Students at a high school in New York offered a silent ovation at a graduation ceremony recently out of respect for a classmate who has sensitivity to noise due to his autism.

Jack Higgins can be seen in video approaching the stage at Carmel High School in Putnam County, N.Y., with his fingers in his ears in anticipation of noise from those in attendance at the graduation ceremony. 

However, Higgins, who has been diagnosed with a severe case of autism that causes him to have an extreme sensitivity to noise, was met with silent claps and muted cheers from his peers as he walked across the stage to accept his diploma.


Lou Riolo, the principal of the school in New York, told CNN he came up the idea to have a silent ovation for Higgins. 

"In our school we have a banner as you enter all of our school buildings # WhatsBestforKids," Riolo told the outlet. "It sounds corny but makes sense. But in this case what was best for Jack?"

"It was important to pull this off," he 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."

After Higgins accepted the diploma, his classmates could be seen rising from their chairs in the video, a gesture Riolo said they “made on their own.”

"They are a class act and superseded expectations. For example them rising to their feet after Jack received his diploma was them,” he said. “It was not preplanned and no one told them to act like that that. They felt compelled to show their support in that way.” 

“But as much as the students rose to the occasion so did Jack,” he continued.

“Since Jack is very limited verbally, how overwhelming was if for him with a large crowd and expectation that it would be loud?” he said. “It was so brave of him to take that walk which must have seemed like forever and he did it with grace, class and strength."