The following discussion of the puzzle piece and infinity symbols was written by Chaoticidealism at Reports from a Resident Alien, and is shared with her permission. Read more Reports from a Resident Alien here.
(Originally posted on the Autism Speaks forum.)
I don’t like the puzzle piece ribbon to symbolize autism.
When I say “I am not a puzzle piece”, I mean:
1. I’m a whole person–I don’t have any pieces missing. I don’t need to be put together or fixed. Even people with very low functioning autism are still whole people; and they don’t need to be fixed either. Educated, yes. Treated, yes. But having a disability doesn’t make you any less of a person, even if that disability means you can’t communicate your personhood very well.
2. The “mystery of autism” isn’t any deeper than the “mystery” of any other disorder whose mechanism we don’t quite understand yet. That isn’t enough to justify using puzzle pieces to symbolize autism, and not (for example) schizophrenia, Tourette’s, or diabetes.
3. The communication barrier between an autistic person and a non-autistic person means that the autistic person’s thoughts are often unknown–that is, a “puzzle” to the non-autistic. However, I don’t like using a puzzle piece to symbolize this because it seems to say that those thoughts are not only unknown but unknowable; and that is just not true. It takes more effort from both sides to bridge the gap; but it can be done. Even screaming is communication, when you get right down to it; and even a totally nonverbal person understands what warmth and food and comfort mean.
This is the alternative I would like to see used, the rainbow infinity symbol:
Here’s why it stands for autism.
- First of all, the rainbow is a spectrum of color just like autism is a spectrum. The colors are different but they are all part of a larger scheme, just like autism is diverse but connected.
- The infinity symbol represents mystery, just like a puzzle piece does; but in a more positive way. Infinity is a quantity in math that isn’t quite knowable, but it’s very large.
- The more math-loving part of the Spectrum also rather enjoys the mathematical aspect of the infinity symbol: When you work with infinities, you often end up with undefined quantities–variables that don’t have a definition. But the nice thing about those variables is that, if you work with them right, you can once again define them…
- The infinity symbol also represents the way we tend to choose one thing and perseverate on it, whether it’s lining up blocks or quantum physics. It represents the enjoyment of loving something and spending your time doing it–over and over!
I would much rather be a rainbow infinity symbol than a puzzle piece…