October is here, and you know what that means! It’s time to decorate for Halloween.
But did you know not all pumpkins must be orange? Not even close. In fact, a growing number of pumpkins feature bright colors other than orange and have a unique way of catching people’s eye during the Halloween season.
Brightly colored pumpkins are starting all kinds of impactful conversations during the fall months and can lead to positive change and wider acceptance in the community.
So what do blue pumpkins at Halloween mean?
Blue pumpkins represent Autism awareness.
Here are 5 things to know about blue pumpkins at Halloween:
1. Blue pumpkins and blue candy buckets mean the same thing
If you see a trick-or-treater carrying a blue candy bucket, it could mean that the child has been diagnosed with Autism.
This is particularly important to know and understand, because many children with an Autism diagnosis don’t necessarily interact in the same way as their peers. And a blue candy bucket could signal that the child may not be able to say, “Trick or treat!” for example, or “Please” and “Thank you.” And that’s okay.
While it’s good to be kind and understanding with every child who comes to the door for candy, it’s especially important to be gentle with children who may not have the same capacity for conversation. Blue candy buckets can be a helpful tool.
Imagine the impact you could have by placing a blue pumpkin on your front porch as a signal to parents of children with Autism that you are aware of – and are advocating on behalf of – their child.
2. Blue pumpkins started as a social media effort
Like other brightly colored pumpkins at Halloween, blue pumpkins for Autism awareness started by advocates on Facebook.
While it’s unclear who first had the idea for blue pumpkins representing Autism awareness, one of the most influential posts came from a Louisiana-based mom in 2018.
Alicia Plumer wrote the well-known post:
“Trick or Treat….the BLUE BUCKET…if you see someone who appears to be an adult dressed up to trick or treat this year carrying this blue bucket, he’s our son! His name is BJ & he is autistic. While he has the body of a 21-year-old, he loves Halloween. Please help us keep his spirit alive & happy. 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.”
This post was shared 28,000 times and inspired other families to purchase blue buckets for their children with Autism. It also inspired families to start painting blue pumpkins and placing them on the porch.
Blue pumpkins have a great capacity to start conversations that inspire change. Since blue pumpkins are not natural and stand out amongst orange pumpkins, they easily attract attention and result in questions. So whether your child has been diagnosed and you want people to be aware, or you simply want to inspire Autism advocacy, placing a blue pumpkin on your porch may be just the ticket!
3. Blue pumpkins were likely inspired by teal pumpkins
In 2013, the well-known Teal Pumpkin Project launched in response to a growing concern for children with food allergies. When people placed a teal pumpkin on the front porch, it signaled to trick-or-treaters that, in addition to giving away candy, they were also giving away non-food treats that were safe for children with food allergies.
This popular project inspired many other advocates – including Autism advocates – to start thinking outside the box for Halloween.
Shortly after teal pumpkins started popping up on front porches all over America, blue pumpkins started making their debut as well. And parents and advocates for children with Autism started getting on board.
4. Blue pumpkins should signal the need for extra patience
In 2019, mom Omairis Taylor posted this message on Facebook: “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… this holiday is hard enough without any added stress.”
The post was shared 154,000 times, representing a growing need for children with Autism to be seen and understood when trick-or-treating in the community.
And while patience should be extended to all children, the visual indicator of a blue candy bucket should signal that the child may need a little more patience. This is not a bad thing.
Many children with Autism desperately want to participate in the fun festivities of Halloween, but they also experience three specific challenges that should be given extra consideration:
- Dietary restrictions. If you want to make an extra effort for children with Autism, offer non-edible treats that won’t conflict with their diet. Tiny toys or art supplies can be an excellent replacement for high-sugar candy or food with unhelpful textures or tastes.
- Sensory overload. While many children love all the sights and sounds of Halloween, children with Autism may be particularly sensitive to them. What might be hilarious to one child could be terrifying to another. If possible, try to limit scary images, loud sounds, or flashing lights as part of your Halloween display. Look at your decorations through the eyes of a child with Autism. What might pose a threat?
- Verbal interactions. Keep in mind that all children may not be able to communicate in precisely the same way. And this doesn’t mean the child isn’t happy or grateful for the treat that is given. Verbal interactions can be impossible or even overwhelming, depending on the child.
5. Blue pumpkins aren’t just used in the United States
People around the world are starting to implement blue pumpkins into their Halloween decorations.
According to the BBC (the British Broadcasting Corporation), “The blue pumpkins are well known in the USA but they are growing in popularity here too, with some high street stores selling them.”
Facebook pages and grassroots organizations around the world are starting to use and promote blue pumpkins and blue candy buckets as a means of Autism Advocacy.
As Autism Advocacy continues to grow around the world, blue pumpkins and blue candy buckets will become more popular and more acceptable as Halloween decorations. With this, neighborhoods and communities will hopefully become more accepting and accommodating to children who have received an Autism diagnosis.
And parents will be able to breathe a little easier on Halloween night.
In 2020, the CDC reported that 1 in 54 children in the United States has been diagnosed with Autism. Specifically, 1 in 34 boys is diagnosed, and 1 in 144 girls is diagnosed. This means there’s a high likelihood that multiple children who come to your front door on Halloween will have an Autism diagnosis.
Placing a blue pumpkin on your front porch and being mindful of children with blue candy buckets is one simple way to welcome all of these children with kindness and acceptance.
And isn’t this really the point of Halloween?