High School Student with Autism Receives a Silent Ovation While Earning His Diploma at Graduation
"We shot for the moon, but instead reached the stars," Carmel High School principal Lou Riolo said of the sweet moment.
A New York high school student’s graduation dreams came true with a little unconventional help from his classmates — who showed their support by staying absolutely silent as he crossed the stage to receive his diploma.
Jack Higgins, a Carmel High School student with autism, is extra-sensitive to loud noises, so the school’s principal, Lou Riolo, asked the Class of 2019 and family and friends in attendance to refrain from clapping.
“Unlike many of us, Jack is super sensitive to loud noises,” he said before Jack, who has been a student at the school for eight years, was introduced at the ceremony in June. “I’m going to ask a big favor of everybody today. I would like everyone to not clap, and not cheer. That’s correct. Not clap and not cheer, because it may overstimulate Jack as he comes to the podium to receive his diploma.”
The audience went above and beyond to make Jack feel celebrated.
At first, Jack kept his fingers in his ears to hopefully keep out loud noises, but by the time he had crossed the stage there was no need. Students, faculty and staff waved at Jack as he walked by, and the graduates stood to give him a silent ovation as he walked across the stage with his two brothers and one of his teachers.
“An amazing thing took place at Carmel High School’s graduation,” Riolo said in a statement along with a video of the moment, calling the success “nothing short of a miracle.”
“We shot for the moon, but instead reached the stars,” he added.
“It was important to pull this off,” Riolo told CNN, noting the importance of making each student feel welcome at their graduation day.
“First off for Jack, second for his family who could experience the same event as every other parent/family whose child reaches this milestone was of great importance,” he said. “Lastly to give the opportunity to everyone in that arena a chance to assist in making one young man’s and his family’s graduation dreams a reality.”
Riolo also noted how impressed he was by the audience’s display of compassion that day — something that is a core value to Carmel High School.
“You often have to give people the opportunity to rise to an occasion,” Riolo told the outlet. “I truly believe people have a kind, compassionate soul and they want to help and this was one of those occasions.”