Recently, a friend mentioned seeing someone with a puzzle piece necklace, which he found out was a symbol of autism support. It set me thinking about the puzzle piece symbol, which I see more and more---on car magnets, in jewelry, on signs---all over. And it made me wonder why I have no desire to wear the puzzle piece in any form, or put it on my car, or, to expand, to make it my Facebook picture or, to expand even more, why I am not a more vocal advocate for autism, outside of this blog.
On a very basic level, I don't wear autism jewelry because I don't wear any jewelry, except my wedding ring. I am not very good at accessorizing, to say the least. I don't wear jewelry, I don't wear makeup, I don't dye my gray hair, I don't dress very snazzily. I'm just no good at those things. I wish I were, but despite having been "made over" many times, I wouldn't have the slightest idea how to put on makeup, or how to put together a good outfit. I let my pierced ears grow back years and years ago. You are lucky if you see me with my hair in a pony tail. That's about how far my fancying up goes. I've always wondered if it's my own disability---the inability to coordinate, to be fashionable, to do the basic things like makeup or nails that seem to come naturally to every other woman on earth. It might go along with my horrible handwriting or general messiness. There are parts of my brain that just don't seem to completely be with the program.
But on a deeper level, there are probably other reasons I don't wear autism symbols. Part of it is a lack of wanting to draw attention to myself. If I wear a symbol that not everyone recognizes, it would lead to questions, and questions would lead to explaining. For someone that likes to blend into the crowd most of the time, that's not a sequence I'd like. But another part of it is a stubborn feeling that I don't want to make autism my signature cause, my main point, the center of my life. My friend that saw the puzzle piece had a good theory on that---that in a way, I'm practicing autism acceptance. If I were to point out the autism part of my life constantly, it's not integrated into my life. It's not accepted as any other part of my life. It is pointed out and stands out. I want Janey, and autism, to be a regular and normal part of life around the community, not a cause.
I also am always aware I have three children, not just Janey, as well as a husband and other family. My boys both had asthma, which Janey thankfully does not. Freddy still has it, and is a survivor of an extremely serious attack he had as he turned 10. Tony is an insulin-dependent diabetic. I have a non-functioning thyroid, and am a pre-eclampsia survivor. William was a preemie. My sister is a cancer survivor. There are other health issues that I have very strong feelings about, and if I wore symbols of all of them, I'd probably be a little gaudy looking. To single autism out feels wrong to me. It affects our lives greatly, but it is not life-threatening, thankfully.
And yet, I feel a sense of kinship when I see someone with a puzzle piece worn. I feel connected when I see a car with a puzzle piece magnet. I am glad there are others out there with autism in their lives, and I am happy to see the symbols of that community. I guess it's a case where everyone shares in a way they feel best about sharing. I write this blog to share with and connect to the autism community. Others advocate more publicly, and work harder to educate the wider community, the community at large. Others are at a stage where they are concentrating completely on their own child with autism, and that too is completely understandable. Having a loved one with autism doesn't make us all the same, and we all do what we can do. That's the only way to get through the autism life, and in fact, life in general.