• NY high school class has 'silent' graduation' so student with autism could receive diploma

    By: Bob D'Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

    Updated:

    A high school student with autism, who is hypersensitive to sound, was able to walk during his graduation ceremony in front of hundreds of people -- and you could have heard a pin drop.

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    Jack Higgins graduated from Carmel High School in New York on June 20, The Examiner of Putnam County reported. The ceremony was held at Western Connecticut State University's O'Neill Center, and Principal Lou Riolo asked students to remain silent when Higgins, who was the first student called to cross the stage, received his diploma, WCBS reported.

    Higgins spent eight years in the school’s specialized PACE program, the television station reported. On graduation day, Higgins was escorted by his two brothers and his school aide and walked slowly across the stage, his hands near his ears, The Examiner reported.

    Students then stood quietly as Higgins left the stage, some doing a silent "golf clap," the newspaper reported.

    “I’ve done this for a long time,” Riolo told The Examiner. "I’ve never seen anything more amazing than this.”

    Higgins' parents were moved by the gesture from Carmel High School's Class of 2019.

    “We were unbelievably moved,” Pat Higgins told The Examiner. “I know myself and my wife were kind of crying leaving the graduation.”

    “I just didn’t expect it to be like that,” Barbara Higgins told the newspaper. “No one made a sound, you could’ve heard a pin drop."

    Jack Higgins will now attend Ability Beyond in Chappaqua, a program for people with disabilities, WCBS reported.

    Graduation day, however, will be something the Higgins family -- and Carmel's students -- will remember for a long time.

    “What ended up happening was a miracle. It was a miracle because of everybody in that auditorium. They all took it upon themselves to make a difference,” Riolo told The Examiner. “We shot for the moon and we hit the stars and that doesn’t always happen with a lot of things in life.”


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