‘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)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)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)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 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)
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

Just Posted

Bella Coola Valley. (Scott Carrier photo)
Nuxalk Nation closes recreation, sports fisheries at Bella Coola due to COVID-19 concerns

Nobody is supposed to be travelling, said marine use manager Peter Siwallace

Nuxalk Nation members Son Khwona (left) and her daughter, Rhonda Sandoval, help guide Moosemeat & Marmalade co-stars Dan Hayes (from left) and Art Napoleon on Monday, May 10 while foraging in the bush during the filming of season six of the APTN show this week in the Bella Coola Valley. (Olivia Vanderwal photo)
Popular APTN food docuseries filiming in Bella Coola Valley this week

Majority of episodes focus on fishing, foraging, hunting, and visiting small, local, organic farms

Shearwater is located in the Great Bear Rainforest on the West Coast of B.C. (Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association photo)
Heiltsuk Nation buys historic Shearwater Resort and Marina

Chief Marilyn Slett said Heiltsuk Nation has always valued its relationship with the company

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Little but fierce: Cat spotted chasing off coyote by Port Moody police

The black cat is seen jumping out from under a parked car and running the wild animal out of a vacant lot

A restaurant server on White Rock’s Marine Drive serves customers on a roadside patio. Indoor dining and recreational travel bans have been in effect since late March in B.C. (Peace Arch News)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate falls to 411 cases Tuesday

360 people in hospital, up slightly, two more deaths

The Banff National Park entrance is shown in Banff, Alta., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Minister asks Canadians to camp carefully in national parks as season starts

Kitchen shelters in Banff National Park closed, trails on Vancouver Island will only be one-way

Names of those aboard the ship are seen at Komagata Maru monument in downtown Vancouver, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The City of Vancouver has issued an apology for its racist role in denying entry to 376 passengers aboard a ship that was forced to return to India over a century ago. Mayor Kennedy Stewart says discrimination by the city had “cruel effects” on the Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims aboard the Komagata Maru, which arrived in Burrard Inlet on May 23, 1914. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says sorry for city’s role in turning away South Asians in 1914

Kennedy Stewart has declared May 23 as the annual Komagata Maru Day of Remembrance

A crew of WestCoast WILD Adventures employees tackled an onslaught of litter left at the ‘Locks of Love’ fence at Wally Creek on May 2. (Anne-Marie Gosselin photo)
Litter woes consume popular ‘Locks of Love’ fence on B.C.’s Pacific Rim

Popular view spot near Tofino plagued by people hanging masks and other unwanted garbage

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vincent Doumeizel, senior advisor at the United Nations Global Compact on Oceans, as well as director for the Food Programme for the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, pulls up some sugar kelp seaweed off the French coast in April 2020. He was the keynote speaker during the opening ceremony of the inaugural Seaweed Days Festival. (Vincent Doumeizel/Submitted)
Let’s hear it for seaweed: slimy, unsexy and the world’s greatest untapped food source

Experts talks emerging industry’s challenges and potential at Sidney inaugural Seawood Days Festival

Troy Patterson, a Cadboro Bay 15-year-old, got a virtual meeting with B.C.’s environment minister months after he started an online petition calling for construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline to stop. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
B.C. teen’s 23,000-name Coastal GasLink petition gets him an audience with the minister

15-year-old Saanich high school student and George Heyman discussed project for about 30 minutes

Announced Tuesday, May 18 by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, the province added gyms, dance and fitness studios to its list of places where face coverings are mandatory (AP/Steven Senne)
Masks now required at all times inside B.C. gyms, including during workouts

Those who disobey could be subject to a $230 fine

Most Read