Some organizations liberally use the puzzle piece as part of their charity’s logo. Usually, they’re focused on research about autism. From our perspective, the biggest puzzle is the behavior of the non-autistic individual towards the autistic.
Recently, a family was traveling by air with their teenage non-verbal daughter. The girl had not eaten dinner, and she only eats hot food. Traveling coach, there wasn’t a hot-food option in coach. After considerable debate with the flight attendant, the mother pointed out that if the girl doesn’t eat she could have a meltdown, which might include crying and scratching. The attendant finally capitulated, but also went overboard by alerting the captain.
That captain also, unaware of what autism is, calls for police and EMT, after announcing that the plane was making an emergency landing because of a passenger with “behavior issue”. After landing, EMT saw no problem as the girl wasn’t having the meltdown, and they understood the mother was trying to, and succeeded in preventing a meltdown. They and police began to leave the plane.
The captain confronted police asking them to ask the family to leave his plane, essentially refusing to carry them to their destination. The airline provided access to another carrier, but certainly caused the family a delay in their trip. Other passengers were mortified and said the decision to make an emergency landing was “ridiculous” and even speculating this event was going to result in a lawsuit. Probably, it will.
Events like this are common around the country and around the world. So for our organization, representing the concept that all persons with autism are citizens, we see things like this as a degradation of the rights of the individual.
Anyone who’s traveled by air knows that there are many more serious issues that face passengers than an autistic teen who’s not having a meltdown, including drunk passengers, screaming children, passengers who are sick or having heart attacks in flight, etc.
This is the ultimate puzzle, will non-autistic people ever learn to accept autistic citizens? Will they ever learn about autism, or remain ignorant of the condition, or of the behavior of autistic citizens? Will people see that autism poses no threat to non-autistic society?
If you’re sad to see we don’t use a puzzle piece in our logo or on our website, please understand, the only thing about autism that’s puzzling is the cause. Understanding and accepting autism, which is what we’re all about; well, those don’t need puzzles or rainbows. They need brains, humanity and a sense of decency towards others; a simple humanity to help those who think differently, but are no less than ourselves.