Owosso, Mich. — After sharing his story about enduring bullying and finding acceptance through sports, Anthony Ianni inspired numerous others dealing with the same condition that he has— autism.
Ianni is a former Michigan State University basketball player who recently shared his story about what most children with autism usually face during their growing years— bullying. In an interview with the Lansing State Journal, Ianni detailed how he chose not to fight bullying with violence.
Candie Page, mother to 14-year-old Matthew Page— who, like Ianni, also has autism— is one of those inspired by the former MSU basketball player’s story. She told:
“Anthony’s story touched me, because I remember being in his parents’ shoes almost 10 years ago and being told, ‘Your child is never going to amount to anything.'”
Like Ianni, Page is also an advocate of anti-bullying.
“Bullying is one of the reasons I try to educate people about autism. And it’s not just those with autism, it’s anybody.”
Page’s son, Matthew, was also a victim of bullying. She added:
“Yeah, Matthew is not like you or me. But don’t bully him or say you’re going to beat him up, because he didn’t ask for this to happen to him. No person with special needs does. But I’m so proud of him for as far as he’s already come in his life.”
Like many children with autism, Matthew, who grew up in Allegan, was not expected to ever be part of a conventional classroom. But just last year, he was gradually integrated to classes with larger population as a preparation for high school.
In the summer, he and his family moved to Owosso. It was there that he found the acceptance Ianni had talked about in his story— through organized sports. Matthew joined the Owosso cross-county team, where, like Ianni, he felt happy and accepted. Owosso cross county coach Chris Bird told:
“It was pretty amazing to see a group of teenagers — over 40 kids, guys and girls both — come together and make him feel accepted. They’d say, ‘Matthew, even we have a tough time running some days.’ I think when he heard that and realized kids who’ve been running 4 to 10 years of their lives were dealing with the same problems, it kind of helped him realize he wasn’t on his own.”
Matthew’s recent individualized education plan ascertains that he will be receiving a high school diploma, rather than simply getting a certificate of completion. His mother hopes that college, marriage, and children will be next in line in Matthew’s future.
Meanwhile, as Ianni continues to share his inspirational story to individuals, families, and communities dealing with autism through various talks in different schools, he is also set to start a new job as a department analyst with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights— a role which he also intends to use in continuing his fight against bullying not just across the county, but around the state.
Contributed by Althea Estrella Violeta
Source: Chris S0lari on the Lansing State Journal: Owosso teen with autism touched by Ianni’s similar story