Parents of children with autism are helping to ease their trick-or-treaters’ experience this Halloween by giving them blue buckets that symbolize they have autism or are nonverbal.
Halloween can trigger many ways that kids with autism can become overwhelmed. Nonverbal children have difficulty saying “trick or treat” or “thank you,” which some people giving out candy might not understand.
This might lead to outbursts or emotional meltdowns, things parents of children with autism try to avoid at all costs. It also could come in handy if your trick-or-treater is seen as too old to participate.
The idea originated last year when Alicia Plumer’s shared a photo on Facebook of a blue pumpkin candy bucket that her autistic son would use while trick-or-treating. It quickly became an internet sensation and the beginning of a movement. The post from more than a year ago has been shared about 28,000 times.
The movement was inspired by the Teal Pumpkin Project that began in 2014. Teal pumpkins were used to raise awareness for trick-or-treaters with food allergies, as launched by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).
In anticipation of Halloween 2019, Omairis Taylor, the mother of a 3-year-old boy who has autism, adopted Plumer’s idea and gave her neighbors a virtual heads-up that there’s a reason her son may not thank them for the treats. Recently, Taylor shared her own Blue Bucket Autism Awareness post on Facebook.
Families of autistic kids are catching on to the movement in the United States, but advocates from Autism Canada have warned that this practice could create harmful labels.
Wendy Fournier, president of the National Autism Association, told Yahoo Lifestyle that the organization supports the blue Halloween buckets. She described it as a “dignified way” to alert houses that children or young adults might not be able to communicate their gratitude for candy and treats.
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“We believe it could be helpful, especially for the more severely affected kids who are nonverbal and for older kids who function at a lower cognitive age level,” Fournier said. “Some kids can’t say, ‘trick or treat’ or ‘thank you.’ They may not be able to make eye contact, and could also have sensory issues that prevent them from wearing a mask. So for some individuals with autism, there are a lot of challenges to overcome on Halloween, but they just want to have fun like everyone else.”
Peter Burns, CEO of The Arc, a national organization that advocates for people with developmental disabilities, agrees with Fournier.
“Halloween can be a very stimulating experience with costumes, crowds, lights and the unexpected as people go house to house,” Berns told Yahoo Lifestyle. “So finding ways to make the experience more inclusive of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism, is important.”