October 25, 2016

Inspiration: noun

  1. an inspiring or animating action or influence: I cannot write poetry without inspiration.
  2. something inspired, as an idea.
  3. a result of inspired activity.
  4. a thing or person that inspires.
  5. Theology :
a. a divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind or soul.
b. the divine quality of the writings or words of a person so influenced.

That, neatly sums up all this humbled Autism Daily Newscast reporter learnt about Anthony Iannis in a frank and humbling interview on a mediocre Monday afternoon.

Anthony Iannis Used with permission.
Anthony Iannis Used with permission.

Anthony Ianni, has proved people wrong all of his life.

From medical professionals who said that he would require an institutionalised education and probably never graduate, when he was diagnosed as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at age 5. News that left his parents in tears. The bullies who tormented him regularly for his height at his high school. He has proved time and time again, that with hard work, a goal to aim for, and family support,  Autism need not be a barrier to living your dreams. In fact he knew nothing of the diagnosis until he was a freshman in High School.


Newly married, Anthony, from East Lansing,  Michigan, not only graduated from Okemos High School, but he became the first athlete on the Autism Spectrum ever to play state Basketball, but his proudest moment came on May the 5th 2012, when he gained his college degree in Sociology.
He chuckled:
“They’d told my parents it was absolutely impossible for a young guy with Autism to get on in the world, let alone become an athlete. I said to myself, ‘you know what? I’m going to get up every day and set myself a goal to be as good at basketball as I can, and maybe one day I would show them.”
He certainly did that with a gusto. Anthony grew up vulnerable. He struggled with language skills, taking things literally, understanding humour, innuendo and sarcasm. His sense of taste and hearing was far more sensitive than the children around him. And he experienced his fair share of physical and emotional bullying.
He recalls one episode:
“A guy in my school I thought was a friend, told me to stick my tongue on a frozen metal monkey bar, and I did. I trusted him. I just stuck to it for a few seconds, and it really hurt. That same guy came to one of my games 15 years later and asked for my autograph.”
Six foot nine Anthony, says that he has been lucky to have such a strong family, but includes his team-mates in that bracket of family. From a young age, his work ethic stood out. He won the Tim Bograkos Walk-On as a junior, and was awarded a scholarship.  As he stated: “I’ve always followed my dad’s words. He always said, ‘the harder you work, the more you earn’, and it’s true!”

Anthony became an inspirational speaker for the Autism Alliance of Michigan recently and works closely with Autistic children, their friends, and teachers in the  transitioning process  between different stages in school. He said:

“For any child, the transitioning process is really tough. It’s all change, and having Autism just makes it doubly hard. My job is about education, and trying to reach something in every kid, even those who bully. I really hope that by speaking to them and telling them my story, how tough things can be, that I can open their eyes.

I want kids to be able to live their dreams, and judging from feedback I’ve had at my sessions from letters I get afterwards from kids who have been bullied, from bullies themselves, even from parents and teachers, I really feel like I’m helping them change their views.”

He beams:

“We have a really exciting year ahead of us. I want to get rid of bullying from schools once and for all, and I hope that my motto of motivation, hard work and support, and doing what we have planned in the near future, which has never been done before in the USA, will once and for all get rid of bullying.”

If that isn’t inspiration, this journalist certainly doesn’t know what is.

About the author 

Shân Ellis

Shân Ellis, is a qualified journalist with five years experience of writing features, blogging and working on a regional newspaper. Prior to working as a journalist, she was a ghost writer for top publishers and was closely involved in the editing and development of book series. Shân has a degree in the sciences, and 5 A levels. She lives in the UK and is the mother of an autistic child.

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