Famous People with Autism – Anthony Ianni

 “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”  President Theodore Roosevelt.

famous people with autism anthony ianni

No matter who you are, you can make a difference.

No matter what challenges you face, you have gifts, talents, and abilities, and the world is waiting for you to express them.  Whether you are one of the famous people with autism or not, you can make a difference.

Anthony Ianni, recent graduate from Michigan State University, has high functioning autism.

When he was five years old, professionals tested him and told his parents that he would never go to college, never be an athlete, and might live best in a group home as an adult.

Anthony faced painful challenges growing up.

Social Challenges

His acute sense of hearing and smell often made loud environments difficult to cope with.  His mother couldn’t plan a birthday party until he was 10 years old, because before then the noises triggered meltdowns.

Like others with high functioning autism, he struggled, and still struggles with processing social cues and understanding social communication.  He doesn’t understand sarcasm.

Autistics can be  socially vulnerable to bullying, and Anthony was no exception.  He came home one day in first grade with his tongue hurt, because he did what a fifth grader told him – he licked the monkey bars during the winter.

Overcoming Challenges

Anthony persevered despite the challenges.  In high school, he found discovered basketball, and became one of their best players.  He earned a scholarship to play at Garden Valley State.  When he transferred to Michigan State, Coach Izzo noticed his hard work ethic and offered him a scholarship to play on the team.  He didn’t play as a starter during most of his career at Michigan State, but he worked very hard in practice, and became a role model for many on the team.

Today, Anthony works as a motivational speaker to organizations and high schools.  He works with the Autism Alliance of Michigan to raise autism awareness and speaks out against bullying.

Ianni’s Keys to Overcoming Challenges

Hard Work

For kids who struggle in school and they have autism, don’t ever quit or give up on yourself or your school work. I struggled a lot in school whether it was homework, quizzes, or tests I still worked very hard to get my degrees from Okemos High School and Michigan State University. If you need help ask your teachers and they will help you in every way possible. I had more than 50 teachers who taught me throughout my life and I stay in contact with basically every one of them because they mean that much to me and without them I would not be the person that I am today. They are in the schools to help you be successful and always take advantage of that. I know I did and they helped me become very successful. Most importantly though, never ever ever give up in school. If things are hard just remember that there’s always somebody there to help you.


Anthony’s parents supported and believed in him.  They worked to get services for him in school, and they supported his wishes to play basketball and go to college.  At home, they gave him structure and emphasized punctuality.

Accepting Help

In college, Anthony worked closely with the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities on campus for academic support.  Many people are too proud or embarrassed to ask for help.  Anthony wasn’t.

Thoughts for You

Maybe you’ve worked hard, accepted help, and still fallen short of your personal expectations for yourself.

Don’t give up hope.  Be the best person you can within the zone of your particular situation and challenges.  Discover your life purpose.

Success for one person is not the same as success for another person.  If you do what you can, where you are, with what you have, you’re a success in my eyes.  Anthony Ianni hopes to work in sports administration.  It doesn’t look like he’s doing that now, but he’s certainly lighting up the country with his positive message of autism awareness and anti-bullying.

He also may have hoped to start on the team at Michigan State.  He didn’t start, but he worked extremely hard, and created a positive experience he’ll carry with him the rest of his life.

In the same way, you and I may have fallen short of where we expected to be.  Anthony may have expected to be a starter and to be working now in sports administration.  He didn’t and isn’t doing those things now.  But he has developed his speaking skills and is making a difference in the hundreds and thousands of people he talks to about autism.

You and I may get discouraged, down, and depressed.  But in the midst of these feelings, don’t neglect your talents.

For example, I’m so glad so many talented Aspergers writers have started blogs, written books, and recorded videos to help me better understand the autism spectrum.  Their work has helped me better serve my clients and readers.

Thank you, Anthony Ianni, for shining the light of your gifts and inspiring us to do the same.

Anthony Ianni on Facebook

Find Anthony on Twitter

photo credit: U.S. Pacific Fleet via photopin cc

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 I'm Steve Borgman.  I'm a licensed clinical professional counselor and blogger committed to bringing you hope, understanding, and solutions that you can apply to your life immediately.

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