Posted in Education and Special Needs, Fun Side of Nick

Blog #56~ Cap and Gown…. or just gown?

Blog #56~ Cap and Gown…. or just gown?

I unfurled the gown and hung it up so the crease marks would begin to loosen.  While the iron warm up I took a look at the cap and tassel and put it on my head.

“Hmmmmmm, ten bucks that’s not going to stay on Nick’s head.”

If you think about it the graduation cap is a silly looking thing.  You try to walk and the tassel is bouncing around, dangling in your face.  The hat never sits firmly on your head.  Who came up with such a dumb looking cap for such a scholarly milestone?  Here are a few facts I pulled off of Wikipedia about the cap and gown:

cap and gown

 Graduation portrait of Linus Pauling wearing a mortarboard, 1922

“The square academic cap, graduate cap, or mortarboard] (because of its similarity in appearance to the hawk used by bricklayers to hold mortar) or Oxford cap, is an item of academic head dress consisting of a horizontal square board fixed upon a skull-cap, with a tassel attached to the center. In the UK and the US, it is commonly referred to the mortarboard is generally believed by scholars to have developed from the biretta, a similar-looking hat worn by Roman Catholic clergy. The biretta itself may have been a development of the Roman pileus quadratus, a type of skullcap with superposed square and tump.”

I wasn’t sure what moment the tissues would be needed that day.  It happened when I got down the stairs holding the freshly pressed gown.  I saw the family gathered in the living room then it hit me. Gulp, eyes welled up with tears.  So much had happened in the last 19 years to get Nick to this day.

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Armed with an icon strip I made early that morning, we dropped Nick off with Miss R, his teacher.

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We waited anxiously for the moment when Nick would be walking in with his senior class.  The processional-*Pomp and Circumstance always gets to me. It’s a powerful song that never ceases to put a lump in my throat, symbolizing pride and valor and victory.  We waited as the classmates fill in the rows of chairs, knowing that with our last name it would be awhile.  Then he appeared…….Big guy Nick!

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The first thing I noticed was that he wasn’t wearing his cap….. shocker, right 🙂  He followed the line compliantly with his bare head and distinctive double cowlicks.  I couldn’t help but see how much shorter he stood next to his peers.  At least we could spot him easily amongst the 600+ students.


I guess we didn’t need to waste that Google search on whether the tassel is worn on the left or right side. 🙂 


The senior reflection address given by the Salutatorian made mention of one thing that caught our attention.  “Metea Valley Class of 2013, we have been pioneers for the last four years.  Together we have survived the ACT’s and the winter fire drills of 2009….”  Looks like Nick indirectly got a shout out. 🙂


Considering the size of his class, the ceremony moved swiftly as the roll came from two sides in rapid fire. Nick made his way up to the podium to accept his diploma.  So far so good!  Wait, not so fast……plop there goes the diploma.  The person presenting the diploma picked it up and handed it back to Nick who proceeded to drop it a second time.  Then, as Nick reached the stairs at the end of the stage, he tossed it to the floor.  By now there was a log jam of students lining up behind him trying to get back to their row of seats.  Well, at least he sat quietly and was appropriate through the rest of the ceremony.  Plus, we dodged the DeKalb Fire Department getting called to the scene. All in all, it was a grand day full of family, love, laughter and wait for it…….

You guessed it, chocolate cake!

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It was a blessing to have my family in from Texas.  Thanks to Babs, my mom, Laura, Scott, Jenna and Jake for making the trek up.  Al’s parents Jim and Theresa were also a part of the celebration.  Milestones such as graduations much like birthdays are benchmarks to pause and look back at the life we have lived.  If you haven’t read Blog #41~Back to the Future, located in the February 2013 archives I would highly recommend you doing so (don’t forget to grab the tissues.)  Having a child who has Down syndrome and autism has been full of challenges.  His obstacles have been enormous.  Hundreds of hours of physical, occupational and speech therapy, 17 IEP meetings along with blood sweat and tears have molded Nick into the young man that he was meant to be.


It’s been one heck of a ride, and I couldn’t be more proud of Big Guy!  That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂


*”Pomp and Circumstance” was composed by Sir Edward Elgar (b. 6/2/1857 d. 2/26/1934). “Pomp and Circumstance” was first performed on October 19, 1901 in Liverpool, England. As the students commence onto the stage they are handed their diplomas and given a handshake. It is at that point the students flip the tassels on their hats.


Teresa is the Author of "A New Course: A Mother's Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism" and the mother of two boys. Her youngest son, Nick is 29 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Teresa's passion is helping others understand and navigate co-occurring Down syndrome and autism. She is a DS-ASD consultant, advocate, speaker, and author. Follow Nick's world on Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice of Autism and on Twitter @tjunnerstall. For more information and media links, visit

4 thoughts on “Blog #56~ Cap and Gown…. or just gown?

  1. Congratulations to Nick and the entire family! The pictures and description of the day were heartwarming and very humorous. Thanks so much for sharing! Good luck with your future endeavors, Nick!

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