Parent, non-profit collect blue pumpkins for autism awareness: ‘Inclusiveness is what we’re hoping for’

Autism friendly Halloween celebrations marked by blue pumpkins

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Blue pumpkins aren’t just for decoration this Halloween; they serve as a symbol for kids with autism.

Sasha Matthews is working to educate the community before trick-or-treaters head out the door. Matthews has an 11-year-old son, Gavin, who has autism. She says over the past few years, she found herself explaining why her son might not be responding like others.

To help spread the word, Matthews reached out to the non-profit organization, It Takes a Village, to collect pumpkins. Together, they have collected over 300 blue buckets to give away.

Tiffany Simpson is the executive director of the non-profit known for feeding the homeless on Sunday afternoons. Simpson says they also have an initiative called, More Love, Less Violence, and this drive fits right in with spreading positive messages.

“When a family opens the door and they see a child with a blue pumpkin, they know this child may not interact as they’re accustomed to another child interacting. It makes it a more enjoyable experience," Simpson said.

Matthews says this helps families understand they might need to extend compassion to the child standing in front of them with a blue bucket.

“Unlike some other disabilities, you might not be able to tell that a child has autism and that becomes problematic,” Matthews said. “Because then people assume that they’re typical and they’re rude and they have poor behavior. We want people to know that every child who looks typical might not be typical. Inclusiveness is what we’re hoping for.”

Matthews says autism is an invisible disability, so some kids might not say “trick or treat” or “thank you” after getting a piece of candy and that could come off the wrong way. The blue bucket helps communicate the disability and it helps families handing out treats.

She says the blue pumpkin is a symbol to say, "'Hey, I can’t speak’ or ‘Hey, I have trouble socializing.’”

More than half of the buckets are going to the kids at Hope Academy, but plenty will be leftover, so if you know a family with an autistic child, visit It Takes a Village at 11838 Richcroft Ave. or call 225-443-0780.

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