High school graduations can be rowdy and loud sometimes, especially with all the cheering for individual students as they receive their diplomas. Even when school officials tell the crowd to hold their applause to the very end, those in the audience are usually having none of that, and they will cheer as they see fit.
If you’ve ever been to a graduation before, you know how that goes. And all that noise and clapping and hooting and hollaring worried Barbara Higgins. Her 21-year-old son, Jack, was preparing to graduate from Carmel High School and a lot of noise would have been the worse thing for him at that time.
Because Jack has autism, which can make him extremely sensitive to loud noises. And if there was a lot of yelling going on around him while he was getting his diploma, he might choose instead to race out of the auditorium.
So Barbara thought about it. Then she approached the school’s principal, Lou Riolo, about her concerns just prior to the ceremony. And Lou came up with a quick idea. So just after a speech and just before the normal ceremony began, Lou reminded all of Jack’s classmates that the young man was super sensitive to noise, and he asked everyone in attendance to not clap and not cheer, to either be silent or offer a very quiet golf clap for him. And then, he asked Jack to come forward.
As he crossed the stage to receive his diploma, the entire crowd was extremely silent, and only the slightest of noise could be heard. But aside from that, most all of those in attendance stood in an ovation for Jack.
Many were already aware of his condition, and they wanted him to know that they supported him completely. And as Jack was led out of the auditorium by his two brothers, you could have heard a pin drop.
Says Lou after the ceremony: “The students were amazing. They are a class act and superseded expectations. I truly believe people have a kind, compassionate soul and they want to help and this was one of those occasions.”
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