• Kirstyn Oliver

Puzzle Piece... the meaning.

With World Autism Awareness Day coming up, I thought about sharing my personal opinion on the “puzzle piece” symbol and ultimately the logo of Alma Autism. I don´t wish this to bring about discordance, on the contrary, I hope this will raise more awareness and understanding of how anyone and everyone has different opinions and different views in this world. (Which means you don´t have to agree with me, but hopefully respect and understand).

I find it difficult to keep up with all the political correctness in the world these days. It seems like everything changes all the time, because someone was easily offended. Obviously words have power to make a change positively or negatively on someone´s life, but our actions say more than words and have a bigger impact for the better or worse.

Firstly I´d like to explain the background of the ‘puzzle piece’ symbol, then give a different explanation to how many people portray it nowadays.

The original puzzle piece, the primary symbol for autism, was created in 1963 by Gerald Gasson, a parent and board member for the National Autistic Society. The board believed autistic people suffered from a ‘puzzling’ condition. They adopted the logo because it didn’t look like any other image used for charitable or commercial use. Then the puzzle ribbon was adopted in 1999 as the universal sign of autism awareness. The original idea was that the puzzle pattern reflects the complexity and diversity of the autism spectrum with each piece being a different colour and shape. Different to what many people believe today, Gasson didn’t create the puzzle piece logo to depict autistic people as ‘incomplete’, ‘irregular’ or ‘challenging’. Instead, Gasson chose a puzzle piece as a visual aid to illustrate the ‘puzzling’ nature of autism. The message and acceptance of the logo changed drastically when a particular organisation, who propose a cure for autism, chose to use a puzzle piece as their logo. Since then, a lot of autistic people feel it symbolizes themselves as less than or as a missing piece.

A lot of people (autistic or not) still like the symbol as they say it reminds them each person is different within a wide spectrum and each person is still unique and has their own way of fitting into this world.

As mentioned above, the way we describe and our use of words will forever be changing from acceptable to unacceptable, back to being acceptable again. It a vicious circle, like, referring to autistic people as autistic, or people with autism. The debate will keep going on. However it´s important to understand and have awareness of what the meaning behind a “label”, logo, and symbol is.

Alma Autism uses the puzzle pieces in the logo with the main aim to raise awareness of autism rather than cause debate. The puzzle pieces remind us that each and every person (autistic or not), has a unique lifestyle, and we are all different in our own way (reason behind having different coloured pieces). We all have different gifts and talents that we contribute to this world (the whole puzzle put together). We believe we all have a purpose in life and that the puzzle wouldn´t be complete, if we didn´t have autistic people, or if we didn´t have people with down syndrome, or blind people, or children, or adults, or people with disabilities, etc. Each and every person is important in this world. Just like it´s described in the bible in 1 Corinthians 12: 14-27:

“ Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (NIV, translated)

So, just as the body is made up of different parts and the church is made up of different members (with different gifts and talents), and a community is made up of different cultures, just as a puzzle is made up of different pieces, so is the world made up of different people, with different conditions and abilities. We are all important, we are all part of the whole, we are all unique and we are all God´s creation put together in this one world.

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