Autistic people have been writing about the offensive nature of the puzzle piece symbol for years. This 2008 post by C.S. Wyatt is a good example:
Ribbons and wristbands are a fairly poor way to indicate interest in a cause. When there is a dedicated color of ribbon or wristband for every issue or cause, none of the rainbow matters. A chest full of ribbons, aligned in some proto-military fashion, seems ludicrous.
So, one more ribbon should matter. But it does.
The Autism Awareness campaign uses either a puzzle-piece pattern or a tie-dye pattern with purple dominant. For some reason, these do bother me more than the dozens (hundreds?) of ribbons we are supposed to associate with causes.
Autistic individuals are puzzles? They are distorted, psychedelic minds? Exactly what is the message? Not that all people aren’t puzzles, but to think one group is any more puzzling is a curious claim. How does this promote understanding? The claim that we are all part of the greater puzzle… no, a puzzle is a mystery. The message to me that autism and autistic people are strange, mysterious.
I wish there were other symbols, less reductive symbols, for autism awareness. Puzzle pieces are simply offensive.
C.S. Wyatt blogs at The Autistic Me. Read more here.