Why You Shouldn’t Participate in the Blue Bucket Trend This Halloween

There seems to be no shortage of well-intentioned neurotypical people who try to help the autistic community however they can. While this is nice enough in theory, the fact that autism is more neurological than it is physical means that it is much more misunderstood by those who are not neurodivergent.

Thus, it becomes all-too-common for non-autistics to inadvertently annoy or even unintentionally hurt the autistic community with actions that they intend to be helpful. This is most definitely true with the blue bucket trend.

Recently, I came across a shared post on Facebook, though I don’t know who the original creator is. The photo depicts a Walmart end-cap full of blue candy buckets shaped like Jack-o’-lanterns. The caption reads, “Blue baskets are meant for kids with autism that cannot communicate with others, so if someone knocks and doesn’t say trick-or-treat, don’t take it as them being rude or weird. They deserve to enjoy Halloween like everyone else.”

I had never heard of this before, but after some further research, I learned that the idea behind this movement is that autistic children should carry blue candy buckets when trick-or-treating to symbolize that they are autistic and may have communication difficulties.

This is meant to signal to the adults handing out candy that a kid holding a blue bucket who does not say “trick-or-treat” is autistic, and that they should still receive candy. The issue with this should be pretty obvious, but let’s keep moving.

According to snopes.com, this trend began in 2018 with a Facebook post by a woman named Alicia Plumer, who came up with the idea to help her 21-year-old autistic son. Although Snopes also states that this is not a widely-recognized trend, it is still circulating on social media nearly three years later.

While the blue bucket concept as a whole could easily be considered problematic, I do not believe it was done carelessly or with malicious intent. However, there are a few issues with it that still make me feel…icky.

The color blue perpetuates the connection to Autism Speaks.

Let’s go ahead and get this one out of the way right now. The fact that the color blue was chosen to represent autism is a direct link to Autism Speaks, an organization that most people in the autistic community vehemently do not support. If you would like to know more about this topic, check out any of these great articles that discuss why Autism Speaks is not so great.

One of their catchphrases is “Light it Up Blue,” in which they encourage people to wear blue on April 2 for Autism Awareness Day. Therefore, the fact that blue symbolizes autism within this trend perpetuates the idea that Autism Speaks is the organization that represents autism as a whole. This is not the case and needs to stop.

Autistic kids probably don’t want to stand out.

Halloween is a day for children of all shapes, sizes, and neurotypes to dress up, pretend to be someone else, and get free sweets. However, if their candy buckets broadcast the very thing that likely makes them feel different from everyone else the other 364 days of the year, that will likely ruin the magic of Halloween.    

I posted the aforementioned photo in an autism subreddit to get some feedback, and many users had thoughts that were similar to my own. One commenter pointed out that carrying a blue bucket could invite bullying, while another stated that as a kid, they would not have wanted to be seen as “special.”

Personally, I know that as a child, all I wanted to do was fade into the background and not stand out. Having to carry a differently colored bucket that signified my differences would have been mortifying.

Neurotypical children may not want to speak up, either.

The idea that some adults will not give candy to kids who do not say “trick-or-treat” is rather abhorrent to me. Years ago, when I was a weird, shy child myself, I absolutely hated speaking to strangers, and having to say the words “trick-or-treat” seemed so arbitrary and embarrassing.

Luckily, I was never refused candy, but I was reprimanded by random adults for not speaking up and for not being as outgoing as my peers. Of course, I found out that I was autistic nearly two decades later, which probably explains why I was the way I was. But my point is that there are undoubtedly neurotypical and undiagnosed autistic children who do not want to say three meaningless words to strangers, and that should be okay without a symbolic candy bucket.

In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think that this trend really has the power to become a detriment to the autistic community. However, it is worth mentioning that if someone encourages you to hand your kid a blue candy bucket this year, just keep in mind that kindness, patience, and understanding should be universal and not just reserved for those who are deemed “different.”

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12 Responses

  1. Also, another problem, especially in the poor light of a dark night, is that a blue bucket could be mistaken for a teal one and I understand those are for children with specific food allergies, so another reason not to have blue buckets, perhaps?

    1. yes. or worse, a teal buckey coudl be mistaken for blue, leadign to allergic kids beingpotentially harmed.

  2. I am against Autism Speaks, obviously, so I understand why not to use blue.

    I would reverse the order of the arguments in this article, however. Even more important than not carrying a blue bucket is not treating kids differently based on the buckets they carry or what they do or do not say.

    One final point. I proudly self-identify as autistic in many situations, but the choice to do so should be mine. If I gave my daughter a blue bucket, I would be projecting my choice onto her.

  3. Well my mind doesn’t go towards any of this and delete this if inappropriate for this message board but giving an Autistic child a different color bucket will make them stand out and what if, just saying what if a pedophile, kidnapper, or some sick ass person knows the meaning behind the bucket? He/she will automatically think the child will not scream, thus bringing no attention to me snatching them behind this bush, to get away with them. I believe no child should be singled out, even by giving them a blue pumpkin. Why not send the message to the ADULTS, if a child comes to your door, respect their silence, excitement, shyness or whatever their issue is and give them some candy!!!!!
    Kids are cruel enough towards another kid when having special needs, there is no need to make them stand out any further.

  4. I am frustrated because I feel like everyone is too darn rigid about things those of us surrounding and supporting an autistic individual are trying and it feels like all you do is point out our mistakes we are sometimes doing the best we can to support the ones we love you’re never going to fix society as a whole so we have to try to adapt somehow if you’re worried about bullying don’t go trick-or-treating in a regular setting go to trunk or treat or somewhere safer than a regular neighborhood or go with friends or bring your dog or something. All critical of us we are trying I’ve experienced it myself where somebody tries to act like a jerk because your kid can’t say thank you they don’t get it so to lessen the reaction if blue bucket helps a little bit stop being so offended by it dang it I’m tired of everybody giving us crap we’re doing the best we can and you gotta think about us too we are the one In the trenches trying to help it feels like a far it’s such a struggle it’s so hard for us we try to attack but we feel like we’re just always bombarded with everything we do wrong give us a break please

    1. Sorry about typos attack was auto corrected don’t know how to fix it. Everybody looking at me as my son falls to the ground and flowers on the floor screaming and crying if a blue bucket helps them realize my son has autism then so be it I need the damn bucket so people don’t look at me like I have three heads with their perfect little children standing in line for the photo booth at the fall festival that I just paid $30 to get into and my son already wants to leave but I need the damn picture because childhood is short and I need memories to it can always be perfect we are trying stop making us feel bad every chance you get we matter too

      1. Did you even READ the article? you want pictures over your own son’s comfort? Because.. childhood is too short? Maybe think about this. Maybe be a good parent first.

        1. Tommy, if you actually wanted them to succeed in parenting their autistic child you would have already gone to them to teach them how to be parents who meet your standards.
          There is an attitude and behaviour problem here in the autistic community, our community, all too readily we criticise, judge, attack, condemn, and do not apply personal initiative and sacrifice to Go Help, to go and apply our will and energy in actions to lift up instead of pull down those who seem to have not achieved equality to our personal ideal.

  5. Would anyone let a non-verbal kid go out alone on Halloween? Why can’t parents or older kids go along and say “Thanks” or “ Please”?
    And if you’re too introverted to say “ Trick or Treat” maybe you need help.

  6. Tysm for this!! Im autistic and i LOVE halloween but this whole weird blue pumpkin thing just rubs me the wrong way and i rlly hate it. a way way WAY better alternative would be to use the color red or a rainbow one (like the infinity symbol or paint one on with nontoxic paint) since those are both actually chosen by autistic people. please be careful and nice everyone ty 🌈♾️

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