Autism Logos: A History Lesson

2nd August 2020

I have given my website logo an update after my research into the history of the puzzle piece. It’s fair to say I was shocked when I read through the articles. I have always liked the puzzle piece because to me it symbolised the unity of the autistic community and the idea of being able to fit it yet being unique because each puzzle piece is different. Some people still love the puzzle piece symbol, but out of respect and awareness of its previous history I have changed my logo to the new autism symbol: the rainbow infinity sign which represents the wide spectrum.

So why is the puzzle piece bad? Well it was first used by the National Autistic Society in 1963 by Gerald Gasson. When reading the blog In The Loop About Neurodiversity Cassandra Grosman states that Gasson ‘and the rest of the board believed that autistic people suffered from a “puzzling” condition, so they adopted a logo of a puzzle piece with a weeping child, displaying the notion that autism is a tragedy that children suffer from’.

So, this is problematic for obvious reasons. It enhances a negative view of autism that leaves children suffering, which is ridiculous. This was bad enough in itself until I found out about the organization Autism Speaks.

Autism Speaks use the blue puzzle piece logo, and well let’s just say they are a hate group, please don’t ever support them. If you don’t believe me just go on YouTube (I have included the link below) and watch the advert “I Am Autism”. Its disgusting. Cassandra Crosman in The blog In The Loop About Neurodiversity (https://intheloopaboutneurodiversity.wordpress.com/2019/03/20/the-ableist-history-of-the-puzzle-piece-symbol-for-autism/) confirms that ‘Autism Speaks has previously called autism a disease, and has said statements such as, “This disease has taken our children away. It’s time to get them back,” and have called autistic people “burdens” and “tragedies,” and has called autism itself an “epidemic.” In their “I am Autism” advertisement, Autism Speaks made statements such as that autism “robs children of their dreams,” and that autistic children “live behind a wall.” The puzzle piece is also blue, a colour chosen because males receive more formal diagnoses of females, which implies that autism only appears in males or that males are “more autistic” than females are.’ So, there you go, that’s why you shouldn’t support Autism Speaks. They also promote ABA therapies which most of the autistic community disagrees with. It is a type of therapy where children are praised for good behaviour and punished for bad behaviour. It is often held for many hours which is hotly disputed. In essence ABA therapy focusses on eliminating ‘difficult behaviour’ and helping autistic children to fit in. This is obviously not helpful and most autistic people I follow on social media also hold these views.

In response to this, many protests have been held within the community with banners reading “I am a person, not a puzzle”. Dehumanising autistic people has been a problem throughout history and these attitudes are still held today. We are not problems that need to be fixed, we don’t appreciate patronising views, or being told by people who don’t have autism what autism is. These organizations need to be listening to the voices of this community, instead of promoting awareness for us but doing it wrong. It’s feeding into the misunderstandings that already exists. Autism Speaks DOES NOT speak for me, nor does it speak for the rest of the community.

However, despite its history, some autistic people still identify with the puzzle piece, which is totally okay. The puzzle piece has been given some new meanings. Some people can’t accept it due to its history and that’s okay too. What are your thoughts on the puzzle piece?

One thought on “Autism Logos: A History Lesson

  1. Everything about that ad is disgusting & disturbing. What they say & the menacing voices in which it is said.

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