Halloween can be tough for children who have special needs. Some love it; others don’t; many love it but encounter issues throughout the holiday.

Some with special needs are simply overwhelmed by the excitement of it all. Between the bright colors, the flashy costumes, loud noises, large crowds and even the scary vibes, it can be too much.

Others are nonverbal meaning the standard “trick-or-treat” greeting traditionally said in exchange for candy is not possible.  

You may have seen news reports over the last week about some trying to establish blue jack-o’-lantern candy buckets as a sign a child is autistic. 

Some agree with this and think it’s a great idea while others think it’s not so great.

I’ve read some parents are against it because they don’t want attention to be drawn to the fact their child is special needs. I can see where they’re coming from, but it is crucial to spread the word about special needs children and the fact, well, they require special needs other children do not. 

I’ve always believed having a sister with special needs automatically gives me a duty of spreading awareness and educating others around me who do not know how to act or handle special needs children or those with disabilities. 

There are good intentions behind it and I think it can work if it’s established and well-known. I also think there are other things that can be done instead of or in addition to the blue buckets.

First of all, most children are accompanied by an adult when trick-or-treating. With the world as dangerous as it is today, I fully believe in being by your child’s side while trick-or-treating no matter how old they are. If they have special needs, my belief is children should be accompanied no matter how independent and high-functioning they may be. 

Being by your child’s side and being verbal for him or her while trick-or-treating is a foolproof way of eliminating issues while going from door to door. But many parents will want their special needs children to be able to have their moment at each door without having to step in, and that’s OK too. 

Because of this, I think a sign on the candy bucket that says “I’m nonverbal. Trick-or-treat!” is another great way to communicate to others that a child can’t speak to ask for candy.

Ultimately, I think the blue bucket idea is great but think it’s crucial the word is spread and I’m not sure it’s been established concretely enough for everyone to know what it stands for at this point. That’s why I think along with the blue bucket, parents should do what they believe is best in communicating with candy-givers to help their child.

I think autistic parents should definitely use blue buckets this year if they believe that’s the right thing to do, and maybe next year it will be so well-established everyone knows about it.

Special needs parents pretty much have superpowers and have got this whole trick-or-treating thing under control. However, those who are handing out candy are the ones who need to be aware. If you’re sitting on the porch with a candy bucket next week, keep in mind you will encounter children with special needs and disabilities. 

Know that can mean a lot of things. It can mean a child spending way too long at the candy bowl. It can mean a child not liking what you have to offer. It can mean a child won’t be able to say “trick-or-treat.” If you encounter a girl like my sister — who has Angelman Syndrome — she may grab 20 pieces of candy from the bowl and throw them through the air, arms flailing and giggling. You just never know, and for those who aren’t exposed to special needs children every day, it’s important to keep these things in mind on Halloween.

Keep in mind all disabilities are not visible and it may be hard for you to tell if a child is nonverbal or not. 

If you see a blue bucket, know that child may be autistic. If a child looks too old to be trick-or-treating, realize he or she may have special needs. If a child is not in a costume, know that could be a special needs child who for whatever reason either did not want to wear the costume he or she planned to wear or couldn’t due to other reasons because of their disability. 

My best advice? Be kind, patient, full of Halloween spirit and hand out some candy.

Santana Wood is the managing editor of The Outlook. She can be reached at santana.wood@alexcityoutlook.com