a picture of an acorn: a new autism symbol
Autism Advocacy

Through My Eyes: the autism symbol

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.  



  • Blair Beard

    Thank you for the insight Aaron. I’ve shared your blog with some good friends of mine that have non verbal 6 year old twins.

  • Don C Jepson

    Aaron, We who are family have been able to see that shell crack and that seedling swell into a brilliant and growing oak. I am so proud to be your grandfather and to watch your new leaves reach for the nourishment of the sun (Son). You work so hard to gain that which was denied you for so many years and I’m so very proud of you and of your father (Father) and mother (Mother) who have helped you in your growth.

    • Mary Duffy

      Aaron, thank you for your insightful post. I like your acorn symbol and will share it with my son. Keep sharing your ideas with us. Happy 2023!

  • Sherlyn Mullis

    Aaron, you are an inspiration! I look forward to following you on this outreach in helping others understand your interesting journey. The idea of an acorn makes so much sense. I love it!

    • Paul McKean

      I fully support your proposal for the acorn as an autism (advocacy) symbol.
      Wonderfully written analogy and your thesis very persuasive. Great thinking and writing.
      I’ll look forward to talking with you soon.

  • Miss Angela Raven

    I much prefer the acorn to the puzzle, the puzzle piece suggests to me that autism is something to be ‘solved’ or hints at there being a ‘missing piece’. I’m looking forward to reading some more of your insights.

  • Shauna Hammond

    What an awesome window you have opened! I love your chosen symbol of the acorn, and even it’s added texture, which gives it soul, so to speak. I am your Aunt Jeanette’s sister. She and Uncle Truman cannot brag on you enough for the voice you have given to autism with your discovery of a means to communicate. Thank you. Somewhere along the line you learned more than puzzles can teach!

  • Janet Edghill

    Brilliant piece, Aaron. I prefer the acorn to the puzzle piece, too. One says “something is missing”, while the other says “the sky’s the limit” for your potential. Keep writing!! Aloha Nui Loa from Hawai’i 🌺

  • Wystan E Simons

    Dear Aaron —
    thank you for sharing your thoughts in this direct and kind way. I read a couple of your posts out loud to my son, who is also a typer/speller, and is having a hard day. I will let him speak for himself. But I love your idea of the acorn and I hope it catches on.

    We have an organization starting here north of Philly, Real Voices of Philadelphia – a gathering of typers for educational classes and companionship (realvoicesphilly.com). How I wish you lived near enough to be a part of it!

    Take care– keep writing — Wystan Simons

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