What could be more fun than Halloween? Kids (and adults!) of all ages get to dress up as their favorite animal or superhero and visit their friends and neighbors to collect treats. But for all the fun, having to recite the phrase “trick-or-treat” may turn the holiday into a nightmare for some. One mom’s viral Facebook post hopes to make the holiday more accessible to everyone’s needs, including those on the spectrum.
What Is the Blue Pumpkin?
Omairis Taylor took to Facebook on Oct. 13 to share why her autistic toddler would be making the rounds this Halloween while carrying a blue bucket. Taylor explained her son is nonverbal, and she wanted to make the holiday more accessible for him by using the blue bucket as a signal for those he visits this year that he may not be able to say “trick or treat.”
My son is 3 years old and has autism. He is nonverbal. Last year houses will wait for him to say TRICK OR TREAT in order for him to get a piece of candy and there I go explaining the situation for the next 5 blocks. This year we will be trying the BLUE BUCKET to signify he has autism. Please allow him(or anyone with a BLUE BUCKET) to enjoy this day and don’t worry I’ll still say TRICK OR TREAT for him, ill get my mom candy tax later.
While the color blue is traditionally associated with Autism Speaks, a controversial autism organization largely unsupported by the actually autistic community, it does not appear the initiative started with them. The organization did, however, share a post from a parent whose son used a blue bucket in 2018.
What Is Nonverbal Autism?
According to the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, autism is best described as a neurological variation with characteristics such as sensory sensitivities, different ways of learning, deep interest in specific topics and difficulty with communication and social interaction in a neurotypical setting. Those who are nonverbal have, as Philip Reyes wrote, “another way of being” that is often misunderstood by those who are neurotypical.
Mighty contributor Andrea Thomason, like Taylor, explained why Halloween can be so difficult for her nonverbal son. She emphasized her son has every right to participate like everyone else and deserves to have his neurodiversity honored. As Thomason wrote in her article, “When People Ask Why I Don’t Leave My Son With Autism Home on Halloween“:
Most of the general population doesn’t understand why this would be a triggering holiday. From the costumes choices( or lack there of) to the inability to utter those famous words, ‘Trick or treat!’ to not understanding the concept of why we don’t go directly into someone’s house even through they are giving out treats. People don’t understand the strobe lights or the fog machines put our sensory-sensitive children into a tailspin. I don’t expect them to fully get it. It’s just the way things are. But what I do expect is for people to have some understanding that there are little ghouls and ghosts out there trying to do their best at trick-or-treating.
What to Know If You See a Blue Pumpkin
Taylor’s post quickly took off, garnering more than 135,000 shares on Facebook. This isn’t the first time a mom took to Facebook to share the purpose of the blue bucket for Halloween. In 2018, Alicia Plumer shared a similar message about her autistic son, BJ, and why he would be carrying a blue bucket. Taylor continued the tradition this year. The blue pumpkin also joins the Teal Pumpkin Project, which signifies treats are available for kids who have food allergies or food sensitivities.
If you see a child with a blue candy bucket this Halloween, it means they are autistic or otherwise non verbal. A teal pumpkin at a house means food allergies are an issue. More on the efforts to make Halloween safer and better for everyone, on 6abc pic.twitter.com/fW1IA5n2D9
— Tamala Edwards (@TamEdwards6abc) October 17, 2019
However, not all autism advocacy organizations recommend the blue pumpkin because it further separates autistic children from their peers. “We believe that this practice singles out the child as being different,” Autism Canada said in a statement to CTVNews.ca, adding:
None of the autism communities that we connect with in Canada are recommending the blue bucket for exactly this reason. If a non-verbal child goes trick-or-treating, the parent could put a little label on the costume or hand a card to the homeowner that reads: ‘I don’t speak but I still want to tell you — Trick or Treat? and Thank you!’
Taylor concluded her Facebook post encouraging others to share and support autism acceptance this year (and always) so that all kids can have a great Halloween experience right alongside their peers.
“This holiday is hard enough without any added stress,” Taylor said. “Thank you in advance.”