CRESWELL, Ore. -- During his life, Anthony Ianni overcame many of the stigmas associated with being diagnosed with autism. Now the Michigan State graduate is sharing his success story with children across the nation, hoping to change the perspective on autistic people.
"They said ‘sir, ma’am’ your son has autism so don't expect him to be much or be anything in his life’,” Ianni said, remembering the doctors who diagnosed him with autism at age four.
Psychiatrists told his parents that he would never succeed academically, and that being an athlete was out of the question.
“I ended up becoming the first college basketball player with autism,” Ianni said. "I worked hard at everything. From basketball to my social life. Especially school."
Now a Michigan State University alumnus, the 25-year-old speaks to students nationwide about autism while spreading an anti-bullying message.
Monday he spoke with students at Creswell Middle School about never giving up on your dreams while standing up to bullies – something he says he’s familiar with.
"Part of that reason was because I had autism and I would say and do things different than others. People would make fun of me," Ianni said.
"There are things I have been struggling with a little bit, and it has been kind of rough for me,” said Creswell Middle student Blake Nelson. “So his speech taught me how to get better and get through it.”
After graduation, Ianni set a goal of visiting all 659 schools in Michigan to tour his message of autism and anti-bullying awareness.