Target, stop promoting 'blue pumpkins for autism.'

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The National Autism Association partnered with Target to make a dangerous mistake.  Target is marketing blue pumpkin buckets to represent autism.  It's a dangerous and socially irresponsible project.  However well-meaning, this does significant harm to both the food allergy community and the autism community.  I shop at Target frequently; I love Target, and one reason I like shopping at Target is the commitment to corporate responsibility.  They missed the mark this time and must rectify the mistake.  

There are a number of reasons that this is a bad idea, and they've been discussed at length with Target Corporate last year.  The blue pumpkins have been addressed by Quirky.Stimmy.Cool:  https://www.facebook.com/299960547335784/posts/396119917719846/  https://www.facebook.com/Quirky.Stimmy.Cool/posts/620007795331056/

Autistic, Typing addressed this last year as well: https://www.facebook.com/AutisticTyping/posts/460357574564646 https://www.facebook.com/AutisticTyping/posts/474251059841964

Fierce Autie wrote about this topic last year, too: https://www.fierceautie.com/2019/10/the-blue-pumpkin-and-why-i-will-never.html?m=1

Autistic on Wheels put together a fantastic resource on this that contains links to over a dozen resources on this debunked idea, none of whom support it: https://autistic-on-wheels.blogspot.com/2019/10/resource-blue-pumpkins-for-halloween.html

These posts have been shared thousands of times.  To summarize the main points, please see the below explanations as well as requests for action.  

By promoting 'blue pumpkins for autism', it both confuses the public enough to be dangerous for children with food allergies, reinforces harmful gender stereotypes of autism, and puts vulnerable autistic children at risk (among other points).  This idea co-opts the Teal Pumpkin Project, which is unacceptable.  

When people go trick or treating in the dark, it will be very difficult to distinguish between the colors blue and teal - especially for trick-or-treaters with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  This confusion can be dangerous for children who have anaphylactic food allergies.  It is apparent on social media that there is a lot of confusion.   

There's a popular myth that boys are more likely to be autistic than girls, which is why some non-Autistic people have selected blue to represent autism.  This is untrue; this myth is based on the inequity of girls, nonbinary, and trans people having access to an accurate autism diagnosis.  Research was conducted on white boys, diagnostic tools were based on the research of white boys, and it has led to massive inequities in both diagnosis and services and leads to lifelong trauma.  Autism is not gendered; autism is under-supported in non-boys.  

There are also inequities in diagnosis for BIPOC children; many Black/Indigenous/People of Color do not receive an accurate autism diagnosis early in childhood.  We face delayed diagnosis.  If it becomes the expectation that Autistic trick-or-treaters carry a blue bucket to identify themselves, what happens for those who do not have a diagnosis?  Will neighbors be unkind because they don’t meet the social expectations of trick-or-treating?  

There are intersectional issues to consider; teenage BIPOC with I/DD may be treated as criminals on Halloween, as they’re perceived to be ‘too old’ to trick or treat.  My Black Autistic teen son was stopped by police last Halloween, while walking down the sidewalk in costume.  A blue bucket wouldn’t have prevented police profiling.  

Children with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD), including autism, are at a very high risk of exploitation, abuse, and sexual assault.  Over 90% of girls/women with I/DD will experience sexual assault in her lifetime; 48% will experience sexual assault more than 10 times.  By announcing a child's diagnosis to the broader community, we are placing children at risk by painting a target on their back.  

Further, people have a right to disclose their disabilities at their own discretion; there is a bothersome concept that people with disabilities don't have a right to privacy.  While some disabilities are apparent, some are not apparent.  It is safer for children with I/DD for strangers to believe that they are shy, rather than that they are vulnerable.  

As an Autistic person, I have experienced discrimination after disclosing my disability.  The same thing has happened to my youngest Autistic child; she once disclosed her autism at a preschool birthday party, and was excluded from future social events.  I was told by another parent that she should play with another Autistic kid.  Ostracism is a long-term consequence of disclosure.  

Requests: 

  • Take down the signs referring to Autism by the blue pumpkin buckets and replace with signs that promote the Teal Pumpkin Project exclusively.  
  • Sell pumpkin buckets that say 'trick or treat' in a variety of colors.  Autism is a spectrum.  Be colorful.  AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) is the gold standard of communication for non-speaking Autistics.  Accessible communication is a human right!  
  • Another product option would be waterproof communication cards, which could say “Trick or Treat!  I may not speak, give me something good to eat! Thank you!”
  • Create marketing to promote genuine inclusion, meaning educating customers about different types of communication, and letting customers know that not everyone speaks and that's okay!  A campaign that says 'not every trick or treater can speak, so we created these buckets to help!' is much more inclusive and effective than expecting the general public to understand the symbolism of two similar colors.
  • Promote Autism Acceptance, which is a term that is supported by Autistic people, which really creates a more accepting society for all people.  It’s an opportunity for universal-design.  All people should be included in their communities, without having to have a diagnosis or make a disclosure.  We need the public to not only be aware that autism exists, but that Autistic people should be accepted and valued as members of our communities.  
  • Consult Autistic adults when you are working on autism advocacy.  Not just 'autism parents.' Nothing about us without us has been the refrain from the disability community from day one.  Minnesota, the state of the Target headquarters, has one of the strongest autistic communities in the entire country, and Target would be more helpful by working alongside us, rather than ignoring us in favor of what non-Autistic people support. 


As an Autistic advocate and activist, I am asking you to please throw your full support behind the Teal Pumpkin Project, in an effort to create a safer community for all children. I would very much like to work with you to promote an inclusive and equitable community for everyone. #DisabilitySolidarity #ActuallyAutistic #NoBluePumpkinsChallenge