Secondary school students give a silent standing ovation during autistic classmate's graduation

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
The young people gave their fellow student a silent standing ovation. [Photo: Getty]

A group of secondary school student showed consideration for their autistic classmate during their graduation ceremony.

While clapping would normally be the tradition at such celebrations, for Jack Higgins, a student at Carmel High in New York, this would not have been wise.

Higgins has a severe form of autism, a condition which can sometimes make people sensitive to noise.

Loud noises can be “overwhelming, stressful or uncomfortable” for those with autism, according to the NHS website. People with this condition may also “get anxious or upset about unfamiliar situations and social events”.

READ MORE: Autism signs, symptoms and the condition explained

So a loud auditorium filled with hundreds of people clapping could understandably present a problem.

But the school principal took measures to ensure Higgins, a student on the school’s program for students with cognitive, learning or behaviour challenges, would be able to enjoy his graduation ceremony.

"In our school we have a banner as you enter all of our school buildings #WhatsBestforKids," Principal Lou Riolo told CNN.

"It sounds corny but makes sense. But in this case what was best for Jack?”

Riolo wanted to reassure Higgins’ parents, Barbara and Pat, who were concerned about how their son would cope in this challenge environment.

"It was important to pull this off," Riolo said.

"First off for Jack, second for his family who could experience the same event as every other parent/family whose child reaches this milestone was of great importance.

“Lastly to give the opportunity to everyone in that arena a chance to assist in making one young man's and his families graduation dreams a reality."

Riolo’s idea was to ask students to stay quiet and perform a “golf clap” – a deliberately restrained, almost-silent form of clapping – while Higgins walked across the stage to receive his secondary school diploma.

READ MORE: A hearing test at birth aid 'could aid in early diagnosis of autism'

The students did one better. While Higgins arrived on stage with his fingers in his ears to help him cope with the clapping, he was greeted with a silent standing ovation from his classmates.

“The students were amazing," Riolo said.

"They are a class act and superseded expectations.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 that. They felt compelled to show their support in that way. They made that amazing compassionate gesture on their own.”

Earlier this week, one women uncovered the good side of Twitter after asking the community whether they had a Next dress from three years ago that her friend’s autistic daughter could have.