ALPENA, Mich. – From his days as a kindergartner to his freshman year in high school, Anthony Ianni experienced the effects of bullying firsthand. Bullies pointed their fingers at Ianni for living with autism. Now here’s the message this motivational speaker says all schools need to hear.
Ianni was standing in the middle of the gymnasium at Ella White Elementary School on Wednesday. Hundreds of little ears tuned into his opening line.
“Because I have autism, most things I said and did – they were different than everybody else,” Ianni said. “People always want to bully me, tease me, disrespect me because of those things.”
Ianni wanted to make some noise in communities across the state, so he started this autism and bullying awareness advocacy group. It’s the first of its kind in Michigan.
“I wanted to show these kids, not just elementary kids, middle school and high school kids that I’ve been in your shoes before,” the speaker said. “You’re not alone. I know what it’s like.”
Ianni didn’t allow bullies or his disability to set him back from pursuing his life-long dream: basketball.
He said, “It’s my job to come into the schools and say, ‘hey, you know what? That’s not how we do things and this is why.”
Ianni stands as a former Michigan state basketball player. He was the first player with autism for a division one school in NCCA history.
“I’m happy to put 3.5 million people with autism in our country on my back everyday.”
The 6–foot–9 athlete wants nothing more than to inspire kids.
Got a story idea? Contact reporter Elijah Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org