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Blue Pumpkin Candy Baskets Are a Problem, Not a Solution

2023 brings another Halloween, which means another round of well-meaning social media posts suggesting that it is a wonderful idea to give kids with autism blue pumpkin candy baskets. Unfortunately, it’s far more harmful than helpful, and should not continue.

Alameda Post - a photo of the inside of a store with blue pumpkin buckets next to regular orange pumpkin buckets.There is a graphic of a circle with a slash through the blue pumpkins and a large green checkmark over the orange pumpkins

This practice is promoted by Autism Speaks, an organization that is not run by or endorsed by people on the spectrum and is facilitated by WalMart. Their idea is to visually label those kids on the spectrum who are non-verbal so when you answer the door, you will give them candy without them having to say, “Trick or Treat.”

This is one of those invented solutions to a problem that doesn’t exist, but serves to make some people feel better about themselves without realizing they are driving a wedge between young people on the spectrum and everyone else enjoying Halloween.



Instead of making trick-or-treating about the fun of being a part of Halloween, this practice emphasizes the otherness that children and other people on the spectrum—like me—feel every day. Kids are expected to go out, carrying blue plastic pumpkins that declare their otherness, yet still feel like every other kid out trick-or-treating.

This flawed solution yet again places the onus on those who are different. We are expected to publicly proclaim our desire for inclusion and to do all the work to be included. That’s often a big disappointment for autistic kids, who, for the most part, just want to fit in and take the same part in festivities as everyone else.

It is much more valuable to feel included than to be called out—especially for kids, but really, it matters for everyone. Suggesting children with special needs should have attention called to their differentness is antithetical to the spirit of universal Halloween inclusion.

Why focus unwanted attention on special accommodations for one group? How about if everyone else involved with Halloween made the slightest change to their behavior to be more welcoming and to make trick or treating work for everyone?

The real solution to this problem is such a simple fix. Just give candy to every kid who comes to your door, costumed or not, and whether or not they announce “Trick or Treat” on your command. It’s Halloween, a major event eagerly anticipated every year, which brings kids to your door for candy. Why make them perform? Why make them uncomfortable? What is the difference to you? It’s definitely not the difference of having the scarlet letter of a blue pumpkin while everyone else’s is orange.

Solutions that include everyone equally are not difficult to implement, and the acceptance it conveys helps many younger people on the spectrum to gain confidence and feel less unlike everyone else around them. Please consider this when you hand out candy tonight, and in future years. Make it a Happy Halloween for yourself and your neighbors.

Adam Gillitt is the Publisher of the Alameda Post. Reach him at [email protected]. His writing is collected at AlamedaPost.com/Adam-Gillitt.


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