‘We’re capable of a lot’: Grad with autism is first to earn WKU unique education diploma

Clay Harville constantly knew he became extraordinary.
He knew he had a tough time telling what others have been feeling and that he might sometimes fiddle his hands or grind his nails. He knew that he went to high school with other children who were one of a kind, too.
But it wasn’t till he started high faculty — whilst he determined to broach the difficulty along with his dad and mom — that he may want to name the difference:
He becomes 14.
“I had a problem accepting it, to the point wherein I become actually dissatisfied with myself,” Harville said. “I started out looking again on moments and notion, ‘Is this why people lose their endurance with me?'”
But his dad and mom had been there for him. He saw a counselor. He discovered his groove at the brand new school. And he found out, he stated, that what before everything the idea became a weak point, turned into as a substitute his best strength — a lesson he now hopes to train other children with autism.
On Saturday, Harville, now 23, has become the first to graduate from Western Kentucky University’s Kelly Autism Program with a degree in fundamental and special training.
“Just because I actually have this,” he said, “it doesn’t mean it’s going to prevent me from doing what I need to do. In truth, it could assist make it better.”
‘We struggled with it’
Harville was first identified with autism at age four.
“We struggled with it at the beginning,” stated his dad, Brad Harville. “We did not just like the idea of putting that diagnosis on him.”
In the years yet to come, Harville would additionally be identified with obsessive-compulsive disease and interest deficit hyperactivity disease.
Born and raised in Louisville, he attended Summit Academy, a non-public college in Middletown for kids with getting to know variations, until the eighth grade.
“We usually had the expectation he changed into going to develop up and have the identical experiences as all of us else,” his father said. “He becomes going to get a driving force’s license. He becomes going to graduate from excessive faculty.”
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At Summit, it has been easy for Harville to make pals.
But that modified while he began at Trinity High School, a Catholic all-boys, university preparatory college. It becomes his first time being surrounded by “neurotypical” children, Harville stated.
He tried to in shape in with the other boys, dancing, rapping and telling vulgar jokes.
“I concept, ‘Well, this is beside the point,'” he recalled. “‘But to those guys, it’s not. So I bet that is the manner I’m going to make buddies.’”
There had been instances he struggled analyzing social cues or couldn’t understand why he had disenchanted a grownup.
But he has become the manager for the faculty’s basketball team and progressively stepped forward his grades. By senior 12 months, he had a 4.Zero GPA, he said.
“I desired to make my mark,” Harville stated.
Some of his Summit buddies had enrolled at Trinity, too. But not all and sundry was having success there, he stated.
“The one component that stood out to me the most, that was sort of a heart-breaker, changed into seeing not lots of my pals do nicely at Trinity, academically and a maximum of all socially,” he stated. “They were either bullied or they were simply left out with the aid of instructors.”
Some of these friends failed to make it to graduation, he said.
“I desire I could have been there for him, for her.”
‘Did this simply show up?’
When he moved right into a Bowling Green dorm within the fall of 2014, Harville failed to but know what he desired to look at.
He was too centered on whether or not he ought to make it on his personal.
“I’ve had a recurring all my life,” he said. “Kids with autism love routines. They don’t like trade.”
The transition to university weighed on his dad and mom, too. His mother left circulate-in day in tears. His dad becomes not able to make eye touch, Harville said.
“As soon as my dad and mom walked out the door, I just sat in my room, watching the ceiling, announcing, ‘Did this simply take place? Did I just significantly depart home? Did I simply severely step into a whole new recurring?’”

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