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If you see a little goblin marching up to your door this Halloween with a blue bucket, take notice. The blue pumpkin-shaped bucket indicates that the child has autism, and therefore may be non-verbal and unable to say, ‘trick or treat’.
The blue pumpkin idea went viral this month after a mom posted on social media that she wanted to make trick-or-treating a better experience for her 3-year-old son, who is non-verbal and has autism. Last year she had to explain to every house that her son was not going to say “trick-or-treat,” which turned a frightfully fun event into a stress-filled afternoon.
"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. I’ll get my mom candy tax later," she wrote on Facebook. "This holiday is hard enough without any added stress. Thank you in advance."
With the post, she shared a photo of a traditional pumpkin-shaped Halloween candy bucket that was a bright blue. She also added a "P.S." to her Facebook post: "I have made this post public in hopes you will share and get the BLUE BUCKET message out there for Autism Awareness this Halloween."
NorthShore Psychologist Lara Jakobsons agrees that a blue bucket is a great idea to help children with autism, nonverbal learning disabilities, and even young, shy or anxious kids.
“Halloween can be a very stressful holiday for many parents, and very frustrating for their children who are nonverbal. Individuals giving out candy may not understand; however, the blue pumpkin-shaped bucket can more clearly communicate realistic expectations,” she said. “Likewise, it is also helpful for parents of children with nonverbal disabilities to have realistic expectations for the night.”
Role modeling is a great way to help the event go smoothly, said Dr. Jakobsons. Parents of children using a blue bucket can practice it with their child at home prior to trick or treating to help them feel more comfortable, and even reward them for trying to do parts of the trick-or-treating.
The mom’s message was shared 155,000 times and counting. It’s not the first time the blue bucket message took a hold on social media. Last year, a mom asked neighborhoods to recognize the blue bucket her adult son was carrying. “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,” she shared on social media.
“Halloween presents opportunities for different social skills that may be challenging for certain children,” Dr. Jakobsons said. “On all other days of the year, it would not be typical for children to receive candy from strangers. By being proactive and having a plan, parents can help make Halloween more enjoyable and less stressful for their children.”