'We’re capable of so much': Grad with autism is first to earn WKU special education degree

Louisville native Clay Harville, left, walks with fellow graduates  during the Topper Walk at Western Kentucky University. Harville is the  first to graduate from WKU's autism program with a degree in special  education teaching. (Photo: Alton Strupp/Courier Journal)

Louisville native Clay Harville, left, walks with fellow graduates during the Topper Walk at Western Kentucky University. Harville is the first to graduate from WKU's autism program with a degree in special education teaching. (Photo: Alton Strupp/Courier Journal)

Clay Harville always knew he was different. 

He knew he had a hard time telling what others were feeling and that he would sometimes fiddle his hands or grind his nails. He knew that he went to school with other kids who were different, too.

But it wasn't until he started high school — when he decided to broach the subject with his parents — that he could name the difference:

Autism.

He was 14.

"I had trouble accepting it, to the point where I was really upset with myself," Harville said. "I started looking back on moments and thought, 'Is this why people lose their patience with me?'"

But his parents were there for him. He saw a counselor. He found his groove at the new school. And he realized, he said, that what at first he thought was a weakness, was instead his greatest strength — a lesson he now hopes to teach other kids with autism . . .

Read more by Mandy McLaren at courier-journal.com