Blue Pumpkins: What You Need To Know About Autism On Halloween

Not all kids are capable of saying 'Trick or Treat!'

children trick or treating
Michael / Flickr (CC BY 2.0 Cropped, resized.)

Not all kids are capable of saying 'Trick or Treat!'

This Halloween you may notice that some children will be carrying blue, pumpkin-shaped buckets on their annual trick-or-treating rounds. As Newsweek reports, those buckets signify one (or both) of two things: that the person carrying it is trying to raise awareness about autism, and/or that the person carrying the blue pumpkin is autistic.

Last year, Facebook user and mom of an adult child with autism Alicia Plumer posted a photo of a blue, pumpkin-shaped bucket, similar to the orange ones that other kids use for collecting their candy. Instead, Plumer chose the blue pumpkin, and chose to tell her neighbors about it, because she wanted them to be aware that her son, BJ, may physically be an adult but that he loves Halloween and wants to participate.

“So when you see the blue bucket share a piece of candy. Spread awareness! These precious people are not ‘too big’ to trick or treat.”

Since then, the practice has spread and is not only limited to adults with autism who may want to participate in the trick-or-treating fun.

In general, Halloween can be difficult for children with autism. For example, some may not be able to tolerate wearing a mask due to sensory issues. Others may be dealing with social awareness issues and so may not be willing to ring a doorbell. Still others may have verbal issues and may be unwilling, or unable, to say “trick or treat!” to a stranger — or to anyone at all.

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By carrying a blue bucket, the child — or in some cases, the adult — signifies, in a way that is not shameful or humiliating, that he or she cannot fully participate in the trick-or-treating process the way other children can but that they would still enjoy being given candy.

So this Halloween, if you see a child (or adult) sporting a blue bucket, be aware, have compassion, and don’t judge that person for not wearing a mask or costume, or for not saying “trick or treat!,” or even for being an adult. Instead, understand that the trick or treater may have special needs and toss some candy into the bucket like you would any other person collecting the sweet stuff on Halloween.

By the way, this it not the only new-ish Halloween tradition involving the color blue. Homeowners across the country have also been putting out teal pumpkins, or paper signs bearing an image of a teal pumpkin, noting that children with dietary restrictions appreciate non-food treats such as glow-in-the-dark bracelets or fun stickers.