SAN ANTONIO — An unusually-colored pumpkin is changing the trick-or-treating game and raising awareness about autism.
A Louisiana mother’s plea for compassion for her autistic son on Halloween went viral on Facebook, launching a grassroots campaign centered on identifying autistic children and adults with a blue pumpkin bucket.
Alicia Plumer wrote on Facebook that she just wants people with autism to be understood.
“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," she wrote in a social media post. "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."
Plumer said her mission was inspired after a friend gifted her son a blue pumpkin bucket – blue being the color associated with autism – and she read about the teal pumpkin project. She said she initially started to promote blue pumpkin buckets on her neighborhood app, adding that three years ago a neighbor told her son he was “too old” to be trick-or-treating.
In less than a week, her post went viral and was shared hundreds of thousands of times.
Terrie Ruiz, a local mother whose 6-year-old daughter has autism, recently learned of the blue pumpkin mission. She said the more awareness that is raised. the more autistic children and adults can be understood.
Ruiz said people on the autism spectrum don’t have specific features, and at times don’t stand out in a crowd. And, she added, at times their inability to understand leads to those around them thinking they are being rude.
"She is non-verbal, so she doesn't speak and people love to talk to her, but she doesn't respond back," Ruiz said, referring to her daughter. "And when we go to the door she wants to go in the house because she’s rang the doorbell."
She says as autistic children get older, it gets harder for people to understand their condition. Most don’t understand that their mental capacity does not match their age, Ruiz says.
The dark blue pumpkin is not to be confused with the teal pumpkin, which lets trick-or-treaters know that non-edible goodies are available for those with allergies.
Plumer says the blue pumpkin buckets can be found at any local Walmart.
Ruiz, meanwhile, hopes they become more than just a trend so children like Katie can have a spooktacular Halloween.
“It would be nice because people wouldn't think she’s strange, for one, and they would be a little more accommodating with her,” Ruiz said.