‘A tremendous day’: B.C. autistic grad gets dream ceremony

Ryan Neufeld, a support teacher at Thomas Haney Secondary School, gives the convocation speech as Masato Wong looks on. (Colleen Flanagan-THE NEWS)
A combination of educational assistants, teachers, family and friends, socially distanced from one another, watch the graduation ceremony for Masato Wong. (Colleen Flanagan-THE NEWS)
Ryan Neufeld hands Masato Wong his high school certificate during a ceremony outside Wong’s home on Thursday. (Colleen Flanagan-THE NEWS)
Masato Wong receives a framed graduation photo. (Colleen Flanagan-THE NEWS)
Masato Wong throws his cap into the air. (Colleen Flanagan-THE NEWS)
Masato Wong throws his cap into the air. (Colleen Flanagan-THE NEWS)

Not a day has gone by within the past two years that Masato Wong has not talked excitedly about his high school graduation.

Masato has autism and becomes especially excited about events that are to take place in the future, explained his support teacher at Thomas Haney Secondary School, Ryan Neufeld.

So, when graduation ceremonies were cancelled this year because of the COVID-19 virus, Neufeld and a team of educational assistants who have worked with Masato over the years, some since elementary school, decided to plan a special celebration and recreate a graduation ceremony at his home.

“He’s been pretty excited for this moment and some of the things that come with it,” said Neufeld, who has been working with the 18-year-old for the last two years.

They would talk, pretty much every day, he said, about the stage, about walking across the stage to receive his certificate, and about graduation, in general.

They have even been practising his regulation strategies, or breathing exercises and different ways to help him stay calm to be able to enjoy his moment of graduation.

READ MORE: Maple Ridge to recognize 2020 grads with light display at Memorial Peace Park and community cheer

Just before noon on Thursday (June 25), Neufeld and his team set up a small stage at the end of Masato’s driveway in Maple Ridge with the national and provincial flags standing at back. A podium was set up to the left of the stage and balloons on the right.

In the cul de sac facing his house, X’s were marked on the road where attendees could put their chairs to watch the ceremony.

About 30 people attended, including about 13 educational assistants, teachers and friends and family.

Then, as Pomp and Circumstance played from a speaker, Masato, in cap and gown, came out of his house followed by his parents.

His older brother, who graduated from Thomas Haney four years ago, watched from the road.

READ MORE: Maple Ridge students turn grad disappointment into kindness

Neufeld delivered the convocation speech before presenting Masato with his graduation certificate.

Then Masato, joined by Neufeld and each educational assistant, did what he had been dreaming of doing for years – he threw his cap into the air.

Colin Wong and Miyoko Kozawa, Masato’s parents, were happy to see their son receive his graduation certificate.

“It [was] a tremendous day that they put all this together, considering the situation,” said his father.

Masato will be returning to Thomas Haney next year for Grade 13 that will function as a transition year into adult life.

Neufeld will be working with him to change his current routines, like walking to different places or learning to catch the bus.

“So we will get him to go from home hopefully to a workplace, so that gets practised,” said Neufeld

“He’s very, very bright. He’s an amazing memorizer. He’s very engaging. He loves to be in our program. He loves to go to work,” added Neufeld.

“Just an awesome kid,” he said.


 

cflanagan@mapleridgenews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: Health Canada recalls 23 hand sanitizers brands

Multiple types of unauthorized industrial-grade ethanol have been found in hand sanitizer products

Young Ucluelet local earns Indigenous Language Revitalization Diploma

Timmy Masso hasn’t entered Grade 12 yet, but he’s already secured a University of Victoria diploma.

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

‘Someone knows something’: a look into Vancouver Island missing persons with interactive map

There are more than three dozen people listed as missing throughout Vancouver Island

21 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in B.C. as virus ‘silently circulates’ in broader community

Health officials urge British Columbians to enjoy summer safely as surge continues

Tough time for tree fruits as some B.C. farm products soar

Province reports record 2019 sales, largely due to cannabis

‘Let’s all do a self-check’: Okanagan mayor reacts to racist vandalism targeting local family

Home of Indo-Canadian family in Summerland was targeted on evening of July 13

Province agrees to multimillion-dollar payout for alleged victims of Kelowna social worker

Robert Riley Saunders is accused of misappropriating funds of children — often Indigenous — in his care

Feds fund safe drug supply pilot program for Cowichan

The opioid overdose crisis continues to be one of the most serious public health crises

B.C. businessman David Sidoo gets 3 months behind bars for college admissions scam

Sidoo was sentenced for hiring someone take the SATs in place of his two sons

PHOTOS: Inside a newly-listed $22M mega-mansion on ALR land in B.C.

The large home, located on ALR land, is one of the last new mansions to legally be built on ALR land

Thousands of dollars in stolen rice found in B.C. warehouse

Police raid seizes $75,000 in ‘commercial scale’ theft case

COVID-19 gives B.C. First Nation rare chance to examine tourism’s impact on grizzly bears

With 40 infrared cameras deployed in Kitasoo-Xai’Xais territory, research will help develop tourism plan with least impact on bears

Most Read