Keeping the Peace

Autism – More of a Mosaic Than a Puzzle

My friend wrote a poem call The Mosaic that she shared with me. I included it at the bottom of this post for your reading pleaseure. It’s really beautiful and it got me thinking about how different mosaics are from puzzles. A puzzle piece is the universal symbol of autism. But it doesn’t seem to fully describe the neurological disorder completely. I mean, does autism fit together perfectly like a puzzle? Or is it more of a mosaic, made up of jagged, hard to fit pieces? Maybe both of them are sort of metaphors for the difficult and the beautiful parts of autism.

It’s Not All Struggle

Now that I mentioned beautiful in the same sentence as autism, I’m sure to get some eye rolls from well meaning people. Because as caregivers, autism and special needs in general can be extremely hard to deal with. But the truth is, there is a lot of beautiful in autism. It’s if you choose to see it. It doesn’t take away from the hard, painful, and sad parts of raising a child with special needs to acknowledge it. You can have challenges and still take notice of the beauty they bring.

Please don’t confuse this with loving autism itself, or any disorder for that matter, that anyone has to live with. We love our daughter, not the disorder or the struggle it comes with. But in the struggle, we’ve learned so much and I feel it has made us all better people. We’re grateful for it because it has made us so much more appreciative of the little things that many others take for granted.

This is just one example, but many parents hear their child say I love you early on and just expect for that to occur. They get use to hearing it regularly and it becomes less of a big deal. It was many years before our child could have any conversation, let alone express any feeling. It still doesn’t come easy all these years later. Some parents we know are still waiting to hear “I love you” from their child. Not getting to see those different milestones or hear those typical things from your child, makes every little or big thing they do achieve, something to celebrate. Everything is a big deal!

Beauty in the Struggle

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as they say. It’s in the struggle that we really discover and behold all the beautiful things. If everything was easy, how would we appreciate anything? Yes, the struggle sucks! There’s no way around that fact. But when we look at what they are capable of instead of what they can’t do, it’s beautiful to think of what they have overcome or struggled through to get there. If we look at the rough spots with as much beauty as what may be the smoother, easier parts, it’s easier to see that it all makes us a masterpiece.

Struggle and suffering is a part of this temporary life for everyone. None of us can avoid it. It shapes us all, just like those jagged little pieces that make up a mosaic. I’ve always been fascinated by mosaics because even though they don’t fit and they’re all so different, the pieces are all beautiful and they still come together to make a work of art. A mosaic reminds me of a child like ours. We want her to embrace the person she is and remind her that no one is a perfect fit, and that’s what makes us all beautiful.

Mosaic vs. Puzzle

Yes, autism is a puzzle because there are a lot of questions and unknowns. Until the pieces fit, they say. They refer to the puzzle piece as a missing piece to the autism puzzle. Every puzzle pieces is a little different, just like our kids. It’s no wonder that the puzzle piece is used globally as the symbol for autism.

Every child on the spectrum is so different and every parent’s experience as to how the autism was brought on, is just as different. It’s not something we have a lot of answers to. It’s frustrating for caregivers who know that autism took away so much, that in many cases, they may never get back. But even if there are still so many questions about autism, the puzzle piece symbol doesn’t seem to fit. No one has to be a piece that fits perfectly with others. We weren’t made that way. One puzzle piece can be missing and then the puzzle isn’t complete. But our kids are not a puzzle to be completed. Maybe they use this because there are questions and things that are missing neurologically? They are still whole people, created by God, with a disorder that has taken something from them.

Different is Perfect

Over the years, we’ve talked to our daughter about her autism. It’s a lot for a child to comprehend, when we ourselves don’t understand it all. But we often explain to her that her brain is just wired a bit differently than others. That her brain works in a different way. Different isn’t bad or less, it’s just different. Yes, the struggle is real, but if we can’t manage to find any blessings in any of it, we’ll miss all the beauty.

Maybe rather than suggesting autism is a puzzle that supposedly fits perfectly as things should, we should refer to it as a mosaic. A mosaic includes all the pieces. No matter their shape, color, or their sometimes jagged edges, a mosaic brings all the pieces together. They are perfectly arranged, just as God sees all his creation. That’s the kind of masterpiece we can all find beauty in.

The Mosaic

On the wall, pieces

They are sharp and jagged and full of wear

But they are

sparkling

His face reflected in each one

The loss of a child

The pain of divorce

The hands that shouldn’t have been . . . there

But all is not lost

For although the pieces fit so unneatly

to Him they are perfectly

arranged

And all come together to create

Beautiful, radiant light

Poem By: Melissa Presser

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