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April 2nd is National Autism Awareness Day. Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is something most of us have heard of or know someone affected by the condition. Still, most of us do not have much of an understanding of ASD. Have you ever been curious as to why the puzzle piece is the symbol for Autism? It is a story with a lot of information that is worth knowing. 

The term Autism is frequently used in modern society, but due to the complexities of ASD, many are not sure precisely what Autism Spectrum Disorder is. Research is uncovering more information all of the time about the condition. The CDC has this definition on their webpage:

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.

What does ASD look like? That is a complicating aspect of the spectrum. While some with ASD may be apparent, others you may never know. Some with ASD may be socially challenged, unable to speak or interact, and need significant attention. Others function as professionals working beside you daily or even as your boss. Every person’s ASD profile is unique. Regardless of their place on the spectrum, those with ASD add a special aspect to the lives they contact.

In 1963 the National Autism Society of London adopted the puzzle piece as a symbol of the condition. Gerald Gasson advanced it as he felt it was a “puzzling” condition, thought to be exceptionally rare. Over time the identification of the puzzle piece with Autism became synonymous as more Autism organizations adopted it. Funding from these groups has advanced diagnosis and understanding of the frequency and signs of the condition. It is estimated today that 1 in 54 children have ASD. The various organizations seeking to bring awareness and assistance to the issue, have all used the puzzle piece symbol, attributing their individual meanings. There are ribbons, hearts, and blocks made of brightly colored puzzle pieces. Due to the differing philosophies of the groups, intense feelings have arisen. While many still use the puzzle piece as all or part of their logo, some feel alienated by it and feel that it marks them as tragic and defective. Some are advocating a rainbow infinity symbol to reflect the spectrum.

We at Dowdle love the puzzle piece image, obviously. To us, each puzzle piece is uniquely beautiful and necessary to the successful completion of the puzzle. The differences we each bring to life’s abundant mosaic are essential. When people assemble a puzzle, be it 300, 500, or 1000 and find one piece missing, it creates a good deal of stress, and believe me, we hear about it. Suddenly the other 999 or 499 pieces are wanting because of the missing one. We are all pieces of life’s puzzle, and each has a role to play, and when a piece is missing, it matters even one of millions or billions. We believe in the worth of the individual. To us, there are no missing pieces. It is our hope that we will each take the occasion of National Autism Awareness Day to strive to give understanding and support to all those around us, whether or not we can see their unique needs. Every piece matters.


  • Carol

    My sister has Aspbergers which is very high functioning on the autism spectrum. She has always been super good at puzzles. When she was a child she would do difficult puzzles picture side up and then sometimes do it again with the picture down.

  • Teri Byers-Koleas

    My youngest daughter is studying to become a Child Life Specialist with an emphasis in Autism. Such a need for those who sometimes cannot express how they are feeling or their needs and wishes. We love your puzzles, each unique piece! 💚

  • Stacy Wetzel

    What a wonderful uplifting message! I believe doing puzzles provides invaluable therapy on multiple levels for everyone! Thank-you for sharing this good information.

  • Niki Good

    Having worked with many Autistic students, I have seen a high response to puzzles. Most amazing was the young man who spent 5 hours with one puzzle, first assembling it from the back- plain cardboard side! Then front, then upside down. Amazing!

  • Peter Finch

    I love your puzzles even more after reading this. I have a 32-year old son on the Autism spectrum, and appreciate this very much.

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