Graduating seniors gave a silent standing ovation to congratulate their classmate with autism.
Jake Higgins completed a program at Carmel High School, which assists students with learning and behavioral challenges. Higgins’ parents approached Principal Lou Riolo before graduation to discuss a way for Higgins to participate in the 2019 commencement.
Higgins is on the autism spectrum and is sensitive to noise, so Riolo suggested a solution.
“Unlike many of us, Jack is super sensitive to loud noises,” he stated at the ceremony. “So I’m asking that we give Jack his diploma first at the beginning of the ceremony. In order to do that, I’m going to ask a big favor from everybody today.”
Riolo advised the students and audience to not clap, but rather give a “golf clap” as a sign of support.
“You often have to give people the opportunity to rise to an occasion…I truly believe people have a kind, compassionate soul and they want to help and this was one of those occasions,” he later told CNN.
As Higgins walked onto the stage, the graduating class and faculty stood for a silent ovation and surrounded him with smiles and support—a true example of kindness and compassion for a fellow student.