For many years, the “logo” of the autism community has become synonymous with a puzzle piece. I’m sure you’ve seen it on everything from web pages, to coffee mugs, t-shirts, keychains, posters and anywhere someone was trying to convey a message about Autism.
Some people see the puzzle piece as a sign of solidarity or awareness, while unfortunately, others in the autism community find the symbol to be offending.
Time Marches On...
Since the creation of the Puzzle Piece logo, we’ve come a long way in our use of language. In the 1960’s people with developmental disabilities were referred to as mentally handicapped. People with cerebral palsy were called spastics. Children with autism were thought to be psychotic and were diagnosed as having childhood schizophrenia.
What some perceived to be acceptable in a past time are now looked at with new eyes that help to bring positivity and change to our lives. Today, many in the autism community, find the puzzle piece to signify: (click on the links below to learn more)
The word “puzzle” often implies that clear answers are not available, that something is not easily understood. Many people with Autism don’t feel comfortable branding their identities with the label of something that the world does not understand. Obviously more needs to be discovered about the Autistic condition and ways to make the symptoms less disabling. The puzzle piece reminds people about how little is known and encourages them to participate in and contribute to autism events so that hopefully, with more support, more can be revealed about this confusing condition. However, this symbol also reminds people with Autism that they, as people, are confusing, which further alienates them from the rest of society.
This symbol also suggests that, like a puzzle, autism can be viewed as a problem that needs to be solved. This perpetuates the idea that there is something wrong with Autistic identity. Many individuals with Autism like to make distinctions between speaking negatively about autism itself and speaking negatively about specific symptoms (or co-morbid conditions). It’s frustrating and discouraging to live your life as if the world thinks there is something wrong with you (not just one particular thing you are doing, but because of who you are).
Some individuals with Autism dislike the symbol of a colorful puzzle piece because it appears childish. The bright primary colors and image of a “toy” most commonly associate with children identify autism as a childhood disorder and that attention should be paid to how it affects children. But those children grow up and they are still Autistic (with the exceptions of the few who claim to have been “cured”), and not enough media attention is paid to the specific supports that are needed post-childhood.
The jigsaw piece also signifies that something is missing. That people with Autism are not whole. That they are less than human. But people with Autism don’t believe they have something missing. Again, going through life as if the world thinks you are inferior is wearisome and discouraging.
How Can We Respond?
Although many people in the Autism community still support the use of the puzzle piece for various reasons, we recognize that UDS needs to provide a positive voice for all individuals.
In 2018 when we rolled out the new UDS branding, one of the things we implemented was program “icons”. The Marketing team will be looking to revise this icon for use on future communications and encourage you not to use the Autism icon in its current form. We have also removed this symbol from our website and will look for more positive ways to promote Autism awareness. We also recognize that this icon is used in some of our current collateral, and we will be updating this image during the next print run on any of our brochures, rack cards and handouts.
Will You Help Us?
The Marketing Team is always looking for ways to engage employees and provide meaningful information. You can help us by responding to our 15-second anonymous survey about this blog… CLICK HERE