Alexis Wineman, Miss Montana 2012, will walk the Miss America Pageant runway this Saturday in Las Vegas with a personal message. Titled “Normal is Just a Dryer Setting: Living with Autism“, it is the story of her life struggle with autism.
Diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) including borderline Asperger’s Syndrome at age 11, she underwent two years of therapy including counseling, multiple tests and a faulty diagnosis. Before she understood her condition, she dealt with slower development, teasing, bullying and impatient teachers, with one of them saying, “I don’t get paid enough to handle this kind of behavior.”
As a result, she withdrew from everyone. “I felt so alone growing up, and I still do at times,” she recalls.
At a conference on autism hosted by Montana State University, she spoke of her misery. “Nobody understood what I was going through. I separated myself from my classmates and spent most of my time alone. I stayed quiet to hide my speech problems. Due to these overwhelming and daily struggles, I looked at myself as a punching bag for others, and a burden to my family.”
Once she recognized her situation, she did cheerleading, cross country and speech and drama to help her handle the pressure of public appearances. All of that experience culminated in her winning the Miss Montana 2012 crown, complete with a standup comedy routine that had the audience laughing.
She wants to attend the University of Montana and would like a career in art therapy.
“I hope that through my personal platform, normal is just a dryer setting,” Wineman said. “Now I’m preparing for the big stage, Miss America in Las Vegas. I have this amazing opportunity and plan on doing everything to be prepared, but more importantly, to show the world that being on the spectrum is not a death sentence, but a life adventure.”