(Photo: Miss America)
Miss America will have its first autistic contestant this year, as Alexis Wiseman - aka Miss Montana - overcame all challenges to make it through to the show's centerpiece in 2013.
Wineman has been honest about her entry into the competition, saying that when she was young she was never really interested in pageants, and she never thought she would be where she is today.
Miss Montana has said, "Growing up, I never was really interested in pageants. I thought it would be something I was never able to do. But by the time I graduated, I kind of realized I'd done a lot of things I'd never thought I could do."
Autism affects at least 1 in 88 children in the United States, and is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior.
The diagnostic criteria for autism require that symptoms become apparent before a child is three years old.
Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize, however, how this occurs is not well understood.
It is one of three recognized disorders in the autism spectrum (ASDs), with the other two being Asperger syndrome, which lacks delays in cognitive development and language, and pervasive developmental disorder (commonly abbreviated as PDD-NOS), which is diagnosed when the full set of criteria for autism or Asperger syndrome are not met.
Wiseman is already being touted as being a massive inspiration for those suffering with the condition across the nation. She has said, "Growing up, all I wanted was to be normal. I just wanted to fit in with everyone else. Looking back, I realized it was a waste of time, because normal doesn't exist. If we could just accept people for their differences, it will make life for our children and for ourselves much, much easier."
The 92nd Miss America pageant is scheduled to be held on Saturday, January 12.