Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Puzzling? No, Not Quite.

One of the oldest symbols used as a means to represent autism in the public consciousness is that of the puzzle piece, specifically, red, yellow, blue, and green puzzle pieces combined.  In the latter instance, these pieces typically connect themselves on a ribbon-- a symbol that, from my understanding, is commonly associated with the Autism Society of America (ASA) and smaller organizations that have taken the call from it.  This symbol was created by coalitions of parents that perceived for autism to be a "perplexing" condition, due to the lack of knowledge of as to how precisely their children were autistic, and why.

In more recent times, some autistic people and our allies have spoken out against the puzzle piece symbol, and I would concur with this expressed sentiment: that we are not puzzles, but human beings.  That the puzzle piece is a symbol that focuses too much on how and why we are autistic, instead of shifting that focus onto us as unique human beings who have advantages and disadvantages, wants and needs, as any other.  Add on to the fact that the Big Blue Puzzle Piece represents a nefarious organization that has received the criticisms of many of us whom support thoroughly the neurodiversity paradigm, and I can nod my head in agreement of how the puzzle piece symbol can cause controversy.

 Admittedly, earlier this year, I have used imagery of both the rainbow puzzle pieces and the rainbow infinity symbol in a poem and in two different pieces of artwork on two differing outlets of media.  It was not until after that occurred that I further investigated this particular debate.  The artwork cannot be undone, but I may rewrite the poem at some point in the future if it ever were to be published.  New learning happens constantly.

I would much prefer to see the rainbow infinity symbol used in place of the puzzle pieces, most-certainly; in fact, I plan on soon contacting local autism organizations and discussing this subject with them.  I see the genuine criticisms of the puzzle piece imagery that many have, be said criticisms for or against the use of the particular form of symbolism.  If you would like to read a diverse plethora of opinions pertaining to this, follow this link at the Art of Autism.

My take?  I would like to see these puzzle pieces faded out and replaced by the rainbow infinity symbol, or perhaps by one of the other symbols that are featured in the aforementioned article.  We are, indeed, people, not puzzles to be put together.  I would agree with the sentiments expressed that the puzzle pieces have been essentially claimed by advocates for an autism "cure," people who do not follow the social model of disability or respect our humanity and our civil liberties. 

There are still four years remaining of what has been dubbed as "International Autism Acceptance Decade" (it has a span of 2010-2020).  In these four remaining years, the puzzle pieces, I am hoping, will say farewell.