Anthony Ianni is one of the most sought-after motivational speakers and autism advocates in the United States.
At the age of 4 Anthony was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), which is on the Autism Spectrum (ASD). Doctors and specialists told Anthony’s parents that he would barely graduate from high school, would never graduate from college, would never have a shot at being an athlete and would likely live in a group institution with other Autistic kids for his adult life. His family was devastated but pledged they would help Anthony be successful no matter what.
And he is!
Anthony graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in sociology in 2012 and was a winner of various awards during his time as a basketball player. He was a two-time Big Ten Champion, a Big Ten Tournament Champion, and a member of the 2010 Final Four team. He won the 2011 Tim Bograkos Walk On award and the 2012 Unsung Player award. During his senior season at Michigan State University, like any other student, Anthony was at a crossroads, unsure of what he wanted to do with his life after college. It was then that Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley gave him an opportunity that made him realize his story had the power to inspire others. Before his final basketball season had ended, Mr. Calley asked Anthony if he was interested in giving the keynote address at an autism gala in Detroit hosted by the Autism Alliance of Michigan. He delivered a ten-minute speech and received a great reaction and ovation from the crowd. Driving home, he looked at his wife Kelly and said, “I think I found my life’s calling. Other than Temple Grandin, what voice does the autism community have to look to for hope and inspiration?” He knew then that he wanted to be the person whose voice the autism community and others could look to and be inspired by.
Two months after that speech, the Autism Alliance of Michigan hired Anthony to do motivational speaking engagements for the organization. At that time, he was also appointed to the Governor’s Autism Council—a seat he holds to this day. In the fall of 2012, Anthony heard a CNN report about how individuals with autism are the number-one targets for bullies in schools across the country. His own experience with bullies and this startling statistic led him to expand his presentations to include both a motivational and an anti-bullying message. Soon after, Anthony launched his own anti-bullying initiative called The Relentless Tour, sharing his life stories of being bullied because of his autism and height and all the ways he was different to show kids who have been the target of bullies that they’re not alone, and to encourage them to go out and not only be the change, but to make that change in life as well. After working for the Autism Alliance for over two years, Anthony decided that in order to continue his speaking career and reach a larger audience, he needed to make a change. In March of 2015, Anthony was hired by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to continue his work as a motivational speaker in both autism awareness and the fight against bullying. Since making the move to MDCR, the Relentless Tour for Autism and Anti-Bullying has continued to grow, reaching thousands of young people in K-12 schools, colleges and summer camps each year. In the last four years, Anthony has been to over 400 schools and events across the state of Michigan and the country and has spoke to almost 400,000 individuals.
As a speaker, Anthony has won a number of awards for his work. In 2013, he was a finalist for the Detroit Pistons Game Changer award and won the 2014 Epling Agent of Change Award. He was one of Autism Speaks’ “10 Individuals who Inspired in 2014,” and named to the CBS News national list of “Inspiring People on the Autism Spectrum.” He also received the 2015 BOOM Athlete of the Year Award and the 2016 Autism Support of West Shore “You Make a Difference” Award. In his five-year speaking career, Anthony has built relationships with political and civic leaders throughout the state and school administrators from around the country, as well national autism advocates, sports figures, and a long list of media professionals. These relationships have helped Anthony build a large and loyal following and have taken his career and his life story to heights he never could have anticipated. Not only has Anthony spoken to students in hundreds of K-12 schools around Michigan and across the country, he is also regularly asked to speak at colleges and universities, autism conferences and events, and transition conferences as well. Universities that have invited Anthony to speak include Texas A&M, the University of Kansas, Michigan State University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Towson University, Marshall University, Miami of Ohio, Vanderbilt University, Oakland University and Northern Illinois University. He has been the featured speaker at a wide variety of conferences and autism-related events including the Rooney Golf Foundation Luncheon, the Autism Speaks Gamechanger Gala in New York City, the Autism Speaks Chip In for Autism event in Chicago, the Midsouth Autism Conference in Nashville, the University of Central Florida’s CARD (Center for Autism and Related Disabilities) Conference in Orlando, the Texas Transition Conference in Houston, the Milestones Autism Conference in Cleveland, the Autism Society of Iowa Autism Conference, the Love and Autism Conference in San Diego, and the Michigan Autism Conference.
Anthony has pledged his life and career to help those who face similar challenges. He has been invited to tell his story and share his message across the country and has inspired countless individuals to be “Relentless” and achieve their goals and dreams.