Alexis Wineman, 18, was diagnosed with autism as a child, but went on to win the Montana State beauty contest in 2012.
The Miss America pageant will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 12, 2013. If Wineman wins, she’ll become the first Miss America with autism.
Wineman told KRTV-TV: "Most people do not understand what autism is. One in 88 people is having some form of autism. This understanding is becoming more and more necessary."
Wineman was diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder and borderline Aspergers Syndrome at the age of 11, reports DisabilityScoop.com.
Wineman explained to DisabilityScoop.com that she struggled to make friends in her teens: "Socializing with my classmates, even when I wanted to, was awkward to say the least. I wouldn’t get their jokes half the time. I took everything literally."
“'It's amazing how people don’t accept other people just because they’re different. Being different is not something to look down on, but to be embraced. People need to understand."