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You may see trick-or-treaters with a blue pumpkin on the streets of SLO tonight, here's why

Posted at 7:00 AM, Oct 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-31 10:22:29-04

"Trick or treat" is a seemingly simple proposition that leads to buckets full of candy but it's not so easy for all little monsters and a special color of pumpkin being carried on the Central Coast aims to help kids with autism.

The blue pumpkin indicates the child carrying it has autism. It's a simple reminder for people passing out candy to be patient and kind.

"It's very overwhelming for (the child) when they go out trick-or-treating, the crowd and sounds and all these decorations," Irene Huggins, who works for the Central Coast Autism Spectrum Center.

Through her work with the Center, Huggins helps local families with autistic children.

She knows this night of fun can be tough for kids who are easily overloaded by the sights and sounds of Halloween.

"There are people who still believe -- you didn't say "trick or treat" so I'm going to sit here and wait for you to get that candy," Huggins said. "That moment can be very frustrating and make or break that child's evening."

Because autism is not a physical condition, Huggins said some people lose patients and become frustrated. That's where the blue bucket comes in.

"The blue bucket is to remind people (the child) may be nonverbal, not able to say "trick or treat" and to understand that or they may take a little longer to pick the piece of candy they really want," Huggins said.

The blue bucket is different from the teal porch pumpkin, which signifies allergy safe goodies. Teal pumpkins indicate the home offers non-food items for children with allergies or diabetes.

The blue pumpkin is meant to help strangers understand the child's behavior a bit better.

But some parents fear the atypical pumpkin may do more harm than good.

KSBY asked moms in a San Luis Obispo County Facebook group what they think of the blue pumpkin.

Kimberly Anderson said she has two children with autism but noted they would not be carrying the blue pumpkin.

"If someone is a jerk we just skip their house, plus I am right there with my kids, and my kids shouldn’t need a sign saying they have autism for people to treat them kindly," Anderson wrote. "Be patient with all kids, not just ones who can’t talk. I’m sorry my kid is telling you about their special interest in moldy relish while hand flapping, they are happy. It’s Halloween."

Another woman with an autistic child said the blue pumpkin draws unwanted attention to kids with autism.

"If you'd like your child to just blend in with the crowd, you do not have to do it," Huggins said. "This just gives families a chance that if they need the help, they have that choice."