WDAY: The News Leader

Published April 11, 2014, 05:14 PM

Miss America contestant with autism speaks to Davies High School

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - A pageant beauty queen brought laughter and a sobering message about acceptance to Davies High School in Fargo today.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - A pageant beauty queen brought laughter and a sobering message about acceptance to Davies High School in Fargo today.

Miss America contestant, Alexis Wineman is the first woman with autism to ever compete in the pageant's history.

Alexis Wineman/ Miss America Contestant: “The way I explain it to people, is I don't have a toaster brain. I have a hair dryer brain. I did not even find out I had autism ‘til I was 11, late in the game. No early intervention for me. Can hair dryers make toast? They can I would not recommend it.”

Using comedy and the ability to make fun of herself, Alexis Wineman told the story of growing up autistic, without ever knowing it, ‘til she was out of elementary school.

Wineman: “For people with autism this gets very frustrating because we want to keep up and be normal like other people. I wasn't popular in high school. I was that weird kid sitting in the corner, i had friends but not that many.”

It has been quite a journey, this girl who grew up in small town Montana. Who teachers called disruptive, who threw tantrums and could not relate to others.

Wineman: “High school was hard for me. I did not think I would graduate.”

Being the 4th child in the family who wanted to go to college, she knew money was tight, but she was searching for scholarship she hated the thought of a beauty pageant, but tried out anyway and won the rest is history.

She competed in the Miss Montana pageant and won and then on to Miss America, the youngest contestant there, who had not used curling irons or contact lenses, but as her parents told ABC, it didn't matter, she had come so far.

Wineman’s Mother: “She won, she was here. This is beyond anything we ever thought.”

Reporter: “What do you tell your little girl before she gets up on that stage?”

Wineman’s Father: “Leave with no regrets.”

John Austin of Fargo is the parent of a Davies student who lives with autism. The lesson of acceptance, the chance to educate a whole school by bringing Alexis means everything to the local autism awareness community.

John Austin/ Supporter of ND Autism Center: “Perfect match to bring Alexis here to the school, 9th and 10th graders spread the word. They are doing great things in the school. Just helps motivate them a little more.”

Alexis is now in college down south. One day, she wants her own talk show.

You have the chance to hear Alexis.

She is the main speaker at tonight's big Autism Center gala, held at the Ramada.

The North Dakota Autism Center has been around just 5-years and serves 75-families with care and services.