I have just asked a disability organisation to take away the puzzle piece from their logo. While seen as the main symbol for Autism, and while for now, the only symbol for Autism (some have tried to get the infinity symbol going, but it hasn’t really caught on yet), it is still incredibly offensive to the Autism community.
From the little research I have done, it seems that the puzzle piece may have been first used by the National Autistic Society (who has since removed it for a more appropriate logo). It since caught on with all manner of other organisations, most of whom still use it, despite the pleas of people on the spectrum not to.
The puzzle piece is said to signify how people with Autism are “puzzles” that “do not fit in” and are “a problem to be solved”. Of course, in order to solve the problem that is us, organisations such as Autism Speaks need a lot of money for research. Parents need to spend a lot of money on therapy in order to get their children to talk, be social, make eye contact.
Just asking us about who we are and how Autism affects us and what we think can help, or allowing us to use assisted communication, or leaving us to be alone, or giving us permission to look in whatever direction pleases us, seems to be just too much trouble.
Treating us as human beings in our own right, seems to be just too much trouble.
For a person with Autism, the puzzle piece does not represent awareness. It does not represent the puzzle that is Autism. It DOES remind us that we “do not fit in”, rather than reassure us that being different is OK.
It does tell us that we are “a problem”.
It does tell us that we are “less than”.
It does make my stomach sink and my heart hurt.
It IS offensive.