Miss Montana Alexis Wineman is going to make history on Saturday night when she steps out on stage at the 2013 Miss America Competition — she’ll be the first contestant with autism to be a part of the pageant.
But her disability isn’t the only thing that separates Wineman from the rest of the girls; she’ll also be the youngest contestant in this year’s beauty pageant considering she is only 18 years old.
Miss Montana explained to Fox News that she was diagnosed with autism when she was 11 and although she was happy finally to realize why she was different, she felt the diagnosis came too late in her life.
“For the longest time I just really wanted to know what was wrong with me,” she said. “When I was finally diagnosed I felt like it came too late.”
Autism varies widely in severity and is often referred to as autism spectrum disorder as a way to encompass all the different types and variations.
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Wineman has a mild form of the disorder and explained to the news site that she struggles communicating with others at times. She admitted to taking things too literally at times and has a hard time understanding popular sayings and catch phrases.
“I try my best to overcome that,” she said of her symptoms. “It’s a part of who I am.”
When speaking in her contestant video for the beauty pageant, Wineman explained that she would like to use the Miss America platform to help spread awareness for autism.
"Most people do not understand what autism is," Wineman said in her finalist video that is posted online. "And one in 88 people having some form of autism -- this understanding is becoming more and more necessary."
That’s why it’s so important for her to win Miss America, she feels.
"We cannot cure what is not a sickness," Miss Montana says in the video. "But we can begin to understand autism, and help those with the condition to unlock the potential that lies within all of us."
Wineman has been receiving support from the autism community and took to her Twitter account to share her gratitude.
“I am just totally overwhelmed by all the love & support I am getting from the special needs community, and all the press. Am I being punked?”
Then she continued in another tweet, “I keep waiting for Ashton Kutcher to rush in and say this was all just a joke. Someone pinch me. Keep thinking of waking up from the dream.”
The 92nd Miss America beauty pageant will be air live on ABC starting at 9/8c from PH Live at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.