I have given thought to the use of a puzzle piece as a symbol for autism and have come to the conclusion that I must object to this. The implication is that an autistic person is not a whole person or is so mysterious as to not be understood. Because one seem autistic persons as not being able to be understood, there does not become any desire to try. The result of such an attitude is the furthering of programs which are not dignified and simply seek to alter the person, if even by force and coercion.
Autistic persons need to develop a new symbol to embrace their need for autonomy, self determination, dignity, and their basic rights. This should be a symbol of liberation, a symbol of empowerment, a symbol of compassion and understanding.
I have been honored to journey with autistic persons for fourteen years. In this time, I presumed intellect and I embraced the strengths and passions of each person. I realized that what we may label as 'misbehavior' was often really the attempts for the person to communicate their needs and desires in any way possible. I learned that it was better for me to respectfully seek to enter the space and world of the autistic person rather than seek to force them to enter my own. I learned that through simple things that we can forge emotional connections. I learned that despite what some have said, autistic persons do have empathy, and they are capable of showing affection. Most importantly, I learned that autistic persons are whole persons, just as anyone else, and deserve respect and support.