For a lot of kids, Halloween is a time for costumes, parties and most importantly, trick-or-treating. However, for children and young adults with autism or intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD), Halloween can be a stressful and sometimes overwhelming celebration. While all staples of the holiday: scary decorations, flashing lights, unusual costumes and talking with strangers can pose difficult challenges for individuals on the autism spectrum or with other sensory issues. Facing these obstacles in the spirit of Halloween can take the fun out of the day, therefore it’s important for all celebrating All Hollow’s Eve to be mindful of who may be knocking on our door for a sweet and spooky treat.
In hopes of making trick-or-treating more inclusive and enjoyable for children with autism, one mom launched the Blue Bucket initiative
. Through a social media post, she shared the story of her three-year-old son with autism. He is nonverbal, therefore trick-or-treating is a challenge for him, as people tend to wait for the infamous tagline before handing out candy. This year, the Hawaii-based mom said they’re going to try a new strategy to notify candy-givers that her son has a disability. Instead of the traditional orange pumpkin bucket, he will be carrying a blue pumpkin bucket, signifying he may react or communicate differently than other trick-or-treaters.
"This year we will be trying the blue bucket to signify he has autism. Please allow him (or any other person with a blue bucket) to enjoy this day and don't worry I'll still say, 'trick-or-treat' for him," she wrote in her Facebook post
. "This holiday is hard enough without any added stress. Thank you in advance."
Her post circulated quickly, with other parents resonating with her story. The initiative has now become a viral trend, with other parents sharing that they are planning to do the same for their own children with autism. The Blue Bucket message is a great step in creating a welcoming and inclusive Halloween environment for not only children with autism, but all individuals with any kind of I/DD.
If you happen to see a child carrying a blue bucket this year, be patient and allow the child to take or receive the candy in a way that makes them feel comfortable. Although tradition, don’t force anyone to say, “trick or treat,” especially if the child seems hesitant. When in doubt, look to the parent or guardian for guidance.
If you are planning on handing out candy on your door step this Halloween, The Autism Community in Action
notes some other important things to consider:
1. If the individual appears to be too old to be trick-or-treating, they may have a developmental delay issue. Engage with them as you would with anyone who is looking for a Halloween treat!
2. If the child is taking more than one piece of candy or is taking more time to grab one, they might have poor fine motor skills. Be patient and show compassion.
3. If the child is not wearing a costume, they might have a sensory disorder or autism. Don’t question their outfit and skip on asking them where their costume is.
Keep in mind not every ghoul or goblin on your door step may act or communicate the same. Be kind, don’t be quick to judge and express your understanding. Halloween should be a fun and festive celebration for all, especially for children.
Netsmart wishes everyone a safe and Happy Halloween!