For a while now, I have been coming across a series of articles as well as people from the Autistic Community on Facebook talking about how a majority of the number of people in the Autism Community no longer like the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that has different shapes of what may have been seen either on a ribbon, heart, butterfly or even just a single jigsaw puzzle piece as a symbol for people with Autism. This has honestly surprised me, as I wasn’t aware of any negative connotations to the symbol at the time before I was being told about this. There has been a bit of misunderstanding between Neurotypicals and Autistics about Autism Awareness Month that has now been called “Autism Acceptance month”
What I have written below more about what it is and so on.
What is Autism Acceptance Month?
April is Autism Acceptance Month. During Autism Acceptance Month, we focus on sharing positive, respectful, and accurate information about autism and autistic people.
Autism Acceptance Month promotes acceptance and celebration of autistic people as family members, friends, classmates, co-workers, and community members making valuable contributions to our world. Autism is a natural variation of the human experience, and we can all create a world which values, includes, and celebrates all kinds of minds.
In a nutshell, Autism Acceptance Month is about treating autistic people with respect, listening to what we have to say about ourselves, and making us welcome in the world.
You probably know an autistic person already. Get to know us a little bit better.
How did it get started?
Autism Acceptance Month takes place every year during April. The first Autism Acceptance Month celebrations were organized by Paula Durbin Westby in 2011, as a response to traditional “Autism Awareness” campaigns which the Autistic community found harmful and insufficient. “Autism Acceptance” as a concept has a history as long as the Autistic community itself, dating back to Jim Sinclair’s seminal classic “Don’t Mourn For Us” and perhaps most visibly popularized by Estee Klar’s “The Autism Acceptance Project.”
Because autistic people are your friends, family members, children, partners, co-workers, fellow-citizens, customers, and neighbors.
Because autism is a natural part of the human experience.
Because autistic rights are human rights.
Because autistic people can speak for ourselves, and we want you to listen to us.
Because we aren’t going anywhere.
Because this is our world too.
Because there are all kinds of minds, and this world is big enough for all of us.
To me, the collection of brightly colored irregular shapes represents many things. First, it reminds me of the difference in how I see the world as well as may be of the minority of Autistics that does like this feature. When I do a puzzle, I’m assembling an overall picture. When any autistic that does a puzzle, they’re assembling a series of connecting shapes. I would have a lot of trouble with a puzzle like a ribbon above, but some would see it as perfectly normal. So it makes me remember that how some of the Autistics may see the world is different, but no less valid, than how I do.
Second, it symbolizes the many things that need to come together in order to help people with autism. Different people and therapies, times to push and times to accept, sensory enhancements and challenges, attitudes, explanations and tools. No one group, practice or therapy has all the answers and everyone’s puzzle will look different, but it is possible to put it all together. Autism is a team challenge and requires not just a village, but an entire city of cooperation. (I realize this touches on the “cure” issue, that offends some people as it implies people with autism need to be fixed, but disregarding the challenges that many people with autism have is offensive to me, more on that later.) I talked about why we shouldn’t support Autism Speaks in this video – which you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOdgoXz3pkg
Note: I may do a video at some point to talk about Autism and Cures if we need any yet I think I did one on my channel somewhere that would be found if it was under “Aspergers and Autism Help Central Playlist”
Third, I like bright colors because it stands out, much as people with autism do. But just as the jumble of colors might be initially offputting or confusing, as people become used to it, they can see the beauty and interesting parts.
Now, some of the objections are valid. People complain that the puzzle (especially with the primary colours) is juvenile, either infantilizing adults with autism or ignoring them completely. Others dislike the symbology of a puzzle with a missing piece, implying there is something missing or needing to be fixed. Others feel that since autism is a spectrum, then the symbol should represent that (usually using a rainbow).
Then there are the objections that I have a problem with. A lot of the objections center around Autism Speaks, which uses a puzzle piece as its symbol. I dislike how Autism Speaks presents autism and their confrontational, melodramatic approach, but I also don’t feel that one organization gets to co-opt the entire movement. If we have a problem with Autism Speaks, then we need to deal with them, rather than trying to come up with a new symbol (which they would inevitably pick up anyway).
And finally, there is the anti-cure crowd, which is mostly made up of high-functioning people with autism who resent the implication that their way of seeing the world is any less valid than neurotypicals. There’s a valid issue there, but what bothers me is when they claim to speak for all people with autism. Someone who was able to learn to communicate and who can function independently in society has a very different view than those who need intensive help to learn even the basic skills of interaction and function. For that person to then judge the second (or the second’s family) for using therapy and claiming that the therapy isn’t necessary, that’s offensive. To me, this is rather like someone on crutches claiming to speak for all people on the handicap spectrum and saying that ramps aren’t necessary because he or she doesn’t need to personally use a wheelchair.
I have also in my defense have like the point that there are some other symbols now in representation for this month of Autism Acceptance and they are the infinity symbols of both in color and in gold.
In the end, I feel that the puzzle is still a good symbol for people with autism and the challenge. Because, the most important aspect is that no piece is the same as any other, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all work together.
I guess also that to end my thoughts is that sometimes we need to be aware that yes we all have our own opinions on that matter hence why I did a video based on this about this symbol should it stay or should it go which you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Yxb5ewqYIY.
Yet, again we are all people and should be able to accept the differences of thoughts and opinions from everyone. Don’t you agree?