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Beauty Queen With Autism Makes Miss America History

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She didn’t walk away with the crown, but Alexis Wineman knows she topped the American public’s list for Miss America.

Alexis Wineman

Alexis Wineman, 18, the first Miss America contestant with autism, won an online vote to be selected as “America’s Choice.” (Miss America Organization)

Wineman, an 18-year-old from Cut Bank, Mont., made history this weekend as the first person with autism to compete in the 92-year-old beauty pageant. Though she did not become Miss America, Wineman was chosen as “America’s Choice” after beating out the other 52 contestants in an online vote that took place in the weeks leading up to the event.

Nearly 200,000 votes were cast, and the win –- announced during the live telecast of the pageant Saturday night on ABC — secured the reigning Miss Montana one of 16 spots in the semifinals.

“I didn’t know until they announced it to everyone,” Wineman said, calling the popular vote win “unreal.”

“I felt like I was America’s Miss America,” Wineman said during her long drive back from the pageant in Las Vegas to her home in Cut Bank.

Not only did Wineman impress the public, but she made her mark in Las Vegas among a host of impressive ladies, according to Art McMaster, president and CEO of the Miss America Organization.

“It just seemed that anyone Alexis came into contact with just fell in love with her,” he said. “She was the talk of Las Vegas and she really is a special young lady.”

The chance to be on television was a definite highlight, Wineman said, as was the opportunity to make so many new friends during the competition. But what brought the most joy to Wineman while competing for the Miss America crown was the chance to share her story, and through that, to open people’s eyes to what is possible.

“I became an advocate for the special needs community,” said Wineman who was diagnosed with autism at age 11 and is using her position as Miss Montana to increase awareness of the developmental disorder. “I showed that you can become something great if you work hard to get there.”

Though the big day is over, Wineman won’t be settling down anytime soon, with speaking engagements lined up until her reign as Miss Montana comes to an end in June.

But first she needs a little downtime.

“I need to put all the glitter and pretty beauty stuff behind me for a couple of days,” Wineman said. “I’m going to go downstairs at my house and play on my PlayStation 2.”

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Comments (16 Responses)

  1. Misty says:

    Aspergers\autism is not a disorder, and is only considered a disability in society’s terms.
    We can DO everything and anything..just differently. Im glad she’s made her mark, but the seperation that everyone keeps publicizing only makes us seem “less” instead of just different.

  2. Lenny Schafer says:

    One should not be mislead by Ms. Wineman’s pose and attractive countenance. Autism is indeed a disorder and a disability and that still puts her at serious risk for her well being. Without supplemental care and assistance from society, a person with autism is at risk for their deficient cognitive and social communicative skills and would likely perish without it. This is something more than being “just different.” Autism is a disability and it does not serve anyone with autism, or their families, for it to be trivialized as less so. Autism is just the disability. Autism is not the person.

  3. John Best says:

    This woman does not have autism. She has Asperger’s. By definition, autism can only be diagnosed before age 3. That’s because it’s such a severe disability that it could never be missed. Anyone diagnosed at age 11 is definitely not autistic. Autism is an absolute horror show and nobody with autism acts even remotely similar to this woman.

  4. Gloria Doty says:

    The word, autism, is a huge umbrells which covers many types and severities of the diagnosis. My daughter is 29 years old. She was diagnosed as autistic when she was in third grade. Two years ago, the Asperger’s was added to her diagnosis. Due to the varying degrees, it is not always diagnosed before age 3 (especially in 1984).

  5. Kemmi says:

    @John Best, Asperger’s IS on the autism spectrum and thus Ms. Wineman qualifies as being “autistic”. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age 52! It is a form of autism and many people are diagnosed as adults, as AS did not become a standardized diagnosis until the 1990′s.

  6. annacornwall says:

    Autism is a spectrum disorder in which there are 5 types that are under the umbrella & Aspergers is one of them. The other 4 are :
    Pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
    Autistic disorder
    Rett syndrome
    Childhood disintegrative disorder. It is very typical to be dx’d with AS in later years, even well into adulthood. And not all people with autism are cognitively impaired, as sometimes there are comorbities that affect cognitive thinking, such as mental retardation,Prader Willie, etc. Other disorders such as ADD, Executive Functioning Disorder or Sensory defensiveness is often seen is ppl wth autism.When there is a combination off these disorders, then the person is more impaired then just a person with autism or Asperger’s I voted for her because she is beautiful & talented but truthfully had I not know she had AS i oprobably never would’ve voted at all. I thought YES! Representation in the mainstream. Finally! Many ppl think autism= mental retardation & it doesn’t and representation by Miss Wineman proved to the world that it clearly doesn’t and even if a few ppl looked up autism/AS & learned from her then that’s just the icing on the cake.

  7. Vikki Tuck says:

    Thank you Anna. Well defined, along with many others individuals commenting that are on the spectrum. Aspergers is on the spectrum and many are extremely high functioning, that is why there is a spectrum to define from. Ms Wineman seems to be beautiful on the inside as very as very beautiful on the outside and I am overjoyed at her ability to overcome many obstacles. It appears to has an excellent support system—family, friends, school and community. I work with families that struggle day to day with their children–some very low functioning and need an IEP with an array of services, while others need only low degree of accommodations. However, autism is defined as ASD–Autism Spectrum Disorder and to hitchhike on what others have stated, doesn’t define the person, only helps shape the unique human being they are or to become.

  8. Donna Wood says:

    I’m in Australia and only found information on Alex online a week ago. Am so proud of Alex and America – she really deserves to be America’s sweetheart. My 36 year old son with Asperger’s thinks she is the most beautiful of all the girls. Congratulations to Alex, her family and supporters from Down Under.

  9. mark storch says:

    I am vice-president of The Hudson Valley branch of ASA and have a 36 yr old daughter who is on the other end of the autism spectrum. I’m beyond proud of her accomplishment but that’s a whole other story.
    Does anybody have an idea as to how we can get in touch with Alexis for a speaking engagement?

  10. psyjohn says:

    @John Best, Autism must be present before age 3, but the diagnosis can be made at a later age. In my practice I have seen a number of individuals diagnosed with autism at ages between 3 and 12. In fact, it is still tragically rare for a child to receive the diagnosis before age 3.

  11. Nicola says:

    How is it that a light, positive story receives so many negative comments? I am not in denial about the reality of Autism, trust me! But if the media only ever shows the “real” stories about Autism, what will our teens and pre-teens with Autism have to aspire to? I know we have to promote awareness of the difficulties those with Autism and their families face, so that more support and funding can become available. But, those with Autism suffer from such a varied range of abilities and difficulties, shouldn’t media interest in Autism reflect this??
    People with Autism are from all walks of life; we complain about the bad publicity a certain event at a school brought with it recently, but then we complain about the inaccuracy of this article???…

  12. Terry Keeney says:

    God Bless Miss Wineman for being a good role model for others with Autism!
    May God continue to bless her efforts!

  13. Clare Russell says:

    I’m a special education teacher, and I have worked with the low end and the high end of the Autism involvement scale. Alexis Wineman should be congratulated and celebrated for the accomplishment she has becoming America’s Miss America. That’s a huge feat, all else aside. She said it herself, “…I showed you can become something great if you work hard to get there.” That would apply to anyone, autistic or “normal”.

  14. TLPG says:

    In response to John Best, Asperger’s is the highest functioning version of Autism – so he is not telling the truth. The DSM5 will give recognition to this. Autism presents in many different ways and Alexis presents just one, a presentation that all on the Spectrum can achieve as long as the intervention is early.

  15. Janet says:

    This is wonderful! My daughter is being currently screened for Asperger’s and we are almost 90% sure they will find this in her. Asperger’s is a very high functioning autism and for her to earn this award knowing what I know amazes me. I’d love to meet her one day and introduce her to my daughter. What a great role model! I will dream my daughter will follow into her footsteps possibly? No one should judge Alexis until you have a daughte/son yourself and understand how talented these individuals can be. My daugher is very gifted in many areas and enjoys playing musical instruments. She’s been tested by a very skilled child school psychologist at age 11 and teachers have told me my daughter has many gifts and whatever is discovered she will more than likely be successful in life.

  16. Ramona Faraj says:

    I am so impressed with this young woman. Beautiful inside and out!

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