Alexis Wineman, who will vie for the Miss America on Saturday, is the first-ever competitor living with autism.
According to an NBC report, at 11 she was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder and borderline Asperger's syndrome, conditions on the autism spectrum.
Wineman speaks at schools and autism conventions and has formed partnerships with the autism groups Autism Speaks and Generation Rescue and the special needs support group AbilityPath. Her Miss America platform issue is "Normal is Just a Dryer Setting"- Living with Autism.
According to Autism Speaks, autism now affects 1 in 88 children in the United States, and figures are growing. There is no medical detection or cure.
Wineman's hope is that autism will be just one trait of many that defines people. "I just wish people would just accept people with autism more instead of pushing them off into a corner and trying to forget that they're there," she told the TODAY show, "I just want to make these two worlds understand each other."
The Miss America pageants airs Saturday, Jan. 12 at 8 p.m. (CT) on ABC.