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Autism Puzzle Pieces

Updated: Jan 27

The “puzzle piece” image is a popular mascot for autism.

Here’s how I think about it.

Understanding my own autism, and sharing about it, is contributing to the assemblage of a big jigsaw puzzle for which there is no box (and thus no cover image to use as a reference). In my space are the pieces I have collected. I am patiently working on fitting them together. Over some time, an image has begun to emerge: balloons. A bunch of balloons, red ones. Somebody else working on the same puzzle has clouds. Wispy clouds, white ones, on a blue sky.

“I have balloons over here,” I say, “red ones! And a hand holding them! I think this may be a park situation. We should keep an eye out for people with picnic blankets on a green slope or something.”

But the other person, who assembled quite a large section a while ago and has stopped working on it, may not be open to evolving their understanding. “Nope," they reply. "This is a sky. It’s just a sky, a blue sky with clouds, and it’s beautiful and honestly let’s be satisfied with what we have here. I'm good. Why do we need to look for anything more than a sky situation?”

​ What they’re not noticing, perhaps not ready to see, is that the edges on two sides of their sky are jagged. They aren't ready to embrace the fact that those jagged edges are not, in fact, an artistic roughness, but knobs and sockets where more puzzle pieces can connect.

​ At that moment, a third person comes over and joins the conversation. “Hey! Did someone say picnic?” they ask. “This totally makes sense! I’ve got baskets and baguettes and bottles of wine down here! Brb.” And gradually, collaboratively, more people join and more sections are connected, and we begin to complete the puzzle and see the full image.

Until somebody new comes along with a steaming mug in their hands. “Hey, listen,” they say, “something bigger is afoot. The puzzle's just part of the situation: there's a kitchen over there, and hot tea."

​ And we look up to find an entire home, in a neighborhood, in a city, a country, a continent, a planet, a solar system, a galaxy, the universe, … in the limits of our … perception, in our minds, which brings us right back ‘round because…

​ … it’s all one big Mobius strip with one side and one edge ...

... and here we are back where we started …

... noticing that when we put this Mobius strip together with that Mobius strip, we can start see ... “Balloons! Red ones!”

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