This post is by Alexis Wineman, Miss Montana
Every person on the face of the Earth has to work to get where they want to go in life. The same goes for people with autism; the only difference is that autistics have to work harder, a lot harder. Hello, my name is Alexis Wineman and this is just my story. When I was born I was just your typical baby but around the age of 2, I started signs of my disorder. However I wasn’t officially diagnosed until I was 11. After all that time, my parents were relieved to finally have an answer. As for me, I couldn’t have cared less. I hardly had any friends, I was teased and picked on almost every day, and I was way behind in all of my classes. Autistic? Great, another name for people to call me other than retarded. Whatever this autism thing was, it ruined my life before I had a chance to live it. But to my surprise things started to get better in high school. People started to back off and through programs like speech & drama and cross country I was able to make some great friends. Graduation became possible and I finished high school with high grades. When I told my parents that I wanted to compete in the Miss Montana program it was a complete shock to them. I grew up hating anything that resembled a pageant. I remember how I would watch the Miss America program when I was younger and seeing those beautiful, intelligent women who, no matter the outcome, had a great future ahead of them. I thought that I could never have a future worth looking forward to and I thought that the confidence and grace these women had was too out of my reach. Looking back, I realize how foolish I was. I have already done so many things I never thought I could do. I’ve run three miles without stopping, spoken in front of many people, qualified for the National Honor Society, and was able to graduate high school with an acceptance to college. So I thought I would try Miss Montana and see if it was something that I might enjoy. It’s a good thing I did because I was crowned a week later! Though it has only been two months since my crowning night I have been constantly on the go. I have met so many amazing people through my appearances. This has been nothing but a wonderful experience and I am looking forward to the rest of the year, including representing Montana at the Miss America program in Las Vegas in January!
In the Miss America program it is required the each contestant have a personal platform or issue that they plan to bring attention to. I decided that mine should be autism awareness and acceptance and I titled it “Normal is just a Dryer Setting-Living with Autism.” I have already had the privilege of speaking at a couple conferences and I was able to share my story with those who were willing to listen. I was so excited when I heard that Montana was going to finally have a Autism Walk. Montana doesn't have many programs or resources to help children with autism but this walk should bring more attention to this cause. I am so excited to be involved with the walk and just as honored to speak at it.
I hope to be a positive face for those who feel lost and hopeless, whether they are autistic or not. I want to show people that being on the spectrum is not a death sentence but a life adventure.