The Autism Puzzle Piece

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.

Just in case it is taken down, here is an image of the link above.  The site apparently for “improving the lives of people in the Autism community”.  I think they actually mean improving the lives of those who have to deal with the Autism community myself.  I particularly liked (i.e. really hated) this bit – “The puzzle piece is so effective because it tells us something about autism: our children are handicapped by a puzzling condition; this isolates them from normal human contact and therefore they do not ‘fit in’.””  Ugh.
For the record – this is a business and it might well be a good one.  I don’t know this business or anyone who is associated with it.  I do not even live in the same country.  It came up as one of the first hits in a Google search is all.  I won’t retract what they have done, however if they see the light, I’ll be happy to report it.  More than happy!!!

Offensive website ASD


Disability consumer and activist since 2010. Mad as a hatter since way before that.

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Posted in Autism, Disability, Politics
12 comments on “The Autism Puzzle Piece
  1. Thank you for this post. It has given me a different perspective and I will no longer associate the puzzle piece as a positive symbol of Autism. I appreciate when people that are actually diagnosed on the Autism spectrum write about their feelings. It helps people without the diagnosis to understand, and that is better than anything that an organization can tell us about it.

  2. I was actually just about to use the puzzle piece as a logo for my highlights on Instagram, I never saw it that way. But I do now and I feel where you are coming from.

  3. Avi Sam says:

    I do notagree with this. A puzzle piece does not mean being different is NOT ok. A puzzle is made of all different types of shapes and edges, but you NEED those different shapes and edges to build and keep everything together. You cant have a complete puzzle with any piece missing. The way i see it is that piece that is sitting on top, is the final piece to finish the entire puzzle, which is many ways is the most important piece.

  4. Elisabeth says:

    I politely disagree. Though I can see where the author is coming from I, along with autistic children and their families that I have worked with, see it differently. Instead of a reminder that people on the spectrum do not “fit in” I see it as quite the opposite. Without all the pieces a puzzle cannot be complete, much like society. Without these people in our scoieties there would be a gap and not just anything can fill it. Only the right piece can complete the puzzle, only the one that fits. Everybody is a different piece of the puzzle and no one is any less important. This is my opinion but I still respect the authors opinion.

  5. Mikael Brooks says:

    I’ve seen this perspective around a lot, and it’s definitely valid. I’ve always looked at it not as needing to be “solved” but rather that all individuals have a piece of the puzzle, but some of us have trouble finding where our piece fits- not that it doesn’t fit. As an individual with Autism as well, I honestly have some difficulty deciding where exactly I fit in perspective of this, but I definitely can see where you come from. I like the puzzle piece as a sign of having a difficult time placing yourself- but still very much having a place, since all parts of a puzzle must be there for completion, but the puzzle isn’t just made up of people on the spectrum, but rather of all of us individually. I suppose it seems not a lot of people view it the same way, though.
    I like the penguin, however. I thought the penguin was a good idea.

  6. Nikki says:

    It’s actually the opposite. The puzzle pieces are different colors on purpose. It symbolizes that all people with Autism are different and even though they’re different they still fit in the larger picture.

  7. me :) says:

    Im still gonna use the puzzle piece for my concrete project. Also it’s just a matter of opinion.

  8. Amanda says:

    It dates back to 1963… I am unsure of who founded it. A single puzzle piece I can see being offensive (my son is on the Spectrum) but as a whole, multiple pieces fitting together, it is complete. I do have a puzzle piece tattoo. It is multiple pieces though, not just one. The 2 of us are forever learning how to make things work for him, therefore “putting the pieces together”. But he is not a puzzle. I (we) choose a different meaning for it.
    I do plan on having an infinity symbol run through the 3 pieces of the tattoo.

  9. Heather says:

    I am an autism specialist and my daughter has autism (person-first – NOT autistic). The puzzle piece represents all that we do not understand about autism. It signifies the importance of each individual piece we do understand in our quest to see the big picture.

  10. Jbro says:

    I don’t see the puzzle piece as a bad thing. I see it as a symbol for fitting in and a part of the whole. I see nothing wrong with that whatsoever. I don’t care if I piss anyone off saying this, my son is autistic and that’s how I see him, fitting in and part of the whole. So I don’t understand why the puzzle piece is seen as offensive.

  11. Travis says:

    I do not agree at all. I am on the spectrum and I feel that the puzzle pieces show a representation of how we can all fit in and get along with everyone. Life alone is a puzzle to be figured out even for people not on the spectrum. In my opinion this is simply an attempt at someone trying to change something that works just for the sake of gaining attention. I do not find the puzzle pieces offensive degrading or negative. I own a 1965 ford I am doing the puzzle theme on for awareness and it gets nothing but positive attention it also gives me the chance to try and socialize myself with people who aren’t autistic and then I’m able with the help of my wife help them understand and be more accepting of people on the spectrum. It’s sad that so many people try to speak for everyone else we don’t need negativity and this forced change of something that has worked to help me and all the other people I know to help both bring attention and educate people about us on the spectrum is under attack. I will never give up the puzzle.

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Pissed off since 1995. Mad as a hatter since way before that.

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