Thursday, March 26, 2015

Why Autistics Don't Respond Well to the Puzzle Piece

You know that guy. She holds up a sign (to describe being autistic) saying, "I'm not a puzzle. I'm a person." with a red circle and line through a puzzle piece. He puts the word "Aspie" against a rainbow background for his cover photo. Basically, the point is, she does not like the puzzle piece being used as a symbol for autism. But where does this disdain come from. I'd like to point out that first of all, it isn't just the idea that we autistics have a missing piece to us that needs to be found, but the idea that we need to be put together for us to be whole when in fact we were never broken. We do need help sometimes, yes, but that help should be aimed at trying to fix how society and culture accommodate autistic needs on par with our neurotypical counterparts, and not us. A second point I want to make is that the puzzle in fact makes it look like the different pieces of the autistic communities are these separate, fixed categories that do not change over time, the idea of an autism spectrum, but instead of being a linear spectrum of black and white, autism is more of a cyclicle spectrum and a continuum of every shade in the color wheel, that a person can cross from one side to the other, with no beginning and no end. Third, there is the idea that the autistic community needs to be "put" together, when, in fact, we already fit together not like a mismatched jigsaw puzzle, but like a rainbow. Rather than being some shattered mass, we are actually a singular matter that cannot be broken. And yes, the autism puzzle piece is a fairly familiar symbol that people associate with autism, just as the Chief's native American feather mascot is a fairly well-known symbol people associate with Native Americans, but like with the puzzle, that does not make this symbol a force for empowerment of its subjects rather than archaic, decontextualized, stereotypical way of thinking about outsiders. Rather than using the puzzle piece, we need to start using more empowering symbols for the continually maturing autistic youth population. Perhaps a rainbow infinite, or a rainbow septagram like the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network uses as their logo. I like the idea of a porcupine, which is small but can defend itself against larger predators without being aggressive, just as while the autistic community are a minority, we can together look after ourselves with the help of our allies. Truthfully, no one symbol can fully unite the autistic community, but I think choosing an alternative to the puzzle piece would in fact change the tide of autistics from a tone of fear and pity to a tone of empowerment, respect, and dignity.



  1. we do need empowerment from autistics and yet not just them also all special needs children also needs empowerment to our lifes and yet when life has everything to change why is it that fights just like a porcupine has needles one thing though if one group has a person who does not like the way that he does like it then he shoot needles at you we need respect of people to have dignity and being honest with another group.