By Richard Burnett
He spent the first years of his childhood in silence, as doctors and his parents began to think he might never speak. But at age four, Antonio Myers defied the odds by saying his first words. Since then, the words have flowed without ceasing.
And what a story he has to tell.
Today, Myers, 28, shares the saga of overcoming childhood sexual, physical, and emotional abuse that permeated his early years after being diagnosed with autism. As a disability rights advocate, he tells his story through community speeches, podcasts, livestreams, and other available channels.
Most recently, the Beacon College graduate put his life story in writing: His first book, “A Grandmother’s Unconditional Love,” was published in October by Royal Press Publishing Co. He dedicated the autobiography to his grandmother, the late Clara L. Brewer, who played a central role in his healing.
“God allowed me to survive all of the mental, physical, and sexual abuse,” he writes. “My beautiful, loving, wise grandmother was always there for me. I miss her so much.”
Myers’ book takes readers through the dark period of his youth growing up in Washington, D.C., where he suffered repeated sexual abuse by an extended family member. By the time his parents found out and intervened, he was severely traumatized and his autism worsened.
Despite the trauma, Myers held on to faith and flourished in school, aided by teachers, counselors, and experts who helped him. His parents sent him to private schools tailored to students with special needs, where his grades soared. In high school, he finished top of his class as valedictorian of Chelsea School, the first school in the Washington D.C. area designed for students with learning differences.
That background made Beacon a natural fit for Myers, who graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in human services and a minor in psychology. He was a member of the Gamma Beta Phi Honor Society, a national organization that emphasizes citizenship, service, and academic achievement.
“The first thing you’d notice about Antonio as a student is what a polite, respectful, well-grounded young man he was,” said Dr. Rick Perrone, chair of the department of human services & psychology. “He carried himself with a quiet confidence and looked at things in a very level way. He was very mature for his age and was always the first one to step up and help others.”
Myers credits the Beacon experience for contributing significantly to his growth and healing – through supportive faculty, courses, and counseling resources. He joined every life skills club available through the college’s counseling center. “It kept me sane through the years, as I rediscovered myself as a person who is in tune with knowledge,” he said.
Since graduation, Myers has done clerical work for several federal agencies and marketing and volunteer work for nonprofits. He has also served on the Washington D.C. Rehabilitation Council and St. John’s Community Services Board.
Since just before the pandemic hit, however, he has been essentially unemployed, as companies appear more hesitant than ever to hire people with autism and other disabilities, he said. That led him to take matters into his own hands as far as making a living as a writer and social media entrepreneur. He landed a book publishing deal for his autobiography, is negotiating a second book deal with another publisher, hosts a daily podcast, and does speaking engagements throughout the community to advocate for disability rights.
Myers hopes his book will encourage others who have suffered abuse to come forward and receive help:
“I’m telling my story to let you know that you are not alone,” he writes. “There is always help available. There is always hope. I’m a survivor of sexual abuse, assault, and bullying. I want to give you hope by sharing my story and help you share your story as well. Don’t be afraid. Pray and ask God to give you peace and help you to heal emotionally. Get therapy so you can heal emotionally and live your life with passion, power and purpose.”