You may wonder, why blue? Here’s why.
You may wonder, why a puzzle piece? Okay, you probably don’t. But I did and here is what I found out.
The puzzle piece symbol was first created in 1963 as the logo for the National Autistic Society (NAS.) This first NAS logo was designed by a parent member of the Executive Committee, Gerald Gasson. The puzzle piece represents the complexity of the autism condition. According to Team Autism 24/7, “the interlocking, mutli-coloured puzzle piece has become the international symbol of autism. Its significance has become multi-faceted. For some it represents the mystery and complexity of the disorder, for others it represents the mechanical nature of an autistic person’s thought process. The bright colors are said to represent hope.”
The puzzle ribbon logo was first used as the universal sign of autism awareness in 1999 as a trademark of the Autism Society. The organisation has allowed other non-profits to use the design “in order to demonstrate unity and advance a universal mission as opposed to any individually held interests or promotion of a single organization.” The Autism Society explains that “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 the own terms.”
The puzzle piece is the most enduring and recognised symbol of the autism community but, the icon has as many interpretations as the spectrum it represents. There is a rising number of people on the spectrum, or their families who find the symbols degrading and offensive. While I was researching, I came across comments like:
“I don’t like the symbol of the puzzle or blue lights. They remind me of loneliness, sadness (blue), and isolation (missing piece). I know that’s not what it’s supposed to mean. They just don’t make me or my son feel hopeful, understood, special, belonging. Autism is just really hard.”
“It means nothing to me, but more importantly it mean nothing to my son. Autism may have seemed a bit “puzzling” at the beginning but now the only puzzle pieces we are concerned about are the ones that disappear under the stove.”
“It means that I am a major confusion to people and stand no chance to ever fit in.”
For more on this opinion you can read more here. After more research I found out that there are opinions against the pink breast cancer ribbon, the yellow ribbon in support of military forces (US), etc etc.
It saddens me that there are members of our autism family that feel this way about the symbols. Of course everyone is entitled to their feelings and we all deal with autism in different ways. There is no right way. I believe that the puzzle, the shapes and the colours are a beautiful representation of life with autism. It is unique, different, a mystery but it is charming and bright and hopeful. By embracing the puzzle piece, not the missing puzzle piece, we embrace a piece of our world that is autism. How amazing will it be when all the pieces fit? In a world which is aware, accepting and full of love it won’t matter which puzzle piece you are. In my life, I have witnessed so many puzzle pieces fall into place every day. Just look at what we thought was typical 70 years ago, and how that has changed today. Just like when you can’t wrap your head around something, and then you just ‘get it’ and that piece falls into place and it fits so perfectly that it makes absolute sense. That’s what I hope will happen with autism.
Tomorrow, the world will follow a tradition pioneered by Autism Speaks and Light It Up Blue. And while, realistically, lighting a blue light doesn’t help parents struggling to balance a job, a family and a child with autism, it raises awareness. Awareness means that people will take notice of the different monuments/buildings worldwide going blue, a window in a quiet street displaying a puzzle ribbon, a local business fundraising for autism and they will ask questions about it. They might tell others, or go home and read about it. They may recognise it next time they see it and not stare, they might pass down the knowledge to younger generations. If I could go into every house and help every family struggling with autism, I would. Instead, I will wear blue and I will tell people to wear blue. I will tell them why and I will talk about autism until all the pieces fit, until everyone understands.
The Empire State Building in New York, the White House, Niagara Falls, the London Eye, Sidney Opera House, Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Petra in Jordan, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, the Taj Mahal in India, the Table Mountain in South Africa, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, the Canton Tower in China, and the Great Buddha at Hyogo are only a few of the estimated 20,000 buildings across 7 continents, 157 countries all over the world who will Light it Up Blue to honour World Autism Awareness Day tomorrow.
Will you wear blue tomorrow?