Many now refuse to be associated with the name of Asperger, why?

Many now refuse to be associated with the name of Asperger, why?

Key points:

  1. Rejection of the term “Asperger’s”: Many people are now refusing to be associated with the name of Asperger’s syndrome, the affectionate nickname “Aspie,” and the puzzle piece symbol. This rejection stems from concerns about the condescending nature of the nickname, negative stereotypes associated with the term, and a growing awareness of the problematic history of Hans Asperger, who associated himself with eugenics programs and sent children to their deaths.
  2. Shift to the rainbow infinity symbol: As an alternative to the puzzle piece symbol, the autistic community is embracing the rainbow infinity symbol. This symbol represents acceptance, understanding, and celebration of neurodiversity. It signifies that autism is not a puzzle to be solved or fixed, but an intrinsic part of a person’s identity that should be embraced and accepted.
  3. Inclusiveness and advocacy: The autistic community is advocating for equal rights, recognition, and understanding. They promote inclusiveness, challenge stigma and discrimination, and work towards creating a more tolerant and supportive society. By embracing neurodiversity and supporting the autonomy and self-determination of individuals on the spectrum, we can foster a society that values and celebrates differences.

Someone asked me about this a little while ago; “Why do so many now refuse to be associated with the name of Asperger?”. This is also often accompanied by a shift away from the traditional puzzle piece symbol towards the rainbow infinity. But why do more and more people choose to reject the term of Asperger’s syndrome, it’s affectionate nickname, “Aspie”, and the puzzle piece symbol?

Is it really appropriate to call someone an “Aspie”?

I find that calling a grown adult “Aspie”, as affectionate as this may have been intended, sounds incredibly condescending. This might be because I am a woman and I hate being infantilised but I accept that other’s might view it differently. Furthermore, the fact that many people are now refusing to identify themselves as having Asperger’s Syndrome has led some to question why the name Asperger’s is becoming so unpopular.

The origins of the term Asperger’s

The term “Asperger’s Syndrome” was coined by Austrian paediatrician Dr. Hans Asperger in 1944. Asperger described children who were socially awkward, had difficulty with communication and struggled with socializing with others. He was credited with with being the first person to describe what is now known as Asperger’s Syndrome, or “High-functioning” Autism which was later accepted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1994. Since then, many people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have rejected the term Asperger’s and associated it with negative stereotypes.
Dr Asperger saw autism as a “unique phenomenon”, and suggested that autism has its roots in childhood development.

He identified four distinctive features of autism:

  • Lack of empathy. (Side note: I widely disagree with this. Also, I know many neurotypicals that lacks empathies and it seems that Hans Asperger was one of them.)
  • Difficulties in communication.
  • Obsession with certain topics.
  • Clumsiness.

Dr Asperger’s past

In recent years, Dr Asperger’s past has come under increasing scrutiny. His own narrative that he saved hundreds of children and was opposed to and arrested by the power in place was questioned, investigated and proven to be complete lies. Not only he was part of the system but he greatly benefitted from it. He, at the least, turned a blind eye when his Jewish colleagues were arrested and, as a direct result of these arrestations received an accelerated promotion.

Witnesses’ accounts and paperwork trailed revealed that not only he conducted research in support of eugenics programmes. He also more than willingly conspired with the authorities in identifying “uneducable ” children that he considered a burden to society. He was actively involved in sending hundreds of children to a “sterilisation and euthanasia centre”. But this really was a cruel euphemism for “torture and death factory”. The discovery that he knowingly sent so many children to an horrific death is a very dark part of Dr Asperger’s legacy.

This led to a growing sense of unease among those who are associated with his name or the term “High functioning”. The idea that someone with Autism can only be “high functioning” or “low functioning” overlooks the wide range of abilities and challenges that exist within the Autistic community. This is not only inaccurate but also counterproductive, it suggests that there are “good” and “bad” Autistics. It reinforces stereotypes and can lead to further stigma and discrimination.

People with Autism are more than just a label, and it’s important to recognize the unique challenges that each individual faces. Instead of categorizing people according to their abilities or disabilities, it is more beneficial to focus on their strengths and provide them with support to help them reach their full potential for happiness.

The origin of the puzzle piece symbolises Autism

A puzzle piece is commonly used as symbol to represent autism. It was created in 1963 by Gerald Gasson, artist and parent of a son with Autism. He was looking for a way to raise awareness and support for Autism. The symbol was adopted by the National Autistic Society (NAS) in the UK in the late 1970s and is now one of the primary symbols of Autism awareness around the world.

The puzzle symbol has become synonymous with Autism, representing its complexity and diversity. The interlocking pieces of the puzzle represent how individuals with Autism differ from each other and from neurotypical people. They are also meant to be a reminder that everyone needs to work together to find solutions for those living with Autism.

Despite its good intentions, the puzzle piece symbol on the receiving end of many critics for its negative connotations. The idea that autism is a “puzzle” to be solved implies that it is something to be fixed or cured, and this can be hurtful.

As such, many in the autistic community have been opting to use alternative symbols, such as the rainbow infinity symbol. This symbol represents acceptance and understanding of autism, rather than trying to find a “cure” or “fix” it. It is also inclusive of all genders and identities, sending a message that everyone on the autism spectrum is valid and welcome.

The infinity symbol

The infinity symbol is getting more and more popular and is replacing the puzzle piece. This shift in symbolism has been spurred by the desire to no longer be associated with negative connotations.
The rainbow infinity symbol is more empowering and inclusive, as it can represent various neurological differences in a positive light. It signifies hope, strength, and resilience in the face of autism’s challenges.
This new symbol also acknowledges that autism is an intrinsic part of a person’s identity. It is not something that can be “solved” like a puzzle but should be embraced and accepted.
By using the rainbow infinity symbol, we are making a statement. We no longer tolerate the stigmas formerly associated with autism. It is also signalling to the world that we should be proud of our neurological differences and celebrate them. When the rainbow infinity symbol replaces the puzzle piece, people are claiming their autonomy and asserting their right to self-determination.

Inclusiveness within the autistic community

The autistic community is one of the most inclusive and diverse communities out there. Many People have long been ostracized and misunderstood due to the negative connotations associated with the term Asperger’s and are now refusing to be associated with it.

As there is currently a significant shift in the way society views autism, it is increasingly perceived as an expression of neurodiversity that should be celebrated and embraced, rather than feared and ignored.
The rainbow infinity symbol represents the inclusiveness, understanding, and support of all people on the spectrum.
The autistic community has also become increasingly vocal in its fight for equal rights and recognition. Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) works to improve public perception of autism and provide educational resources.
Ultimately, inclusiveness and acceptance is essential if we are to create a more tolerant and supportive society. Many people with ASD play a huge role in this effort by advocating for themselves. They speak out against stigma, discrimination, and misinformation about autism. By embracing the infinite possibilities of neurodiversity, we can ensure that everyone has an equal chance at success and happiness.


  • “NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity” by Steve Silberman: This book examines the history of autism, challenges conventional thinking about it, and advocates for understanding and acceptance of neurodiversity.
  • “Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism” by Barry M. Prizant: This book offers a compassionate and insightful perspective on autism, challenging stereotypes and highlighting the unique strengths and abilities of individuals on the spectrum.
  • “In a Different Key: The Story of Autism” by John Donvan and Caren Zucker: This comprehensive book explores the history, science, and social impact of autism, shedding light on the controversies and complexities surrounding the disorder.
  • “The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism” by Naoki Higashida: Written by a nonverbal autistic teenager, this book provides a firsthand account of living with autism, offering unique insights into the autistic experience.
  • “Autism in Heels: The Untold Story of a Female Life on the Spectrum” by Jennifer Cook O’Toole: This memoir explores the experiences of a woman diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, challenging stereotypes and providing a female perspective on autism.



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