Tony Mantor began his journey toward bringing attention to autism when a woman working in speech therapy approached him about making a video featuring autistic people from Nashville to help related non-profits. Mantor had previously developed a video about first responders, and he gave the song he had written for it, “Why Not Me,” an adult contemporary beat to use in the new video.
The autism video was created to bring awareness, acceptance and understanding of the condition. The video led to Mantor becoming the co-host of a podcast with model Jill Nicolini on PBN, heard on all major podcast platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. The podcast is called “Why Not Me The World.”
“This podcast is for the purpose of helping [those who] are … just learning about autism because it is in their family now, [and] for those who can tell their stories of raising children and how their life changed because of it,” said Mantor.
Most of the people being interviewed on the podcast are mothers and fathers who have raised or are raising autistic children, as well as those with autism themselves.
“I want to keep this where people listening can say, ‘I went through that or I am going through that,’ so it can be a resource to help to guide them if needed,” said Mantor. “I want a good diverse guest list that can help others, but I feel the real people telling their real stories can have a defined impact on others.”
Autism is a hard diagnosis. There is no cure and the cause is unknown. There are no scientific tests like brain scans or blood work to confirm the accuracy of a doctor’s diagnosis, which is based on observation of the patient’s communication skills, social interaction abilities, and their activities and interests. The doctor must be familiar with neurodevelopmental disorders.
Key symptoms according to the Autism Society include, persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction and restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviors, interest, or activities.
One in every 36 children can be found to be on the autism spectrum today. It has been on the increase at a significant rate over the last 20 years.
Early diagnosis is the key, as there are better therapies if they can be applied in early childhood. However, while the issues may appear as early as 18 months, most diagnoses do not occur until the child is about four years old.
According to the Project Help Foundation, males are four times as likely to be diagnosed with autism as females, forty percent are non-verbal, those living with autism are eight times more likely to have chronic gastrointestinal issues, a third have seizures, fifty percent have chronic sleep disorder, and fifty percent wander away. Some are highly functional and some with autism will need to be cared for their entire lives.
“There are five major types of autism,” according to integrity.com, “which include Asperger’s syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, Kanner’s syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified.”
Mantor has come to understand that dealing with autism is hard for those living with it and their caretakers.
“I choose guests based on referrals given to me,” said Mantor, “finding those in the autistic community who would fit the format I am pursuing. It is based on real people, telling real stories of autism in their life… I have learned so much from my guests on the way they deal with autism in their life and how it affects all people so differently.”
The response has been very good. “Listen Notes has the podcast ranked in the top 5% globally,” said Mantor. “I have a listenership in 16 countries and over 100 cities worldwide now.”
He plans to keep his podcast active as long as it continues to help others. Shows are scheduled through November.
“[Everyone has] been very grateful, said Mantor, “and [they] say they feel like they have a voice now, and will be heard.”