Symbols can be quite powerful, as they can hold a lot of meaning. People identify by and feel represented by symbols. However sadly with autism there are some harmful symbols that are more commonly known than the ones we as autistic people actually identify with and wish others used instead.
Gold or rainbow infinity symbol:
This rainbow symbol is used to represent neurodiversity. This is the symbol that is associated positively with mostly autism, because the rainbow represents the spectrum that we exist on. The spectrum is more like a colour wheel, with different sliders/adjusters for each section – not ‘more’ or ‘less’. However this symbol can also be recognised as an overall symbol for pro-neurodiversity, or thinking positively about the concept that everyone all has different kinds of brains. The rainbow here can also represent the spectrum of different strengths and difficulties in other, different neurologies (kinds of brains).
The gold infinity symbol is specific to autism, this is derived from the atomic symbol for gold being ‘Au’, which of course spells the beginning of Autism. Other autistic people in the community will recognise you/someone else is autistic if they specifically use this colour of infinity symbol. Whereas the rainbow infinity symbol, there can be a chance that they are ADHD or something else (although it’s so widely used for autistics as well, anyway!).
Puzzle piece/Blue puzzle piece symbol:
For the symbols that many autistics reject and don’t use nor identify with, they are the blue puzzle piece, the rainbow puzzle piece, and basically just any puzzle piece at all. This is because this symbol is frequently used by the harmful organisation called ‘Autism Speaks’, which think of autism as a tragedy and a ‘condition’ or ‘disorder’ that see autistic people as a puzzle that needs solving, or something that needs fixing; like autistic people are a mystery and a puzzle short of a piece, etc. This of course is really harmful and offensive, and frustratingly, a lot of people, even well-meaning people, just do not have the sufficient and appropriate information given to them or available to them to know how harmful this line of association is. This is why I make pages such as this to hopefully help and dispel this misinformation and hopefully help people do better. ❤️
The first use of the puzzle piece was actually originally used by the National Autistic Society (NAS), where it featured a puzzle piece with a crying child. This is debatable whether or not this is again, portraying autism as a tragedy. Today, the NAS does not use this logo and instead it has been appropriated by Autism Speaks, reinforcing a negative idea about autism.
If you want to learn more or know why Autism Speaks is a no-no, click here to another page where i’ve written more about this!
The multi-coloured puzzle piece ribbon has the same connotations as the two puzzle pieces above, but simply brings in primary colours in reference to the autism spectrum, arguably primary colours because of the stereotype that only children are/can be autistic (or ignoring that autistic children grow into autistic adults). This version was created by the Autism Society in 1999, with ribbons also being a popular choice for other well-known causes, like the pink ribbon for Breast Cancer Awareness.
If you want to learn more in depth about why the puzzle piece symbol overall is steeped in harmful ideas about autism (ableism) then here is a really good page I recommend reading: here.