Zoom Autism Magazine Issue 7 - Page 18

Conner: Did you ever feel bad about what doctors told your parents when you were diagnosed? Anthony: I was more angry than feeling bad because all I could ask myself when I was told the story was why would anyone say this about anyone’s kid? But I’m not upset at the doctors that told my parents all those things because they were just doing their job. However, that doesn’t mean that I forgive them for what they said to my parents. Conner: What did the bullies tell you when you were young at school? Did you ignore them, report them or how did you get through the day? about my own thoughts and opinions in life and NOT anyone else’s. Conner: Why do you like to play basketball so much? Anthony: I love playing basketball. It is something I always had a love and passion for. When I was a kid growing up, I got to watch guys like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Shaq, Allen Iverson (my all-time favorite player), Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, and whenever I would watch those guys play, I wanted to be just like them and play basketball in front of big crowds at some of the most famous arenas in the country. I was able to accomplish that during my years at Michigan State, and it’s an experience that I’ll get to share with my son and grandkids one day. Despite bullies, adversity and numerous personal Anthony: The bullies would always make fun of me and tease me because I was always bigger and taller than everyone else. When I was in first grade, people bullied me because of the way I would say and do things “different” than other people. I tried the best I could to ignore them, but when I couldn’t, I would just walk away and go be with my friends who had my back. So my friends were the ones who got me through those tough days at school. challenges, Anthony worked hard and never gave up. Editor’s Note: At the age of 4, Anthony Ianni was diagnosed with autism. Doctors told Anthony’s parents that he would barely graduate from high school, would never graduate from college or play team sports and most likely would live in a group institution when he was older. But Anthony’s parents knew better and pledged to do whatever they could to give Anthony the tools he needed so that he could be successful … no matter what. Despite bullies, adversity and numerous personal challenges, Anthony worked hard and never gave up. Not only did he earn his Bachelor’s Degree from Michigan State University in Sociology, but also, he is the first known autistic athlete to have played Big 10 basketball. He won two Big Ten Championships, a Big Ten Tournament Title, was the recipient of the 2011 Tim Bograkos Walk-On Award as well as the 2012 Unsung Player Award, and was also a member of the 2010 Final Four team. Anthony now is a part of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and is one of the most sought after anti-bullying motivational speakers, sharing his story with people everywhere and reminding them to “LYD”- Live Your Dreams. We are excited to share Anthony’s exclusive ZOOM interview by Conner Cummings. 18 ZOOM Autism through Many Lenses Conner: How did you manage to stay strong when you were bullied? Anthony: How I managed to stay strong was I had a good support system that kept me up and positive during the tough times. My friends and family were the ones who taught me to worry Conner: How many basketball games have you played? How many were winning games? Anthony: I’m not really sure how many games I have played, but from my elementary school days all the way to my time at MSU, I played in a lot of games. I can tell you that there were a lot of games won during those years. Conner: Learning basketball and then playing in crowds with announcers, cheers and maybe even boos, was it difficult to adjust? How did you do it? Anthony: It wasn’t too difficult to adjust to all of the crowd noise because I always wanted to play in front of big crowds. I always thought it was really cool to have your name called by the announcer when you scored and when the ZOOM Autism through Many Lenses 19