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Beauty Queen With Autism Vies For Miss America Title

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Six months of perfecting her interviewing skills and polishing her comedy routine will be put to the test this week when Alexis Wineman, 18, steps before the judges in her quest to become the first Miss America with autism.

Alexis Wineman

Alexis Wineman, 18, will represent Montana in the Miss America pageant Saturday in Las Vegas. If crowned, she would be the first person with autism to win the title. (Courtesy: The Wineman Family)

The reigning Miss Montana, Wineman arrived in Las Vegas last week for the Miss America pageant with her parents and two sisters — one of them her twin — after a two-and-a-half-day drive from her hometown of Cut Bank, Mont. A week of interviews and competitions kicked off Monday ahead of the televised pageant Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

Wineman, who is one of the pageant’s 53 contestants, is hoping to be among 14 finalists on the telecast. In addition to wowing the judges, she’s also seeking public support in her bid to win the competition. One finalist will automatically be selected through an online vote going on now through Jan. 10.

“She so doesn’t want to let anybody down, and she so wants to make everybody proud,” said Wineman’s mother, Kimberley Butterworth, 50. “Her biggest thing is she wants to come home with no regrets.”

Diagnosed with autism at age 11, Wineman worked throughout high school to overcome challenges associated with the developmental disorder by joining the cheerleading squad, participating in theater and using coping skills like listening to music on her iPod.

In June, Wineman was crowned Miss Montana and she’s spent the last six months traveling the state to speak to some 6,000 students about her message of autism awareness. She’s also been busy learning to walk in heels and practicing Pilates to fit into her bikini for the swimsuit competition.

After making it to Las Vegas this month for the national pageant, Wineman was unavailable for an interview, but her mom said that the opportunity to share her platform — “Normal is Just a Dryer Setting‚ Living with Autism” — has been the most meaningful part of her experience as a beauty queen.

“The response she has received is just amazing. People seem to gravitate to her,” said Butterworth who indicated that her daughter now loves public appearances and plans to continue sharing her platform for years to come whether or not she’s crowned Miss America.

“I can remember her senior year in high school she said to me, ‘I don’t know what my purpose is,’” Butterworth said. “A few months after doing this, I asked her, ‘Do you think you’ve gotten your purpose?’ She said, ‘Yes I have.’”

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Comments (32 Responses)

  1. Shannon Ehlers says:

    WOW, what a beautiful young woman and what an enormous platform – Autism Awareness. My beauty queen is 16 years old, a sophomore in high school and living with Autism. Me and my family will be pulling for you as you are an inspiration to all of us. Autism is a very small part of who you are and your successes in life will define you – hopefully as Miss America but if not, you will continue to shine and set an example for all young women; NOTHING IS OFF THE TABLE and no goal is unattainable if you work hard and stay focused. GOOD LUCK TO YOU ALWAYS!

  2. Tori Zander says:

    You can vote for Alexis Wineman as a finalist for MissAmerica! Please vote

  3. Susan Spenard-Decker says:

    Kudos to you!! I, personally do not care for the word “normal”, unless used in the inanimate object sense, like “a dryer setting”. Who is to say what is normal? I am a pediatric nurse for many years and have cared for kids with varying degrees of “self”. All were very happy and loving kids! I have volunteered with a few toddlers diagnosed with Autism, with play therapy, and it’s great when they crawl into your lap when trust is established. My granddaughter was diagnosed Autistic when she was about 3 1/2 yrs. she had a great preschool special needs teacher for 2yrs., and great speech and OT therapists. You should be proud of your accomplishments. The ‘average ‘ person would find it difficult to do a minuscule Amy of what you’ve done! You have my vote

  4. Rosalie Sauders says:

    GO GIRL,GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Patricia Elaine Chandler says:

    Phenomenal! What joy to read such a positive, motivating and inspiring story! Every family with an autistic female member should read about and watch this Beautiful Young Woman Shine, Grow and Live the Life She was given. GOD Bless Alexis and her family…. I truly hope and pray She WINS!!! YAY 4 AUTISM :)

  6. Virginia Locke says:

    She is a beautiful lady…and has my vote…it takes true guts to go outside the box…she has my vote

  7. christina walsh says:

    Alexis~ Montana is very proud of you! What an accomplishment!!! You are beautiful and inspirational to so many. Proud to have you representing our state! Christina Walsh- Helena, Montana

  8. Karla says:

    Good luck Alexis!!! I have a 4 year old autistic son and you are such an inspiration that with hard work and dedication anything is possible!!! You have my vote!!! I will be cheering you on Saturday night!!

  9. LaVerne says:

    This is wonderful! You are an inspiration to all with ASD to achieve your dreams! I just loved your video! I am reposting on my FB page to get more online votes for you!

  10. Joyce says:

    I think this is amazing. I am amazed everyday what our girls with HFA can do. Mine is a Freshmen in a private Christian college loving life. Go for the stars!!!

  11. Carmen says:

    Thank you for the hope and inspiration. My daughter is a 7-year-old high functioning autistic. So proud of her bravery each day, but the world continues to disappoint her and us with its misunderstanding and abuse. We need stories such as this to keep on keepin’ on!!! Go Alexis! So proud of you and my daughter will be watching and rooting for you.

  12. Angie Dzurinko says:

    We are so happy for you and will be pulling for you on Saturday! My grandson is also Autistic and I believe someday he will be doing great thinds like you! Best wishes!!!!!!!

  13. Traci McCartney says:

    Congratulations! Our daughter is 15 years old and was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 3. She is also a cheerleader at her high school – even making Varsity as a sophomore and has been an honor roll student every semester. She also received her black belt in karate at the age of 13. You (and my daughter) are shining examples for other kids with Autism – if you want something, go for it! It make take a little more work than it would for “typical” kids, but it is possible. We’ll be rooting for you!

  14. Johana says:

    By far, this is an amazing story. I am a high school teacher teaching students with autism, whom I love dearly. I am so thrilled to hear that Alexis’s dreams are unveiling. I salute a prosperous adventure, support, and strength in everything Alexis steps out to do. May God be with her throughout her journey!

  15. Gary Coogle says:

    first of all I would like to wish alexis congradulations..
    It takes a lot of courage to get up in front of all those people.
    i wish you the best of luck. i hope to see you crowned
    Miss America…

  16. mary says:

    my granddaughter has autism she is 6 years old and says a few words but still cant have a conversation with you. her potty training is still not complete either but she is the most loving child i have ever seen. this gives me hope for her future thanks i will vote for you

  17. Jen Moulton says:

    You go girl! I admire your beauty and your tenacity. I have a brother with autism and I would LOVE to see you win the big prize…I voted for you on the Miss America web site. Here’s to you, Alexis, and whether you win the big prize or not, you are still a big winner in this woman’s eyes :)

  18. Catherine Nutting says:

    Good Luck Alexis. You get my vote. Keep up the good work. The world needs this awareness you are providing. You should be admired for all that you have accomplished so far and the work you have set a goal to complete. I will be looking for you when I watch the show. You are a beauty inside and out. You go GIRL!!

  19. Steve Stanley Jr. says:

    I happened to go to a vocational school w/ a then future Miss Ohio 2006 in Melanie Murphy and Mrs. Ohio 2011 known by her married name as Melanie Miller and I got to know her very well over the years. Let’s just say that Mel and her family has just been there for me and she is a true inspiration not only to me, but to everybody she knows! In July 2011, I got the chance to go to a Cleveland Gladiators Football game and Melanie was singing the national anthem and this was the first time i’ve seen her in 5 years. It was probably one of, if not the best nights i’ve had in my life. Melanie sat right next to me the entire game even though she didn’t have to. She just knew what to do. And when I was on the field after the game, I insisted that her Mom would take a picture of me on the field. When she did, I thought I was getting a picture by myself which I wanted to do but then Melanie stopped whatever she was doing and when she saw me getting a picture, she put her hand on my left shoulder and we took the picture together. Her and her family let me stay w/ them until the end. And then when it was time to go, I kinda felt sad because I didn’t wanna see the night end because of the wonderful time they gave me and I got to reconnect w/ a wonderful friend and not to mention, they treated me as family. If I could change 1 thing about that night, it would be me being more sociable w/ her but all in all, I will NEVER forget that night. Then last February, I got to go to her alma mater to watch her perform at an alumni talent show. It was the same as back in July. The 2 nights I went, they were there for me. When I had trouble getting the words out when I was talking to her the 1st night, she whispered to me, “You’re fine!” w/ a big smile. That really touched my heart and that almost put me in tears. And that did not come from a Miss Ohio or Mrs. Ohio, it came from the heart of Melanie Miller That’s how true and sincere Melanie is. She serves as a positive role model for the kids she works with and she shares her love for God as well. God has definitely blessed me w/ a great friend like Mel in my life! :) I have Autism as well and even though I still have my challenges, I overcame a lot of obstacles over the years. You are definitely an inspiration to all, Alexis :) You and I share the same condition and let me just say, i’m glad God made me this way. It doesn’t matter what you are on the outside, it’s what you are in the inside. Even though I may be from Ohio, i’ll definitely be rooting for you! :) You’ve already got my vote. Now go out there and get it done! :)

    Best Wishes,

    Steve Stanley Jr.
    North Olmsted, OH

  20. Jennifer Yount says:

    Such an inspiration!

  21. Linda Phares says:

    God bless you will be pulling for you. My five year old granddaughter has autism though not placed on the spectrum yet. You give me the knowledge that she to one day will do something wonderful with her life and has something special to show the world. I want people to know that autism isn’t a defect just different. With all that is being said that is ill informed on autism and it is a blessing to hear good news.

  22. Monika Walker says:

    You inspired me Miss Alexis.. My 6 year old daughter her name is Alexis too is suffering from Autism. We have moved from Florida to Alaska to get some good benefits here. She is inspecial school and getting OT and speech therapy. We are in the precess of getting her ABA therapy.. We definitely vote for you! Your mission to the children that has autism is priceless. Hope someday my Alexis will wake up and be like you or just to say words Mommy and Daddy it’s a big thing for us! Alexis is a joy of our lives..

  23. Debbi says:

    It will be great to see autism awareness on the national level. I know how hard my 5yr old son has worked to overcome sensory and social issues, so I can appreciate Alexis’ efforts in public speaking. Good luck!!

  24. Gwen says:

    Good for you, Alexis Wineman. Normal IS just a dryer setting.

  25. Clare says:

    Alexis, you are inspiring. We need more people like you! Every group you have spoken to, you have made it a little easier for everyone else on the spectrum. Thank you. I am rooting for you – not only with voting, sharing and emailing, and this weekend, but also for what you can do with your future.

  26. Drew Monroe says:

    Ms. Wineman is absolutely amazing. Her story has brought so much hope to my wife and I, who have a 6 yr old daughter who has been diagnosed with PDP and high functioning Asberger’s Syndrome. We have had so many questions about her future and the opportunities that she will have. I am really glad that Ms. Wineman is speaking out and raising awareness. We wish her the best in the Miss America pageant and her future endeavers.

  27. Kimberly Blythe says:

    Alexis it was great meeting you and your mom when you came to visit Community Gatepath this past fall. I cast my vote for you and am excited for all your hopes and dreams to come true!

  28. Thats what i said says:

    God Bless you and I think you deserve to win. It’s time for our country to get it’s nose out of the stars and see what the real world has to offer them, it’s beautiful down here. I have a great-granddaughter with Dandy-Walker syndrom, I don’t get to see her often but she gets on FB often with cut antic’s

  29. Grace says:

    Autism at 11? have you ever looked into PANDAS/PANS? please do. Good Luck

  30. Denee Killion says:

    Alexis definitely did NOT let anyone down! She was poised, beautiful and confident. As the Aunt of a beautiful little girl with autism I was filled with pride watching her tonight. Congratulations Alexis!!

  31. Bob Cotter says:

    We are delighted to see and pray for a wonderful Miss America contestant. With or without the crown, you are an inspiration to all young people in that the world is there for you. We older people are also inspired and made comfortable that the world will be inherited by leaders like you to continue our efforts to make it a wonderful home to all. God bless and good luck !!!

  32. Chaille Burgtorf says:

    What an inspiration! Not only is your platform extremely important, but it so essential in providing a role model for so many young students, especially young ladies. I agree with Susan Spenard-Decker – everyone has their own normal. Who are we to create a one size fits all. As a Special Education teacher, I see life from so many different perspectives. We teach differentiation because of the individual uniqueness. It is that individual uniqueness that gives each one of us our “normal”. Good luck, Alexis. I have no doubt you will succeed in your quest.

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