He doesn’t let his autism stop him

Clarence Harmon is a multi-sport athlete who plays water polo, has competed in swimming and the shot put and came within one match last year of advanced to the State Championships in wrestling.

He takes Advanced Placement courses and is in the alternative energy pathway at Porterville High. He also plays the cello.

And during Friday night’s Porterville High football game he was named Homecoming King. Harmon has accomplished all this as someone who’s autistic.

Harmon’s mother, Arlitha, described her son as having autism at the Asperger’s level in which he could be considered high-functioning but with a significant language impairment.

Harmon once stopped speaking but his mother said he and the family worked long and hard to overcome the language impairment. “A lot of time and money,” Arlitha said. 

But it was all worth it Friday night, she said. “Just to see the fruits of that labor. That he realizes he’s in the moment, to experience his own (accomplishments). That makes you feel good as a parent.”

Arlitha’s phone was overtaken with messages on Saturday when people found out Clarence was named as Homecoming King. “The community was very supportive,” she said.

Clarence is a member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes and FCA nominated him for Homecoming King.

Maybe just as gratifying as being named Homecoming King was what happened at the rally on Friday. All of the Homecoming King candidates were asked to dance but Harmon was reluctant to do so.

But with Harmon standing in the gym, students flooded down from the bleachers to be with Harmon. “It was one of the best moments of my life,” Clarence said.

“It was wonderful,” said Arlitha who was at the rally. “That was great to see that kind of support and have everybody to participate.”

Clarence and his mother said being named Homecoming King was the result of being able to take advantage of all the opportunities he’s had at PHS. “I think he’s successful because of the support we have at the school district,” Arlitha said.

Clarence said it was also important for him if he became Homecoming King it was a fair vote so he didn’t vote for himself.

He said the ultimate would be if he makes the State Wrestling Championships this year along with being named Homecoming King. Clarence, who wrestles as a heavyweight, is 6-2, 280 and wears a size 18 shoe.

He plans to major in Financial Engineering which combines the two fields. He said the colleges he’s considering are the University of Alabama and the University of Mississippi where he can go to school to be near family.

Arlitha said the moment when Clarence was named Homecoming King she was “excited, ecstatic, emotional. He’s come a long way.”

She also credited his coaches for his success, adding his coaches make sure to refocus him when he becomes off track.

“The coaches really push him to reach and excel and to do the best that he can,” Arlitha said. “They really motivate him to d his bst at every activity and endeavor. Everybody drives for more and everybody drives him to do his best.”

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