Puzzle Piece is Hated by the Autistic Community: the history and what to use instead

Related imageA hate symbol. Why is the puzzle piece a hate symbol? I get asked this a lot. They tell me to reclaim it. As a Holocaust educator, no one tells the Jewish, travelers, LBGTQ, or any other people massacred in this horrific even in history to reclaim the swastika. I am breaking down the history and what to use instead.

The History

The puzzle piece logo was created in 1963 by Gerald Gasson, who was on the board of National Autistic Society in London.It was formally called the Society for Autistic Children.  It featured a crying child in the middle of it.  It symbolizes that autistic people are hard to understand.

Old National Autistic Society LogoHelen Alison from the National Autistic Society explained this by saying,”The puzzle piece is so effective because it tells us something about autism: our children are handicapped by a puzzling condition; this isolates them from normal human contact and they do not ‘fit in.’ The suggestion of a weeping child is a reminder that autistic people do indeed suffer from their handicap.”

The National Autistic Society has changed the logo and is making a conscious effort to practice inclusion and respect autistic people.

In 1999 the Autism Society in the United States created the Puzzle Piece Ribbon. The organization grants permission for other groups to use it as a sign of “global awareness.”

On their website it explains, “The puzzle pattern reflects the complexity of the autism spectrum. The different colors and shapes represent the diversity of the people and families living with the condition. The brightness of the ribbon signals hope – hope that through increased awareness of autism, and through early intervention and access to appropriate services/supports, people with autism will lead full lives able to interact with the world on their own terms.”

Early intervention means Applied Behavior Analysis and other harmful therapies. Judge Rotenburg Center even goes as far as electric shocks when they see a behavior they do not like. These abusive treatments lead to PTSD. PTSD can sometimes lead to suicide.

In 2005, the famous hate group Autism Speaks was founded after Bernie Marcus donated $25 million to get it started. They did make autism famous. Their main focus was to find a cure and to prevent more autistic children from being born. This is strikingly similar to the T4 project during World War II. (https://www.fierceautie.com/2019/08/autistic-history-akitoin-t4.html) It made the Nazis determine if a disabled individual was useful or “worthy of life.” They often called it mercy killings.

Cure talk lead to the bleach cult that we have with generation rescue, Genesis II church and Kerri Rivera. Think about that.

In 2007 they started their famous “Light it up Blue” campaign. They chose blue because they believe that “autism effects more boys than girls.” This was to raise awareness. Little did they know that their awareness campaign was killing us. The suicide rates in autistic people dramatically rose since the awareness campaign. With awareness come bullying. There was a study done in 2015 with autistic adults. Autistic people are 10 times more likely to die by suicide than those who are allistic. The signs are there but clinicians dismiss them. They say that autistic people do not have complicated emotions. When all the awareness campaigns were being carried out, the suicide rate tripled. The Autism Awareness Month campaign is well intended but it is literally killing us. It emphasizes stereotypes and prejudice. It calls for a cure. It makes us into an epidemic. Most autistics want to hide during April and do not want to come out until it is over.

We need to do better. Suicide is caused by how we are treated. The world needs to do better. Treat us with respect and do not use the puzzle piece because of all it stands for. Please do not ask us to re create the puzzle piece. You would never ask me to recreate the Swastika.

What to Use Instead

The infinity. It can be rainbow, red or gold. Anything but blue. Why the infinity? It shows what a spectrum truly is. It is not linear. It is not low or high. Its not a functioning label. Being autistic is just a different way of living and interacting with our world. It is the universal sign of acceptance.

The infinity for autism was started by Aspies for Freedom, a early neurodiversity group.
The rainbow infinity stands for the full neurodiverstiy spectrum. The gold and red stand for autistics only. We accept EVERYONE.

Neurodiversity started in the 1990’s. It is the idea that there is infinite diversity of the human brains. It is essential for human diversity. There is no normal or healthy. There is no correct way of living. This is the social model of disability. The term neurodiversity was created by Judy Singer and it quickly caught on. Other neurodivergencies are considered part of neurodiversity such as ADHD, dyslexia, etc.


38 thoughts on “Puzzle Piece is Hated by the Autistic Community: the history and what to use instead

  1. Thanks for this article. But I think that we cannot be against the blue colour just because some adversaries use it.About “what to use instead” of the puzzle, there is not only the infinity symbol, but also the flag of Autistan. (Autistan.org)


  2. eh .. I feel like comparing it to the swastika is a little bit over dramatic. A lot of Moms who love their kids get this tattoo. If you dont want to use it .. cool. But dont spread hate.


    • Actually it is not over dramatic. People with autism have shared a lot of commonalities. Under nazi occupation there where barbaric experiments on children and babies with autism. They where also mass killed by the nazi’s.

      The way Jewish people where portrayed, like rats that corrupt everything, is a bit how people with autism are mostly infantilized, being a quirky fetish on tv and autism speaks talked about how autistic people are the worst thing that can happen to a family. They are a disease, they need to be dealt with.

      Nowadays, autistic people still struggle with the barriers that keep erecting in society, discrimination and seclusion. Still many autistic people find themselves daily locked up in an isolation cell, bullied, arrested for just being themselves.

      Yes, the Jewish people have endured unspeakable horrors, but don’t be fooled about the horrors people with autism faced and sometimes still face.


  3. They want to use to because they are uneducated about it. Everybody should be aware of what the puzzle piece represents! And it absolutely IS fair to compare it to the swastika because A$ wants autistics gone from this world. Why should we put mom's who want tattoos before autistics well being?The way to not spend hate is to not use the puzzle piece. End of story.


  4. I don't think it should matter what we symbol anyone thinks identifies w Autism. I personally prefer the puzzle pieces because I enjoy puzzles. I have 3 boys on the Spectrum and I am included in that. To each their own right? I do like the infinity symbol with multiple colors but I stick by what my Tatts represent, we are different probably will never fit in but who fucking cares? As an adult I honestly don't let what others think of me hurt me any longer.


  5. I think this is a little far reaching. Autism Speaks and blue puzzle pieces do not equal the need to commit suicide. The lack of acceptance and the inability for society to treat people with disabilities (no matter what disability) with dignity, understanding, and purpose is the reason for people with disabilities to feel isolated, alone, and unworthy. It doesn’t take a puzzle piece, a ribbon, or an organisation to save people with disabilities. It takes family, community, early intervention, therapy, fun, life experiences and good insurance (unfortunately) to assist a person with a disability to live a good life, be as adjusted as possible, and thrive.


  6. The problem of awareness of autism is that it notifies teachers that this child has an official “handicap”Then the Teacher know whuch kids to let point out to the other children for bullyingIf you dont think teachers are the main determiners, aiders and abbettors of bullying you are fooling yourself


  7. I'm all for opinion pieces, as a reader though, I wished you would've actually cited more factual sources and statistical data, that backs up your claims about suicide rates or else it just looks like opinions, unless I missed something


  8. How about removing the word “Autistic” from your vocabulary. People with Autism aren’t “Autistic”-the label u want to give them. They are far more than that and deserve better. They are PEOPLE WITH AUTISM. Stop worrying abt symbols and start worrying abt language. Would u say, “Hi. This is my mom, Jane. She’s cancerous”? Of course not. The ppl with Autism are not Autistic.


    • People diagnosed with autism, are indeed autistic and it isn’t a bad thing at all. Saying that someone is autistic is perfectly fine, because that’s what they are!


  9. BY supportign the puzzle you are supporting a hate group that puts the parents of Autistics ahead of the need of autistics themselves. ou are supporting a group that advocates the elimination of Autism and therefore, Autistic ppl. A group that advocates abusive treatment such as ABA, which often causes PTSD, and useless poinsoning such as bleach enemas. If you stick by what your tats represent, you are claimign to be in favor of all these things. Do you really want tp support ppl who hate you and your children and want to abuse you and them? “to each their own, right?” Not if it supports hate and abuse.I enjoy puzzles too, but people are not puzzles. i am Autistic and nothing is missing from me and I am not anyone's missing piece/I apoligise for my arthritc bad typing.


  10. I am Autistic and Autism is not a disease as cancer is. Autism is a huge part of who I am and nothign I want to hide or be ashamed of. Of course I am more than that, everyone is more than any one of their individual characteristics. i owuld introcduce my mom as “this is my mom, Carol.”Most autistics prefer autistic to “with autism” We deserve ot be called what we want to be called. We are alreayd aware that we are people.


  11. Research identity-first language vs. person-centered language. On every autistic adult-led Facebook group I have been in, they feel very strongly about using IFL (identity-first language). Actually, they don’t allow anyone to use person-centered language, use puzzle pieces, or endorse ABA therapy or Autism Speaks. What autistic people need is to ALL unite and represent themselves as whole human beings, without puzzling or missing pieces, without the pathology paradigm (IPL vs. CPL language), demand that ABA stop being offered as the preferred treatment, and shut down Autism Speaks. I am so tired of reading posts that are selfish (I like the puzzle piece so I’m going to use it) and uneducated. Research, research, read, read and learn about how important these things are to society changing its perception of autistic people, how important it is for autistic children to read and hear positive, empowering messages about autism, and how this all affects the treatments offered to how children are treated in school and the list goes on. I have an incredibly awesome, brilliant, kind, beautiful autistic daughter (16 years old) who DESERVES to be seen and treated as the whole and magnificent person she is. Wake up!!!!!!!


  12. I think youa re uneducated and should research, A$ is responsible for many suicides in out community, its a HATE group. sincerely someone that's actually autistic and not an “autism mom” like you.


  13. Cancer is a disease that can be cured in many cases with medical treatment. Autism is a means of being, a way in which one has developed an operating system to see, engage,learn etc with the world. In my opinion “having autism ” is projecting a reference to a disease when it is not. Hi….he is a Macbook and he operates with Windows. And while different they both operate as intended if you understand why.


  14. Autistan itself opposes the Light it up blue. The issue being that Autism Speaks uses it to attract funding. It's not about hate a colour but be careful with subconsciously promoting a hate group.”R4- If possible, avoid illumination of monuments in blue, and in any case do not refer to the title “Light It Up Blue”.”


  15. Dear Sarah. Thank you for your ableist rhetoric. You don't speak for me or the majority of autistics who prefer first person language. Autism is inherent to who I am and describes me. I am also indigenous not a “Person with Blackness”. Cancer is a disease. And thanks for flippantly using “my mum has cancer” analogy from someone who's mum died from cancer. If a person wants to use Person with Autism I'll fully respect that. Just don't speak for the rest of us. TLDR Stop bullying other people.


  16. You might like windmills and think that the Swastika looks “cute” but don't be surprised when people are upset by it. You do you and your tattoos that's great for you guys. But “who fucking cares?” the rest of us that have been abused do.


  17. Agree. Rather than the swastika, a more accurate analogy would be the black triangles, the pink triangle, or the yellow star used to identify Jewish people under the Nazis


  18. Just because moms who love their autistic kids might gravitate to the symbol does not make it right. Newsflash: it’s not about the moms!! If an autistic person (a whole slew of them in this case) tells you it is harmful, why would you not believe them? You know better than them about their lives? Stop and think.


  19. It is interesting to read this. I am not autistic, nor a part of the community, except that I have friends with autistic children. I always saw the puzzle as a way of showing that autistics were a piece of our many-faceted world, and without them, the puzzle isn't complete. I never equated it with a “puzzling condition” or “not fitting in.” The comment about what 'early intervention” means was especially disturbing to me. One of my friends children was helped immensely by doctors and teachers who noticed at a very young age that someone seemed different in her development. It feels wrong and disrespectful to say that ALL “early intervention” mean harmful therapies or abusive treatments, when it does not.


  20. The Holocaust was a genocide to eradicate people deemed “inferior”, including autistics and other people with disabilities. A$ wants to do the same. The comparison is not ridiculous and disgusting. Unless you are autistic too, you don't know what it feels like to be targeted by A$. For a “proud liberal atheist” you don't know your history well.


  21. Cospericy theories .. why do you spread hate?Autism Speaks is a very good Organization it has helped our two adult sons for the past 25 years with theropies and life skills with no mention of “bleach” and at no cost to us. Our two adult sons are accompanied members of society partly due to Autism Speaks on going support. Our oldest is an Environmental Volatile Chemical Analyst and our youngest is a Compounder ..putting chemicals together.. both have their own homes and live a life that they fit into hence the Puzzel Piece. They have both found where they fit into this world due to the guidance and support from Autism Speaks.I believe it is time for you to reevaluate your position about this wonderful organization and start living in the light again.Kristy Smith Autism Advocate


  22. Until they take back calling an autistic woman a cunt and telling me i “should not have bred” and on top of that endorsing the judge rotenberg center, i think not. If it were up to them, my kids wouldn’t exist. You do not get to come on my blog and tell me when he same org that told me i shouldn’t have kids bc I’m autistic is a “wonderful” organization.


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  25. Pingback: Puzzle Piece is Hated by the Autistic Community: the history and what to use instead | Autistic Goblin

  26. As an autistic person i fully agree with your viewpoint.We never choose puzzle piece to represent us.It is a symbol of oppression forced on us alongside ABA and the idea that autism is a bad thing and we need to be “cured”.It is a symbol used by neurotypical saviour who thinks they know better than us what we need.Thank you for writing about it.


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