Jack Higgins Diploma

New York high school grad with autism honoured with ‘silent ovation’!


New York, United States of America – Jack Higgins has a severe form of autism and is sensitive to noise. His parents wanted him to participate in his high school graduation ceremony, but there were concerns that he would be overwhelmed sitting for hours in a large auditorium surrounded by hundreds of people.

Students barely touched their palms together in largely inaudible claps with hushed enthusiasm for their classmate Jack Higgins, who held his fingers to his ears as he walked on stage to accept his diploma from Carmel High School in Putnam County, N.Y., anticipating raucous cheers.

Instead, his classmates stood quietly and allowed him to enjoy his moment in silence.

The High School principal took to the stage and told the students about Jack and harped on one of their school mottos: Compassion. He told them how much of an asset Jack has been to his class and the Carmel High School community.

He then asked the students to do something special.

“I’m going to ask a big favour of everybody today. I would like for everybody not to clap and not cheer. That’s correct. Not clap, and not cheer,” Lou Riolo said.

Riolo then called Jack Higgins’s name to get his diploma, and the crowd fell silent. When Higgins finally reached the stage to receive his diploma, the student body did something that wasn’t previously asked of them; they rose to their feet.

“I’ve been an educator for 31 years, and I’ve seen a lot of amazing things,” Riolo said.

“The students were amazing. They are a class act and superseded expectations. For example, them rising to their feet after Jack received his diploma was them. It was not preplanned and no one told them to act like that. They felt compelled to show their support in that way. They made that amazing compassionate gesture on their own.” 

Watch the emotional clip below:

Sources: Carmel High School | Raney Day Media 
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