Autism spectrum disorder is a colorful phenomenon with a variety of symptoms and as such, has several related symbols and colors when being portrayed publicly and in the media. You can find below a few of the most common symbols and colors used to represent the autism spectrum.
Even though these symbols and others have represented autism spectrum disorder through the years, individuals on the spectrum tend to adopt their own way of representing the way autism has affected their lives.
Many autism awareness organizations have symbols to make them more recognizable and increase understanding. Learning which symbol goes with which organization and a bit of the meaning behind these colors and designs can help you make sense of bumper stickers, logos, and other graphics.
The Puzzle Piece
The first use of the Autism Puzzle Piece was in 1963. Gerald Gasson, a parent and board member for the National Autistic Society in London created a logo for the organization that consisted of a puzzle piece along with the image of a crying child. Because of the uniqueness of the puzzle piece as a logo, it was quickly adopted and since then the puzzle piece has become a recognizable symbol for autism across the world.
The puzzle piece is also a common symbol used to represent autism spectrum disorder and was made famous by Autism Speaks. Its use has garnered both positive and negative attention, as many individuals on the spectrum today feel it is too closely related to the idea of people with autism “not fitting in” to societal expectations and social circles. The puzzle piece is commonly paired with the color blue or a rainbow spectrum.
Images of puzzle pieces representing autism flourish on the Internet and in other visual media. Surfing, scouting, running, wrestling, making music, and many activities in which autistic children engage have been represented by puzzle pieces. Sometimes autistic children themselves are caricatured as puzzle pieces.
The Autism puzzle piece, however, has stirred some controversy. Depending on how its meaning is interpreted, the logo has drawn both positive and negative reactions over the years. Today the National Autistic Society logo is no longer the puzzle piece.
Those who support the use of the puzzle piece as a symbol of autism spectrum disorder believe that it accurately represents the puzzling nature of the condition and how even today when we have a better understanding of autism than we did in the 60s, there is still much more to know. For other people, the puzzle piece symbolizes everyone coming together to support those living with an autism spectrum disorder.
On the flip side though, there are those who find the puzzle piece insulting. They believe that the puzzle piece has a negative connotation of people living with autism, suggesting that they are a mystery to figure out, lacking in some way and that they don’t fit in with the rest of society.
Then there are voices in the middle who believe that the original purpose of the logo was positive, but that it is time for a new one that focuses more on coming together to improve the lives of people living on the spectrum.
Numerous autism organizations use puzzle pieces in their logos. For example, the US organization Autism Speaks has officially trademarked a blue puzzle piece as its logo. The Autism Society of America has common-law trademarked a ribbon comprising puzzle pieces, and puzzle pieces feature prominently in the logos of many of the Autism Society of America’s state chapters.
Although the Puzzle Piece was never intended to be insulting, it is quite clear from this first design that, by today’s standards, it is.
- Depicting autism spectrum disorder as something that only children get
- Portraying a child as upset because of the condition they have
- Using a shade of green which can only be described vomit green
The Autism Awareness Ribbon (The Puzzle Piece Ribbon)
The puzzle ribbon was adopted in 1999 as the universal sign of autism awareness. Although this image is a trademark of the Autism Society, the organization has granted use to other non-profit organizations in order to demonstrate unity and advance a universal mission as opposed to any individually held interests or promotion of a single organization.
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.
Featuring various different colors and combinations, unlike the single puzzle piece logo, the Puzzle Piece Ribbon illustrates the diversity of people on the autism spectrum and how we really do come in all shapes and sizes. The colors, in particular, were chosen to reflect the need for awareness of autism as, although the condition is still a bit of a puzzle to many scientists, many believe awareness of people with autism is more vital than a full-blown understanding of it.
The Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon is the most enduring and recognized symbol of the autism community in the world. Yet, views about the iconic marker are as diverse and wide-ranging as the spectrum it represents.
While many hope for a cure, some see autism ribbons as a way to encourage acceptance and tolerance for the behavioral differences people on the spectrum have. The puzzle symbol is not appealing to all people who are living in the autistic culture. Some may argue that people on the spectrum are not mysteries or puzzles; they are individuals with unusual behaviors who develop at a different pace than typical people do.
“What does the puzzle ribbon mean to you?”
- I am not alone.
- I am part of the great puzzle of life.
- I am a major confusion to people and stand no chance to ever fit in.
- Multiple meanings. The condition itself is a puzzle which needs to be addressed on many fronts to completion; and that persons with this condition are puzzled by our “normal”; and we as parents, siblings, family, friends, teachers/therapists, and the general public are presented with the puzzle of how to understand & work with each autistic individual to empower them to be as independently functioning as possible.
- ….So really, the puzzle piece is nothing more than mirror into the person you are talking to. My hope is, however, that conversations about autism shift from how other people don’t understand us (the mystery of autism), to how *both* autistic people and non-autistic misunderstand each other. And how we can develop mutual respect for our differences, for multiple ways of communicating, and an understanding that perspective does not equal wrong. Or right.
- Even though we are all different, we all belong and are needed.
- I am not alone and that I am unique due to my Autism. I am proud to have Autism!
Types of Ribbons
In today’s world, there are different types of autism spectrum disorder ribbons are available, and each offers a unique way in order to raise autism awareness. Traditionally, the symbols are made of ribbon material, and they attach to a garment with a pin. However, they come in many other forms as well. Some options to consider include:
- Autism ribbon jewelry such as necklaces, pins, earrings, and bracelets
- Nail decals
- Car magnets
The brightly-colored image can be found on clothing, coffee mugs, totes, and stuffed animals. Some people go as far as to have tattoos of autism awareness ribbons.
The Infinity Symbol
It is a newer alternative, the infinity symbol inspires thoughts of inclusivity for people on the spectrum. It is commonly displayed with colors of the rainbow or a solid color. The infinity symbol can represent math and a love of numbers, something shared by many people on the autism spectrum. It can also signify inclusiveness and the integration of people with autism into general society since there is no beginning or end to the sign.
The Rainbow Spectrum
It is the most closely tied to the concept of the autism spectrum, a range of colors on the rainbow has often been used to visually represent the range of symptoms of autism spectrum disorder and individuals with autism’s abilities and challenges.
It is a classic color combination featured on many logos, the rainbow color scheme symbolizes the idea of autism as a “spectrum.” Individuals with autism are unique and have a variety of strengths and challenges, and it is impossible to classify them under a simple diagnosis. Instead, autism is a spectrum of abilities and challenges.
The rainbow spectrum works as a symbol here since the various colors can represent the variety of abilities, as well as the unique nature of each person with autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. This rainbow spectrum is often paired with the puzzle piece logo, the infinity symbol, or the ribbon.
Light it Up Blue Symbol
On world autism awareness day which is April 2nd, you may see plenty of blue being shown off to support autism awareness. Light It Up Blue is dedicated to raising awareness of autism. The initiative is generally associated with Autism Speaks. It is intended to raise international awareness of autism in support of both World Autism Awareness Day and Autism Awareness Month in the United States. The color blue’s association with autism originated with the autism advocacy association known as Autism Speaks.
The “Light it Up Blue” campaign calls for people to wear blue in order to promote autism awareness. Blue is also the organization’s primary color and is associated with a calm feeling and acceptance in an otherwise loud and busy world for people on the autism spectrum.
Blue is the color associated with Autism Speaks as an organization, but it also means more to people on the autism spectrum. It can symbolize a feeling of calm and acceptance in a world that can be very loud and challenging sometimes.
Iconic landmarks around the globe – including the Empire State Building in New York City and Willis Tower in Chicago along with the CN Tower in Toronto – as well as airports, bridges, museums, concert halls, restaurants, hospitals, and retail stores, are among more than 100 structures in over 16 U.S. cities and nine countries around the world lit up in bright blue on the evening of April 1, 2010 – the first night of Autism Awareness Month in the United States and the eve of World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD).
In 2011, despite efforts by Autism Speaks, the White House said it would not light up blue in honor of World Autism Awareness Day. However, in 2017 President Donald Trump fulfilled a promise to Suzanne Wright who is the co-founder of Autism Speaks by lighting the White House in blue.
It is a relatively new symbol for autism spectrum disorder, the butterfly has been a suggested replacement for the puzzle piece as it inspires thoughts of change and symbolizes the beauty of diversity and continued development. Nowadays, many people consider it a symbol indicative of the beauty of a different perspective and the importance of continued development.
According to the Art of Autism, the butterfly is developing as an alternative to the traditional and sometimes controversial puzzle piece. The butterfly symbolizes beauty in diversity, change in its own time, and continuing development. A person on the autism spectrum may not develop skills according to established milestones schedules, but they will continue to develop. The butterfly is a positive symbol of this type of change. It is also a symbol of the beauty of a different perspective.
Several organizations, including the UK’s National Autistic Society, use the symbol of clasped hands in order to represent the idea of acceptance and support – both for people with autism spectrum disorder and for their families. Often, the symbol shows two different colors of people or hands to represent the acceptance of differences.
Other organizations, such as the Autism Self Advocacy Network, use a rainbow-colored wreath design with intertwining bands of multiple colors. This symbolizes inclusiveness and equality because it has no beginning or end, and it also represents the spectrum of abilities and challenges that make up the community of people with autism. There is also a focus on unity since all the colors work together to create the design.