, but it isn’t the things that he says that affect us the most. What we struggle with is how we reflect on the things being said and whether or not we can apply them with any degree of resonability, be it of the rational variety or otherwise.

    The fact is, mass beliefs are only massive because most people are willing to adhere to them. If we, as individuals, were to adopt a different perspective on the concept of the Puzzle Piece, then we’ve immediately begun to work on deconstructing the issue.

    That being said, it seems more appropriate to ask, “What does the icon mean to me?” rather than, “What does it mean to everyone else?”

    Personally, I’ve felt that there was something about me that was different from my peers and I believe that the Puzzle Piece accurately represents my own personal perspective of life.

    Like all humans, I am a puzzle piece that somehow fits into the jigsaw product of society and, like all puzzles, it can take time to find the proper place for some pieces.

    As an aspie, it’s a bitter fact that you WILL NOT fit just /anywhere/, but there’s always a place for your piece /somewhere/.

    • Jenna

      Reply

      Great points Steven J. I appreciate the comment. I think many parents are careful in an effort to avoid using imagery that is offensive, hurtful, or triggering to others on the spectrum. But you offer a great reminder that not everyone dislikes this symbol and that individuals have great power developing and projecting their own personal interpretations/identifications.

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