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The Autism Puzzle Piece Design

Parent and child holding autism awareness puzzle piece in their hands.

When you visit the new building at the Sarah Dooley Center for Autism, you’ll walk into a place that’s designed specifically to provide autism therapy and conduct research. Every inch of space benefits our students.

In addition to the expansive, well-lit, and welcoming areas throughout, you’ll see colorful autism puzzle piece designs that are displayed prominently on the wall. The symbol is known across the world as a representation of autism, but what does it actually mean? Let’s explore the history and meaning behind the multi-colored puzzle piece and learn why this symbol is significant to the autism community.

History of the Autism Puzzle Piece Design 

We can trace the history of the autism puzzle piece to 1963. That year, Gerald Gasson, a parent and board member of the National Autistic Society in London, designed the puzzle piece. 

The first logo of its kind, the puzzle piece featured green and black colors with an outline of a crying child in the center. The entire design shared the commonly held belief that autism is a puzzling condition filled with unknown riddles and astonishing problems. The child inside the puzzle piece symbolized how people with autism suffer from and struggle with their condition.

Over the decades, the original puzzle piece has undergone several transformations.

In 1999, the Autism Society of America designed a puzzle piece ribbon. The symbol was developed as a tool to raise awareness. The puzzle piece signifies the complexity of the autism spectrum. The ribbon represents the diversity of individuals with autism and their families. The bright colors indicate the hope that access to early interventions and appropriate services and support will equip individuals with autism to lead full lives.

Autism Speaks, founded in 2005, is a global organization that has adopted the blue puzzle piece as its logo. Used to spread autism awareness, this recognizable symbol reminds viewers of the continued search for answers to the causes of autism. The tool also acknowledges the diverse abilities, strengths. and challenges of people with autism. 

Also, the puzzle piece represents the desire for understanding and acceptance of individuals on the spectrum. The color blue suggests that more males than females receive a formal diagnosis.

What the Puzzle Piece Means for the Autism Community

Today, the original puzzle piece design has evolved. The puzzle piece is now bright yellow, red, green, and blue. It also symbolizes the long way we’ve come in our understanding of autism. 

With research and education, practitioners, parents, and people with autism have learned that suffering is optional and that it is possible to live productive, fulfilled, and abundant lives. Despite our advances in understanding, the puzzle piece remains a highly recognized international symbol of autism awareness.

For starters, the puzzle piece represents the way we come together to support individuals with autism. From parents and family members to therapists, physicians, teachers, and support personnel, a team of caring people surrounds individuals and supports them with holistic care.

Each unique puzzle piece reminds us of how every person with autism is different. As we know, autism is a spectrum, and everyone with autism experiences it differently. Each individual also has different interests, abilities, and skills. In the autism community, every individual receives a personalized treatment plan based on their needs.

Rather than focus on the Autism puzzle piece design as an image of what’s missing, we can see it as the key to unlocking a person’s potential. With an understanding of how autism affects each individual, we can create a treatment plan, offer services and teach skills that enhance each person’s unique life purpose and goals.

The puzzle piece also prompts us to see the big picture. In addition to current victories and challenges, the individual has overcome many challenges and has future achievements to anticipate. Plus, all the little details that make up a person with autism form a whole person. Individuals with autism are not less than or deficient. Instead, they have a unique way of interacting with themselves, others, and their world. Seeing the puzzle piece allows us to remember the value of accepting the whole individual as they are now.

We can see the puzzle piece as a reminder of how individuals with autism fit into the world. Too often, people assume that someone with autism is a misfit or unable to communicate, socialize, or learn. Today, we know that every individual with autism is valuable. They fit into their lives, families, schools, communities, and world in beautiful ways.

The different shapes and colors of the puzzle pieces represent the diversity of individuals with autism. Autism affects people of all ages and genders in countries around the globe.

The bright colors of the autism puzzle piece design also signal hope. Individuals with autism may experience a full life on their own terms. This reality was not possible a few decades ago, but we’ve come a long way in our understanding, treatment, and view of autism.

The Autism Puzzle Piece at The Sarah Dooley Center

The puzzle piece is featured prominently on the walls of the new center at SDCA. That’s because we nurture every student with autism. We also work together to build strong families, supportive communities, and collaborative partnerships for our students. Our autism-specific curriculum and resources give each child the best possible outcome.

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