TULSA, Okla. – Tony Tinervia was diagnosed with autism in 2015 and has a penchant for creating board games.
Tony, 62, was nonverbal until the age of 5, but autism wasn’t quite as understood 50 years ago as it is today.
Growing up, Tony told KJRH he would ask, “Why did God create me?” and as an undiagnosed adult, the challenges persisted.
“I grew up surviving on low-paying jobs,” he said.
According to Autism Speaks, “national data indicates that the vast majority of adults with autism are either unemployed or underemployed, with estimates ranging to as high as 90%.”
Tony told KJRH he spent his teenage years in isolation, spending his time alone creating board and card games in his head.
“I would have been a board game designer if I had help as a child,” Tony said.
He even created his own portfolio filled with his ideas, but he kept it a secret for decades, even from his parents.
But after his diagnosis at the age of 58, Tony decided to revisit his portfolio.
Tony told KJRH he had a revelation, “God meant for me to create Keys to the Capitals.”
Keys to the Capitals is a fun and educational game that gives kids the opportunity to “travel the United States learning the state capitals and flags.”
Tony works with Golden Bell Studios to make his dream a reality, and together they sell the product on Amazon.
Tony has won several awards for his game, but he told KJRH, “I didn’t invent it to get rich.”
He says he did it to prove that someone living with Autism has capabilities to invent and create great things.
Today, Tony lives and cares for his mother in Tulsa. Tony says his parents worried about him for years before he was diagnosed. He described his mother as his “Autism mom superhero.”
According to the Amazon product page, the best part of the startup experience was, “working with Tony who has the most passion and drive we’ve ever seen in a creator. He’s constantly spreading the word about his game and reaching out to families that he thinks would enjoy it. He has a big heart and wanted to give back to the Autism community that has shown him so much support.”
Tony told KJRH his plan is to create more fun and educational games in the future and hopes his successes bring hope to individuals living with autism.