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Sunday, July 2, 2023

Puzzle Piece, Infinity Symbol, Rainbow

In The Politics of Autism, I write that everything about autism is controversial
Autism is “political” in a broader sense. Political conflict involves ideas and arguments for which the information is often murky, incomplete, interpretive, and open to manipulation. Just about everything concerning autism is subject to dispute. What is it? What causes it? How many different kinds of it are there? Who has it? What can we do about it? Is it even the right problem to be thinking about?
Even the graphic art is cause for argument.

From the AJ Drexel Autism Institute:
... For the autism community the puzzle piece has long been associated with the community. Its origins can be traced back to the late 1960s when the Autism Society of America (ASA) adopted the symbol as its logo. Since the early aughts there has been a growing movement within the autism community to move away from the puzzle piece symbol and adopt alternative symbols that promote acceptance, autonomy, and celebration of neurodiversity. Some of the key reasons why the puzzle piece is problematic are highlighted below:
  1. Oversimplification:The puzzle piece, with its connotation of missing or incomplete parts, implies that autistic people are somehow incomplete or broken.
  2. Medicalization: The puzzle piece symbolizes focusing on finding a way to "fix" autism rather than accepting and accommodating neurodiversity. It promotes a medical model that disregards the experiences, strengths, and contributions of autistic individuals.
  3. Lack of Autistic Representation: The puzzle piece was initially created by and for non-autistic individuals, raising concerns about excluding the very people it seeks to represent. Some autistic individuals prefer symbols emphasizing acceptance, understanding, and empowerment rather than puzzle imagery.

There are several alternative symbols one can use to represent the autism community. The infinity symbol (a figure eight on its side) was created by autistic people, representing all forms of neurodiversity, not just autism. It represents the idea of infinite possibilities and acceptance. The rainbow is often associated with diversity and inclusion. Some individuals and organizations have used a rainbow-colored ribbon or infinity symbol. Butterflies are also another well-known alternative, and they symbolize transformation and growth.

My son Joshua combined the rainbow and infinity symbols for his short film, Infinite: