I’m Not On Board With Blue Pumpkins For Autistic Kids
Earlier this week, I signed into Facebook and saw this post about blue pumpkins. Omairis Taylor, a mom whose child is autistic and non-verbal, shared that her son would be carrying a blue pumpkin this Halloween to let folks know that he couldn’t say trick or treat. She said she would say it for him. Her hope is that if the blue bucket idea gets popular enough, she won’t feel like she has to explain his situation to every stranger he sees all night long.
Her post has been shared well over 100,000 times. A lot of people think it’s a really great idea.
I can see her perspective. My youngest son is autistic. He speaks, but he may or may not say “trick or treat” at every house we approach. We are already practicing with him. We hope he will do well and enjoy his evening. It seems promising, but the reality is, we just won’t know until we let him try.
Parents like me, whose children have various special needs, want to do anything to make Halloween better for their kids. Heck, we are constantly looking for ways to make EVERY day better for our littles. Omairis Taylor knows the world can be tough on kids who are different. I know her suggestion comes from the hope that a simple blue pumpkin bucket might make just one special day a little easier for her child.
I understand her heart. My own heart breaks when people misunderstand my son. I’d do just about anything to make people less ignorant about the amazingness of my boy.
I totally understand why other parents connect with this idea. But we won’t be carrying a blue pumpkin this year or ever.
A few years ago, Food Allergy Research and Education (also known as FARE) started The Teal Pumpkin Project in an effort to make Halloween safe and fun for kids with food allergies. Each home can put a teal pumpkin on their porch to signify that their house is safe for kids managing food allergies. Some children with food allergies also choose to carry a teal pumpkin bucket. This can indicate that they require a non-food item or safe treat. The official project focuses only on the treat distributing households, not the individual trick-or-treaters.
Every year, we participate. We provide candy for kids who want it AND safe non-food treats for kids who can’t have candy. It’s the least I can do to include kids who wouldn’t otherwise get to enjoy Halloween.
On the surface, this blue pumpkin idea seems similar to The Teal Pumpkin Project. To me, it feels very different.
Teal pumpkins signify that the adults in the home have prepared for kids who cannot have many common Halloween treats. These kids might struggle to enjoy holidays based on eating, and the teal pumpkins encourage us to be kind by including these kids in our holiday preparation.
But the actual children with food allergies have no obligation to identify themselves on Halloween. They can just keep an eye out for teal pumpkins, and choose the non-food treat. Teal pumpkins are one way that the majority can accommodate the needs of a minority without forcing that minority to educate us about their medical history.
If someone wants to stick a blue pumpkin on their porch to signal to me that they’re not going to be an asshole to my kid if he doesn’t say trick-or-treat, I’m into that. Let’s get that project rolling ASAP.
But I hate that anyone, especially a loving mom, even had to think about how to make the world kinder to her child while they are doing something as innocent as trick-or-treating.
Why should non-verbal and autistic children wear their diagnoses out loud just so people can choose to be nice to them?
It’s not fair, and it sucks.
This whole blue pumpkin thing is only necessary because people can be such huge jerks to kids with special needs.
My kids will be carrying regular old buckets like they do every year. When our neighbors answer their doors, they will find a little redheaded velociraptor staring back at them. He will be smiling over his orange bucket, hoping for a piece of candy. Maybe he will say trick or treat. Maybe he won’t. They will know exactly why he is there whether he is able to muster up the phrase or not. Why should he have to go through an uncomfortable song and dance with them as long as he is being polite?
More importantly, why should he have to carry a big blue declaration of his neurodiversity for them to just smile, tell him he’s a big scary dinosaur, and toss him a peanut butter cup or a little glow stick?
If you are participating in Halloween by handing out candy, I think you should just be kind to every kid who politely graces your doorstep. It’s only important for strangers to know my son’s history if they want to pat themselves on the back for being nice to the autistic kid. It isn’t necessary for anyone to know that he’s autistic if their plan is just to be kind and have fun with every kid who rings the bell.
Be nice to all the kids. Give candy to any kid at your door. Don’t demand that they say trick or treat, blue pumpkin or not. You don’t actually need to know why they didn’t say it. Maybe they can’t. They might be shy, and they just don’t want to. Maybe they’ve done it 10 times in a row, but they don’t like your face.
Frankly, it’s none of your business.
Most kids are doing their best. Halloween is A LOT for kids who are a little different. It can be overwhelming. But it’s also the one day a year they can wear a costume and play a role and not have to work so hard to fit into a world that isn’t designed for them.
Don’t make them carry a special bucket and beg for your kindness.
Bottom line: Don’t be a jerk, and we won’t need different color buckets.
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