April 2nd is world autism awareness day. On this day neurotypical family members of those who are autistic choose to display a puzzle piece or wear a ribbon with the design of a puzzle piece on it and what many people don’t realize is that this puzzle piece is worn to show awareness was built on a hateful foundation. It’s time for this to be recognized and put the puzzle pieces away because there are more to individuals with autism than their “disability”.
History of the Puzzle Piece
Have you ever thought about what the autistic community thinks about the puzzle piece symbol? I’d suggest you do some research because this symbol was started by the National Autistic Society in the early 60’s with no consideration as to what people with autism thought about it. The main idea that the NAS (National Autism Society) was built on was that autistic people suffered from a puzzling condition. Hearing this for the first time you might think to yourself that what is being said isn’t wrong but there’s more to the story. Many autistic people don’t consider themselves to be suffering and although the autism spectrum is very complex the word puzzling is invalidating. After the statements about this sufferable, puzzling condition the NAS created an image of a child holding a puzzle piece crying. This piece of imagery created the notion that children suffered from this “condition”.
Autism Speaks is an organization that was started in 2005. The puzzle piece really made its appearance everywhere because of Autism Speaks. You can find it on their website, social medias, shirts, and plastered all over walks that are used to help raise money for research. Autism Speaks implemented the color blue in the puzzle symbolism. The color blue was chosen because males can be diagnosed earlier than women. Autism Speaks has called Autism a disease as if it could be cured and doesn’t take the feelings of those who are autistic into consideration. The lists goes on about Autism Speaks and the hate they have built against those who are autistic.
Autistic People are Complete
The biggest issue with the puzzle piece symbolism is that it implies autistic people are incomplete and don’t fit in. The fact of the matter is that Autistic people are just as much a part of the “puzzle” as any neurotypical person is. They are no different than you are. We need to break the stigma of the puzzle piece. It has caused a lot of hurt to many people for decades and it’s time to make a change. Do research and make sure you have the right knowledge of something before you post on social media or even when you are talking to someone. Raise awareness and make sure to love everyone. Autism isn’t a disease that can be cured and just goes away after treatment. Normalize the diversity of people and make sure you are educated when it comes to symbolism that could be hurtful.
Crosman, C. (2019, December 1). The ABLEIST history of the puzzle piece symbol for autism. In the Loop About Neurodiversity.
The problem with the Autism Puzzle Piece. The Mighty. (2021, March 28).