Liverpool Brianna Stone Waryan is more than just a pretty face.
The 8-year-old third-grader in Mrs. Montalto’s third grade class at Donlin Drive Elementary in Liverpool will compete in Saturday’s Miss Jr. Pre-Teen Syracuse/Binghamton pageant, vying against numerous other young ladies in such categories as talent, casual wear, formal wear and interview.
But Waryan, who is autistic and deals with sensory processing disorder, has a more important message she hopes to spread at the pageant.
“People should not be bullying in school,” she said. “It’s kind of mean. I’ve been bullied before. Kids should be able to grow up and stick up for their friends without being bullied or getting their feelings hurt.”
Waryan knows what it’s like to be bullied. Because of her autism, she’s been victimized by other kids at school. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. It’s more common in boys than girls, though 1 in 88 children receives an autism diagnosis; ASD affects more than 2 million people around the world. It’s not uncommon to have autism diagnosed in conjunction with sensory processing disorder, a neurological disorder in which the sufferer has difficulties with taking in, processing and responding to information received by the senses.
Waryan’s mom, Lynn Stone, is hopeful that participation in the pageant will help her daughter’s socialization skills.
“I hope it will build her self-esteem,” Stone said.
Already, Waryan has proven she’s up for the rigors of competition. Though this is her first pageant, she participated in a talent contest last year, which is likely how she was referred to the pageant earlier this year.
“She kept hearing about [the talent competition] on the radio, and she said, ‘Mom, I want to do that.’ She’s always said she wants to be a singer, an actor, a dancer, and this competition didn’t cost anything, so I said, ‘Why not?’ If she could get up in front of all those people and do it, what’s the harm?” Stone said. “She was number 225 or something, and she got in front of 225 people, and she sang, and she spoke, and she answered questions, and she was great. They wanted her to continue, but it was a great expense, so we just couldn’t do it. But we believe it might be that agency that forwarded her name for the modeling.”