I was aware of Glasgow’s plans to have a more Autism Friendly City Centre environment. I completed some online surveys and read the information that had been posted.
Then the logo was announced.
As you see above it uses a ‘Jigsaw Piece’ or ‘Puzzle Piece’ design.
It’s based on this. The multicoloured jigsaw ribbon that The Autism Society in the United States of America use. A similar blue single piece design is used by the controversial ‘Autism Speaks’ group.
The design of a Jigsaw comes from The UK and the National Autism Society.
The logo was created in 1963 by a parent of an autistic child. It represents the puzzle of autism, the missing piece and a sad confused child.
Ultimately other groups such as the American groups used the design and modified it to their ends.
As an ‘autism parent’ I get the sentiment as my son doesn’t speak and is non verbal.
As a #actuallyautistic person with a diagnosis myself, it gets me angry.
It represents a childish image of autistic conditions. (No-one grows out of it)
It says there’s a mystery to autism and that it’s unfathomable. (Many of the sensory and communication issues aren’t that hard to discern.)
It says autistic people have things missing. (Most of us are complete, in having heads, bodies, arms and legs, our heads are wired differently)
Therefore to me, this choice of symbol by Glasgow is wrong and offensive.
I’m aware that the design is the work of a schoolchild and reports state that the person is autistic too.
I don’t easily want to upset anyone, especially given the context of the idea of having kids design the logo.
It’s also important for ‘Autism Awareness’, sadly that’s not ‘Autism Acceptance’. Minority groups for race, feminism and LGBTI rights seem to get ‘Acceptance’ on the agenda rather than just ‘Awareness’.
The initiative is obviously well meaning, but the criteria given to the children at the schools needs questioned.
What were they told to design?
What were they taught about Autistic People, as child and adults and what were they told was acceptable as symbols?
I visited the exhibition of the children’s art work and the preponderance of the Jigsaw symbol on designs suggests that they were not.
To my eyes 80% of designs included either a single jigsaw piece or the combined pieces ribbon design.
One even had the slogan ‘put the pieces together’
A failure in teaching?
Or a failure in understanding by grown adults that set the children the task.
Was ‘Neurodiversity’ mentioned in any context or any point of setting the task?
My other issue is that Strathclyde University’s affiliated Autism Network Scotland were on the panel that chose the winning design.
Was someone from ASN content to accept such a design having knowledge of Autistic People?
I can’t understand the Council not consulting their Autism Resource Centre on this either, surely someone from there would have queried this design.
A step back for the #actuallyautistic and another example of the jigsaw/puzzle piece being used, despite how people feel over it.
The Autism Journal in the US recently removed the Puzzle Piece as their logo.
“As one would hope for a research journal, what led to this change was research,” said David Mandell, an autism researcher at the University of Pennsylvania who serves as the journal’s editor. “Given that we published that study, we thought we should act on it.”
“I really thought it was time to modernize and get rid of the puzzle piece and go with something more up to date and less offensive,” Brook said in a podcast about the change.
“The puzzle piece is therefore no longer an apt, or even adequate, symbol for autism as we currently understand it,” the journal editors wrote in an editorial announcing the change. “The move away from the puzzle piece here and towards our new design is not only about how we choose to represent autism, but it is also about proving that we represent that broader change itself.”
All in all a good move.
Here’s the research behind it
Participants associated puzzle pieces with imperfection, incompletion, uncertainty, difficulty, the state of being unsolved, and, most poignantly, being missing,” according to findings published online this month from researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Ursinus College and the University of Kentucky
it went on
If an organization’s intention for using puzzle-piece imagery is to evoke negative associations, our results suggest the organization’s use of puzzle-piece imagery is apt,” the study authors wrote. “However, if the organization’s intention is to evoke positive associations, our results suggest that puzzle-piece imagery should probably be avoided.”
So will Glasgow acknowledge that this logo isn’t progress for Autism Awareness and will the perceptions that are behind the jigsaw piece design be challenged or taught properly to children?