Monday, August 6, 2012

Miss Montana overcame many challenges on her way to the crown


When Alexis Wineman, Miss Montana 2012, discusses her desire to help people with autism, she’s not speaking in flowery beauty pageant platitudes about trying to make the world a better place.
She’s speaking from experience.
Wineman, of Cut Bank, was diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder, including borderline Aspergers Syndrome, when she was 11 years old. The diagnosis followed a two-year process that included counseling, an exhaustive battery of tests and at least one misdiagnosis.
Wineman was often teased and bullied at school and said she usually avoided interaction with others when she was younger.
“I felt so alone growing up, and I still do at times,” she said Thursday during a conference on autism at the Montana State University Billings downtown campus. “Nobody understood what I was going through. I separated myself from my classmates and spent most of my time alone. I stayed quiet to hide my speech problems. Due to these overwhelming and daily struggles, I looked at myself as a punching bag for others, and a burden to my family.”
Wineman said the diagnosis helped her understand why she was different from other kids. And with support from her mother, teachers, counselors and her three siblings, she matured into the poised, confident 18-year-old, whose stand-up comedy routine left the audience rolling in the aisles at the Miss Montana pageant.
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