Gel Press Autism Awareness Ambassador
I’m extremely happy to announce that I am the new Autism Awareness Ambassador for GelPress! I love the company, the products and especially the people. When I attended my last trade show I was able to connect with so many GelPress designers and we all agreed that we had found our “tribe”. I had a feeling at that trade show that I might be stepping away from the art industry for a while because I was devoting more and more time to the care and therapies of my grandson, Hunter, who has autism. It was shortly after that show that I decided to spend all my time with Hunter.
For the first 4 years of Hunter’s life I was his primary care giver. I watched him while his parents went to work and school, I ran all his therapies and took him to his doctor appointments. In fact I was the person who received the diagnosis that Hunter was on the Autism Spectrum and that he had a moderate case. Originally, I thought “Okay there is a spectrum and he is on it” and moderate didn’t sound so bad. I didn’t know much (or really anything) about Autism but I immediately immersed myself in learning everything I could as well as what I could personally do to help him. Our home was quickly transformed into a sensory haven for him and focusing on him became more and more of my priority.
When our family and friends learned that Hunter had Autism there was a lot of confusion. Some were afraid, some confused it with Down Syndrome, some said “but he looks so normal”… And these are typical reactions that I still get, especially because Hunter is a very handsome boy. It is difficult for some people to see an attractive “normal looking” boy do some of his stimming behaviors. There has been a fantastic movement of inclusion and awareness from companies like GelPress to help people understand more about those that don’t fit into society’s norms. That is why I’m honored to become their Autism Awareness Ambassador.
The puzzle piece has been associated with Autism Awareness for a very long time as well as the slogan “Until all the pieces fit” when it was originally created in 1963 in the UK. Autism Speaks is an Autism Advocacy group that used the symbol in America and it became associated with Autism here as well. On the Autism Speaks website they say “We’re working to create a kinder, more inclusive world for people with Autism, and we invite you to join us.” They are also the organization that has organized the “Light It Up Blue” campaign where individuals, corporations, and even the White House use blue lights to help spread Autism Awareness.
Some people have mentioned that they feel the puzzle piece has a negative association with Autism. The puzzle piece symbol was created almost 50 years ago and I’m choosing to view it in a positive light and associate it with what I want to. The puzzle piece symbolism doesn’t mean that Hunter is puzzling or that he is missing anything. To me it means that Hunter was the piece that was missing in my life. My sister said it really well, she said "You can't see the puzzle piece as something that highlights what is missing but as the last piece that completes us as humans." Hunter is such a loving, sweet boy and he has taught me so much. Going on this journey with him has made me become more; more understanding, more patient, and more loving. I’m hoping that my involvement with this program will help to spread more awareness as Autism families use the “Puzzle Piece Plate” to share their stories.
Hunter is turning 8 this year and he is just starting to use words to communicate. He mostly will mimic what we say to him but he is beginning to associate words with objects or people. In fact, he recently told me he loved me without me saying it to him first! You have no idea how amazing it made me feel.
This is the layout that I made using the Puzzle Piece plate. The title is Different (not less than).
Each puzzle piece is approximately 4 in. x 4 in. and are made to fit perfectly together so creating a “puzzle pattern” is super easy.
Use separately to make individual puzzle prints or use more than one and fit them together and make one great big puzzle print.