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Why Is The National Symbol For Autism A Puzzle Piece?

If you have spent anytime in the autism community, you have likely seen the puzzle piece that is the accepted symbol of autism and the ally community. The puzzle piece is not limited to one community or a branded symbol of one organization. Instead it signifies several major things unique to ASD and it’s a rallying point for the loved ones, family and friends of those that have autism. However, many people don’t really know why the puzzle piece is the recognized symbol. There are also those in the autism community that dislike the symbol and its usage. It’s important to examine why it’s used as the widely recognized symbol for autism and what the puzzle piece means to the Lexington Services staff.

What It Means

The autism puzzle piece has been everything, from a social media logo to a magnet and it’s even been a tattoo. But why do we use it? The puzzle piece was first used in 1963 by the National Autistic Society. The symbol transcends the organizations that use it and many have their own take on the look. For example, Autism Speaks uses the puzzle piece ribbon, which is infused with meaning that is important to them and to the community abroad. The puzzle piece is used for two reasons: because the complexity of the way that people with autism view the world and interact with their surroundings is seen as a mystery by some, although that tends to be the antiquated reason for the puzzle piece use. Perhaps a better symbolism would be because the cure for autism is the missing piece of the puzzle. When people wear or display the puzzle piece, they support the effort to see that missing puzzle piece found. At Lexington Services, the puzzle piece can be seen as representative for the unique workings of the mind, but it can also represent the individuals that we encounter, each with their own unique shape that fits together to complete a complex picture.

Will It Stay Or Go?

People that dislike the use of the puzzle piece do not like being perceived as less-than, mysterious, or somehow incomplete as if they should strive to become neurotypical. In the age of neurodiversity, people with autism are not the marginalized community they once were and more people have accepted that autism is not a puzzle to be solved. In this regard, reducing people with autism to nothing more than a complex task that requires solving can be pretty controversial.
However, advocates of the puzzle piece have moved beyond the puzzle-to-be-solved imagery, instead focusing on the aspects of individuality that a puzzle piece represents and the fact that every piece is important to the grand picture, centering people with autism as important individuals to an entire community.

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It’s unclear whether or not the puzzle piece will last as the community symbol for autism. Perhaps the biggest problem with “re-branding” is that there is little unity as to what should represent the community and getting society to accept a new symbol on a broad level will only serve to marginalize people with autism for a longer period of time. There are a number of suggestions that could work, including a Supernova or the rainbow infinity symbol, but the community has to come together and decide what to do. If the puzzle piece remains, and it seems likely it will, the symbolism must change from a mystery to be solved to a complex and unique piece of the entire puzzle.

The Puzzle Piece And Lexington

You might see the puzzle piece at Lexington from time to time because we are part of the community and we support the individuality and uniqueness of all our members because they are each an important piece of the big picture here. However, you are more likely to see our slogan everywhere you go: “So They Can.” While the puzzle piece is a great symbolic representation for the individual, it doesn’t address what we can do as professionals and community members for our loved ones with autism. At Lexington, everything that we do is “So They Can” accomplish whatever it is they strive to accomplish.

Find out what “So They Can” means to Lexington by taking a tour of one of our campuses across the Valley of The Sun. Contact a member of the Lexington Staff today to schedule your tour.

Click here to read more from Lexington Services.

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