Graduation Crowd Stays Silent For Student With Autism

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One of the big milestones that we will hit in our lives is our high school graduation. It marks a big change in our lives as many of us will go on to college and the beginning of our adult lives.

While many of us who’ve gone through high school graduation can remember receiving our diplomas to the sound of our families cheering loudly for us amid the audience’s applause, there was one high school student who received a different sort of acknowledgment.

When Carmel High School senior, Jack Higgins, graduated, things were done differently on June 20, 2019. That is because Higgins is nonverbal, due to a severe form of autism. For the eight years prior to his graduation, he’d been attending his school’s program for students who have cognitive, learning, or behavior challenges. His parents wanted him to be able to participate in the high school graduation ceremony, however, they worried about what would happen if he became overstimulated in such a celebratory environment.

Thankfully for the Higgins family, their school’s principal was able to offer them the perfect solution. The audience could give Higgins a silent standing ovation.

As Principal Lou Riolo shared, “I ran it past my assistant principal because he would be honest. We will do the National Anthem and then there will be a pause and I will explain what we will do. We are going to be silent and quiet because this is for Jack.”

Riolo shared the silent ovation idea with the 2,200 people who were in attendance at the ceremony. When it came time for Jack to come up on the stage, the principal was more than pleased to hear complete and utter silence.

It was a heartwarming moment shared by Jack and his family with the whole of the Carmel High School community.

Riolo said, “What Jack did by himself, his internal mechanism, that’s the real story. That’s the bravery. It’s just awesome. It was just holy, wow. How could you not get moved? It was a home run for Jack and it was a home run for our kids.”

You can watch the touching video below:

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Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.
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