Anthony Ianni is a National Motivational Speaker for the Relentless Tour to eradicate bullying, an initiative of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. Anthony was diagnosed on the spectrum with Pervasive Developmental Disorder at the age of four and struggled with bullying throughout childhood. He rose above the low expectations of doctors and specialists to graduate from Michigan State University and play basketball for Tom Izzo during his time there. He was the first Division 1 Basketball player in NCAA History to be diagnosed with autism. This week Anthony shared some of what he has learned about bullying and autism advocacy.
I recently experienced the anxiety autistics and their parents sometimes face when confronted with law enforcement (albeit on a small scale) due to a lack of autism awareness. It reminded me of my neurotypical privilege in yet another aspect of life.
Many law enforcement agencies are conducting autism awareness training, teaching officers how to identify autistic behaviors and appropriately deescalate potential conflicts.
My son is fascinated with maps and geography and has always wanted to travel to other countries. When he was four, he could draw and label the entire United States as well as several other countries (His drawings have always kept the families behind us in church entertained!)
An Important Addition
“Awareness” is a vague, hackneyed noun that every supporter of any cause in the world touts as their primary advocacy goal.
But what does it mean to be more aware of autism? Or breast cancer, or childhood leukemia, or poverty, or heart disease? Knowing that someone suffers doesn’t mean that much unless people are compelled to act. There must be a secondary agenda beyond awareness.…