Why a Snowflake?
In 2014, my son Jacob and I wanted to create a message for the new year that put autism in a positive light. Following the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting that left 27 children dead there had been some negative media regarding autism when it was announce that the shooter, Adam Lanza, possibly had autism.
My son, who is autistic, struggled with this. He felt there was an unfair burden now placed on all autistic people to prove we were in fact empathetic beings and not unstable potential perpetrators of violence.
We also became frustrated with the hijacking of the autism narrative by organizations that saw autistic people as burdens. The puzzle piece quickly became the symbol of autism, another weight upon our shoulders to justify our existence.
Jacob, who was 14 at the time, wanted to help me change the narrative and so we talked about what symbols we liked better to represent us. We chose the snowflake.
Snowflakes are delicate and require special circumstances to be. They fall quietly from the sky and when they accumulate in numbers, they change the landscape to a beautiful wonderland. Though snowflakes can cause burdens and be difficult at times, it is because of snowflakes that we can build snowmen, ski down mountainsides, and watch amazing feats of athletic ability showcased at the Winter Olympics.
In 2017, Spectrum Autism Support in Atlanta displayed a tree decorated with snowflake ornaments at the Festival of Trees. The ornaments were made by Autistic people and featured our story of making the snowflake the new symbol of autism.