Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last couple of years, you likely have seen the puzzle piece that has become the predominant symbol of autism.
I’ll just come out and say it bluntly: I hate it.
If someone thought a puzzle piece was an accurate representation of me, I’d be pretty ticked off to put it mildly.
Admittedly part of it may be that the over-commercialization of it has become as bad as the Christmas season. Autism Speaks has once again discovered a way to jump the big swimming fish by offering us silver puzzle cufflinks in a “lovely black gift box”, helpfully categorized under “Glamourous Gifts” in their store. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. Perhaps I could hurl in the Autism Camo Baseball Cap or the Logo Etched Champagne Flutes instead… [Ed. – Sadly, the champagne flutes appear to no longer be available… However, they appear to have expanded their camo-themed apparel line.]
[Hint to Mary – This is not what I want for Christmas.]
I’ve been pondering this for months and am beginning to have a clearer way of expressing why this bugs me so much. Perhaps it’s because I think the puzzle piece symbol is all about us (parents, family, friends, medical professionals, educators, researchers, etc.) and not at all about people who are autistic. I’m really starting to question whether this is not a symbol of autism but instead a symbol of our own fears and uncertainties. I wonder if we’re the ones with the missing puzzle piece and whether we’ll ever feel at peace with ourselves until we figure out where to look.
The rebellion against the puzzle piece is swelling. I have no talent for coming up with this sort of thing on my own, though I tend to know what I like. My hope is that support someday coalesces behind a much better alternative. In the meantime, the multitude of great ideas out there are incredibly creative.
Mother of Shrek has a great post about the evolution of symbols and logos with many sample ideas. I’m already fond of The National Autistic Society’s updated logo. It’s infinitely more positive and inclusive to me.
I hunted around for some more and found this one done by Bob King at GraphicTruth.com. I think it’s pretty slick just in its own right, but even more than that, it’s a powerful statement.
Which leads me to a little suggestion. How about all autism-related organizations commit to having their logos designed or redesigned by someone who is autistic?
Feel free to use the comments area to link to other logos and symbols you like. And feel free to use it to flame me too if you feel the need to. I welcome all feedback. 🙂