Why the puzzle piece as a symbol of autism doesn’t make sense

Yesterday was autism awareness day, and that means that the discussion of the “puzzle piece” comes up. The puzzle piece is a popular symbol for autism – except it’s not very liked by people who actually have autism.

The puzzle piece was first used as a symbol for autism near 50 years ago. An organization adopted a logo of a puzzle piece and a crying child as a logo to represent autism. Their reasoning that autism was a complex to understand children’s disease.

Unfortunately, not a lot has changed in that regard. Autism in adults is still something that doesn’t get much attention. It is still mostly seen as a children disease, and finding help, resources or even a diagnosis is many degrees harder for an adult than it is for a child.

Later on, another organization adopted the puzzle logo but dropped the crying child. The meaning changed to it being a symbol of a “very complex condition”.

Unfortunately, the puzzle piece as a symbol doesn’t make a lot of sense. One reason why it doesn’t work, is because the object doesn’t match the condition. A puzzle piece is a fixed sized object that fixt perfectly in the puzzle. Even if we pretended that there are multiple puzzle pieces to represent every possible form of autism on the spectrum, this still leaves us with a big problem.

Even if people with autism can “mask” well in order to try and fit into society, they will never really fit in or feel that they ‘fit in’, even if people can’t tell from the outside. In a world of puzzle pieces, people with autism are origami tigers trying to cosplay a puzzle piece. And pretending costs them a lot of energy. Masking just so you can fit into a puzzle that wasn’t built for you is not fun.

So what would be a better symbol? I honestly have no idea. There is a rainbow infinity symbol that some people like, but that WordArt level piece of “art” isn’t great either. Given the origin of the puzzle piece and how “fitting in” is a huge issue for people with autism, however, it’s obvious that someone has to come up with something better than a puzzle piece or an infinity symbol eyesore.

Why not tigers?

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