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Kids Are Alright: Grads Give Silent Ovation To Student With Autism

Jack Higgins practiced for weeks to desensitize himself to the noise. He wasn't prepared for what happened.

This is such a beautiful story. Many people on the autism spectrum have some degree of sensitivity to noise, and it's inspiring to see such a compassionate response from Jack's high school community and classmates. Let's face it, teenagers can be selfish and impulsive. It wouldn't have taken much to mess this up -- but they didn't!

(CNN) At his high school graduation, Jack Higgins approached the stage to receive his diploma with his fingers in his ears to block what he thought would be applause and cheers.

Instead, he was met by silence.

Higgins is a familiar face in the cafeteria, library, hallways and classrooms of Carmel High School, and he's well-known there. He has a severe form of autism and is sensitive to noise. After eight years in the school's program for students with cognitive, learning or behavior challenges, he was ready to graduate on June 20.

His family wanted him to be able to take part in the ceremony, and the school worked with Jack to prepare.

Before calling Higgins to the graduation stage, Riolo asked everyone in attendance at Western Connecticut State University's O'Neill Center to keep quiet and offer only a soft golf clap.

Flanked by his two brothers and school aide Rob Ancona, Higgins approached the stage with his fingers in his ears, but the loud noises he expected after weeks of practice runs with his teacher were nowhere to be heard.
He received a silent standing ovation.

"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 "They are a class act and superseded expectations.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.

Yeah, the kids are alright.


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