(Inside: After learning about the autism puzzle piece being offensive, Autistic Mama is saying goodbye to the puzzle piece for good!)
I do my best to be the best autistic advocate I can be.
I speak out against Autism Speaks.
I talk about the problems with Light it up Blue until I’m blue in the face.
I call out ableism whenever I see it, and yet I missed something huge.
The “puzzle piece” that has come to represent autism for so long, is offensive.
See, the other day I came across an article about a major autism journal getting rid of the puzzle piece.
I was surprised.
See, I knew the blue puzzle piece was bad. But I had no idea that puzzles, in general, had such a negative connotation…
So we’re saying goodbye to the puzzle piece here at Autistic Mama, and I wanted to explain why with this post.
Saying Goodbye to the Puzzle Piece
I asked in our Embracing Autism Facebook group.
I was ready to hear a bunch of people on both sides.
I was shocked to see an almost unified decision: Autism is DONE being represented by the puzzle piece.
What’s Wrong with the Puzzle Piece?
The puzzle piece gives the symbolism that autistic people are a problem to be solved.
There’s also the fact that puzzles are typically something played by children, and it tends to promote a stereotype that autism is a children’s diagnosis.
Even Autistics Get it Wrong Sometimes
I have a blogger friend who’s son just got an autism diagnosis. And even though she writes a parenting blog, and writes extensively on sensory struggles, she won’t write about autism.
“Kaylene, no one can talk about autism ‘the right way’, and I am terrified to write it wrong.”
I understand her fear.
The autistic community debates on identity language versus person-first language.
We debate about disabled advocates and “warrior moms”.
We’re all in this space trying to do what’s best.
I’m an autistic advocate, and this time I got it wrong.
Sometimes even autistic people can be ableist.
When You Know Better You Do Better
Now I’m making a change.
As soon as my eyes were opened to the offense the puzzle piece caused, I knew my logo had to go.
It didn’t matter that I loved it. It didn’t matter that, as an autistic self-advocate, I didn’t personally find it offensive.
When you know better, you do better. And today, I know better.
Saying Goodbye to the Puzzle Piece, and Introducing the Infinity Logo
So now I have my new logo.
I’m a little in love.
See, infinity symbols are kind of my thing.
I have a tattoo designed (I haven’t done it yet… I keep having babies!) that incorporates an infinity symbol.
I had rings with my best friend with infinity symbols.
Basic point: infinity symbols are my jam. And now I get to use one in my logo.
This new logo is no longer offensive and perfectly me.
So I would LOVE to hear your thoughts.
What did you think of the puzzle piece? What do you think of the new infinity logo?
I always thought that the puzzle piece meant there were many different types of autism. I thought of people thinking that autism means something and that something is a label of all autistic people. I have 2 autistic children, my former husband and my current husband both are both autistic. All three are total are totally different; insomuch that I didn’t recognize autism in my second child because he was so much different from the first child. After 29 years of marriage, I realized my husband is autistic. So I interpreted all the different colors as a person who is autistic.
I can see your point of view and now, I too would reject the idea of a puzzle piece. I’m a retired teacher and I have a hard time writing autism first then person. I’ve had to correct myself each time the I wrote person first above. Thank you for promoting that!
I love your infinity symbol. At first, I didn’t like the part of the logo “a little autism.” After thinking about it, here’s my take: It’s a little autism because autism doesn’t define you. It’s something you have, it affects your life and it doesn’t define you as a person. No one else goes around saying they are wholly arthritic, or high blood pressure Sam, or Migraine Suzy. I don’t know if that is what you meant by “little,” it’s just my take on it.
Oh that’s a wonderful point, thanks Terri! The “little autism” comes from the fact that out of my family of 7, two of us are autistic. So on this site you hear about life, love, and a little autism. :)
I was never on board with the puzzle piece (my blog does now have an official logo which heads it – a customized version of the rainbow infinity symbol , a slightly different version of which forms the basis of my personal cards). I am impressed that you have taken the decision to ditch the puzzle piece.
I always thought of the puzzle as autistics being the missing part of the human puzzle…. because I believe that autistic people are the next step in evolution
There’s also the fact that, as stated in a 2016 paper by Morton Ann Gernsbacher (which can be found at her website, Gernsbacher Lab), the puzzle piece encourages the perception that there are puzzle pieces missing from our brains, which of course evokes pity over our differences. When I stated this to someone who was wearing a rainbow-coloured puzzle piece ribbon, she wouldn’t stop wearing it. When I put in stronger terms the next day, stating that it is as offensive to autistic people as a ribbon with the International Symbol of Disability along with the word ‘Spacker’ would be to a different marginalised group, she walked away rather than remove the cause of my offence. Please remind me; who is it with an empathy deficit again?
I am autistic and display in proudly in all that I do because it means only positive things to me as I choose to spread autism and change the world in my own way. It is not offensive to me at all. It’s the way some people look at it and I choose differently as it is special to me.
As an autistic person myself, a self advocate who speaks out, a parent of two now adult children on the spectrum too and a autism based business owner I am proud to represent the puzzle piece and won’t stop,using it ever. I am proud of it as I am not responsible if others take it as offensive. I always tell people of my experiences and what it means to me and it’s nothing but positive and used as a positive thing here. It simply means that when we connect with each other we help each other grow and become better. We connect the pieces to understand better of each other. It helps us to see things along our journey and because of the connections someday we become a more beautiful picture you can’t always see from the beginning and get to use our pieces of our story to share our journey and our testimony with others. It’s not harmful to me because I choose to be positive with helping others as others have helped me. They have been the missing piece that have helped me to achieve my best along the way. It’s positive and I display it proudly and if the color blue piece helps people around the world be aware, understand, accept, learn, and grow when it comes to not be ignorant too about autism then that is cool in my book.
Thank you Heidi Lieb!
Very well written response.
As the grandmother of a non verbal, severely autistic boy, I agree with you. I do not find the blue puzzle piece offensive, and never have. I find it a positive as well, as we ARE all connected! We embrace our differences and support each other as a puzzle needs all pieces. Autism on all levels needs a strong network of support from family, educators, and community in total, more so than a neuro- typical child or adult in order to feel connected. We are all a piece of the puzzle are we not? I personally don’t care for the infinity symbol, and will continue to support the blue puzzle piece with pride. It’s cool in my book too.
I love your infinity logo. It needs to be adopted by everyone!!!!!
I Like the rainbow puzzle pieces..its been a postive representation of our fights, struggles, and victories in my family. The people who have become supporters and the way weve all connected. The situations we’ve encountered where we thought it was the end of the world only to find that piece which helped our kids on another victory. Our lives can be just as complicated as the middle of a puzzle..and sometimes easy like the edge pieces. We will continue use the puzzle for our two boys..also..they like puzzles and colors..^·^
This makes a lot of sense! I always thought the puzzle piece meant autistics aren’t “other” but are a part of the same human puzzle we’re all a part of. But I see how it could be taken very differently and to a detriment.
Honestly, the puzzle piece isn’t that offensive. My son loves tracing my autism puzzle piece tattoo dedicated to him. Everytime he looks or plays with it I’ll say something along the lines of this puzzle piece represents your uniqueness, and he smiles at me. I have nothing against this symbol because it is more than a symbol to my son and I. Just because you don’t agree with it doesn’t mean you can comment that it shouldn’t be used. While yes it may have been used first ’cause autism is puzzling. Think about it we are on a road to find all the pieces of our child[ren]. I’m not ashamed to admit it. My son isn’t a puzzle but I’m learning him as he grows and adapts and learns. Funny thing this isn’t the first I heard about someone not caring for the puzzle piece, that’s fine your opinion. But our kids, they aren’t a statistic or a symbol, so why does it matter what the awarenessness puzzle piece for Autism is when there are so many more pressing matters. Frankly, I don’t know about y’all but I am curious to find the cause of autism being narrowed down instead of having multiple causes and getting no answers
Or making sure my son gets the education he needs and deserves.
That’s me though. Again my opinion is mine and yours is yours. Just saying though
Love this!! 💙♥️💛💚
The puzzle piece means so many different things to so many different people. There doesn’t seem to be a universal definition of what the puzzle piece means and that’s great. It’s like a piece of artwork that can be interpreted in many ways. For myself, I see the world as one big puzzle and each person is represented by a piece. The pieces are different sizes and shaped differently but each one is important and the puzzle can’t be complete unless it has ALL the pieces. Personally I think it’s a great logo, just because it can mean so many different things!
can someone please explain to me why the puzzle piece, light it up blue and autism speaks is so offensive?! please help because my son who is 8 has autism yes HAS it because autism doesn’t have him! he lives with autism every second of every day and the whole ND movement makes no sense to me, it’s basically saying Autism doesn’t exist and that just isn’t true we all know it isn’t true because we live with it daily. so please help me out because I’ve missed the memo as to why these things are being considered as offensive now all of a sudden it would seem to me.
The neurodiversity movement doesn’t say that autism doesn’t exist. It says that autistic people deserve to be accepted as we are, we deserve to be respected, and we deserve to be accommodated and supported. :) Autism Speaks is a hate organization that is trying to ‘end autism’, which is extremely ableist and offensive. We don’t need to be ended, we need to be accepted. You can see exactly why Autism Speaks is offensive here >> https://autisticmama.com/do-not-support-autism-speaks/ Light It Up Blue is offensive for several reasons, which I’ve outlined here >> https://autisticmama.com/do-not-light-it-up-blue/ And the puzzle piece is offensive in part because of the ties to Autism Speaks, and because we aren’t a puzzle to be solved. I hope that helps clear things up!
There is a really good letter explaining the Autism Speaks controversy that can be found at https://autisticadvocacy.org/2014/01/2013-joint-letter-to-the-sponsors-of-autism-speaks/. I hope you have a blessed day!
The puzzle piece is unique to the representation of autism. Using the infinity symbol no longer makes it unique but just another use of a side ways eight.
This makes no sense to me. I love the puzzle symbol. A puzzle piece is specifically designed to fit in the big picture. No other piece could ever replace it. It symbolized the fact there is a place in this world for my son and he doesn’t have to change who he is to have a place. I can’t see anything in the infinity symbol. What does it have to do with autism? the infinate times my kid runs around in circles or the infinate times you have to advocate for your kid with this or that. The infinite times my kid hits his head when he is frustrated. Perhaps it is the infinite times people at the store make comments about our kids. It’s probably the infinite times the symbol will change because it offends someone. No matter what they change it to society will make fun of it. How many children will tell my kid that the infinity symbol means he is infinatly annoying.I saw how the kids treated the ASD kid when I was growing up. The infinity symbol is an infinatly bad idea. I have heard of the butterfly symbol, but that seems so girly and far more childish than the puzzle. Remind me again why puzzles are childish, because I am middle aged and I love a good puzzle. I realize that I’m not autistic, so my opinion doesn’t count, but the infinity symbol is going to make Life harder on my kid in school. Chosing a symbol is like chosing your kids name You don’t want to name them something that will forever scar them. I suspect this symbol changing thing will become an infinite feed back loop.