Hi everyone. I am going to start a new series of blog posts about what my life is like as a young man living with autism. Understand that what I say is just my experience and may be very different than how others affected by this disorder might feel. But I imagine that I will have many common points of view with others who are experiencing life through this lens, and I would love it if others with autism would respond with comments so that I can appreciate how you have chosen to navigate your challenges.
Today, I want to talk about the popular autism symbol, the blue or multicolored puzzle piece. I appreciate that we have so many organizations advocating for us, and I realize that having a symbol helps people to become more familiar with the issue that it represents, but I really don’t like being thought of as a part of an unseen picture. I am the whole picture! The fact that you don’t know what my picture shows is not how I would choose to be represented. Plus, the puzzle piece reminds me of how many puzzles I did during my special ed years instead of being taught something useful during that time.
So, I want to use a new autism symbol. I am going to use it whenever I write anything about autism advocacy. If you all like it, you can use it too. Who knows, maybe it’ll catch on? The autism symbol that I like to represent how I feel about myself is an acorn.
Why an acorn? Acorns are seeds within a hard shell that are not necessarily impressive to look at, but given the right environment, they will grow into large oaks. Everything that they need is inside of that shell. If they stay as an acorn, that doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with them or their potential. It just means that they are not in the right environment that would allow them to unlock their true selves.
I think that many of us with autism feel locked in a hard shell and are living in a world that still hasn’t figured out that on the inside of that little acorn is a great tree. I know that I felt that way for all my growing up years. My parents gave me every advantage possible at the time and still I was stuck. When I learned how to type, the shell was cracked. It felt liberating. My communication skills have come a long way since then although I have a long way yet to go before I can claim independence. But I feel my roots digging through some rich, dark soil and the energy of the sunlight warming my little seedling leaves. I think that when others meet me first, and then read my words later, they realize that they were seeing the acorn, not the tree.
My hope is that all of us with autism whose seedlings have started to grow, or who already have become great trees, will show the world how we started as acorns, sometimes dormant for years, and what environment worked for each of us to break out of our shells. There are so many more acorns than trees, I’m afraid, and I want to be sure that the world sees their potential and does not continue to look at them as a mystery, or a single piece of a puzzle.