Saturday night is the 92nd Miss America pageant, and whether or not your care much about such things, there's one particularly notable thing about this year's contest. It's the first time in the pageant's history that a contestant who has autism will compete.
Alexis Wineman is Miss Montana. At 18, she's both the youngest contestant and also the first with a form of autism to compete for the coveted crown. According to Yahoo, she was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) at the age of 11, which means she's on the mild end of the spectrum, but she's on it, and her beauty queen status could prove to be a powerful position for raising awareness about the disorder. Her platform: Normal Is Just a Dryer Setting: Living With Autism.
In an online video for contestant finalists she says:
Most people do not understand what autism is. And 1 in 88 people having some form of autism, this understanding is becoming more and more necessary.
In a recent interview on Fox & Friends, she described how autism affects her saying: "I suffer from constant meltdowns if things get too stressful. I have problems understanding common sayings. I take things very literally. And I have trouble communicating at times."
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But despite her limitations, she's gotten this far, and it would be great to see her go even further. Even if she doesn't, it's still inspiring to see someone with autism breaking ground like this.
When you're a kid one of the most important things for self esteem and building dreams is having role models you can relate to. Seeing people who you can imagine yourself becoming like one day. As we saw after the Sandy Hook shooting, too often autism is surrounded by misconceptions and negative stereotypes, so it's incredible to see such a positive role model in such a high profile position. As she says:
We cannot cure what is not a sickness. But we can begin to understand autism, and help those with the condition to unlock the potential that lies within all of us.
Good luck to Wineman Saturday night.
Do you think having someone with autism as Miss America would be a positive thing for autism awareness?
Image via MissAmerica.org