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February 12, 2013

Mrs. Macomb hopes to raise autism treatment awareness

By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer

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Laura Zdravkovski was named Mrs. Macomb in December for the Mrs. Michigan America Pageant.

For the past six years, Laura Zdravkovski, from Sterling Heights, has worked as a therapist specializing in child development therapy. During that time, she’s found excitement in little steps of progress she has seen in her clients, whether it is a high five or a moment of cognition.

“The smallest shift in development … that is huge to a mother or a father who doesn’t have that connection with their kid,” Zdravkovski said.

Her successes have come from incorporating a largely unknown therapeutic treatment program called Play Project.

“You use their own language of play, and they just move along developmentally,” Zdravkovski said.

She also found that knowledge of the treatment is not spreading locally or nationally. So when she was approached to run as the Macomb County delegate in the Mrs. Michigan America Pageant, she realized she could use the platform to raise awareness of the treatment.

“I never wanted to go into it with the hope of modeling or for the celebrity of it,” she said. “I feel like it would be a nice chance to be spokeswoman for an area of what we’re dealing with.”

In fact, this is not the first time Zdravkovski, 30, has been approached to compete in pageantry. She was asked to participate in the Miss Michigan Pageant while she was still in school, and producers from “Platinum Weddings,” on Oprah Winfrey’s WE TV, asked her and her husband, Kristifor, if they could film their elaborate wedding.

She denied both. “Nothing felt right,” she said.

Timing was a big issue. When she was approached for the Miss Michigan Pageant, she was still in her graduate study and in a long-term relationship. Furthermore, because Miss Michigan only includes single woman, the pageant was no longer an option after marriage.

But when approached about entering Mrs. Michigan America last year, Zdravkovski finally had a platform beyond herself on which to run. She was officially named Mrs. Macomb in December.

She’ll be competing against 15 other delegates from across the state March 9. If she wins at the state level, Zdravkovski will compete in August for Mrs. America in Arizona, said Jody Bernhardt, the executive director of Mrs. Michigan America. There, she would compete against 50 other delegates — including one from Washington, D.C.

The Mrs. America Pageant will celebrate its 36th year in August, focusing on the several roles married woman have to play.

“They more focus on family and then career, which is a different shift (from other pageants) because usually they look at pageantry first,” said Zdravkovski, who has a 2-year-old daughter.

Bernhardt added that the pageant allows married and older women excluded from the Miss America Pageant a chance to express what they believe in.

“There’s a lot of women who still enjoy it, and there’s a lot of woman who still have a platform,” Bernhardt said.

Mrs. Michigan has never won the national competition, but Zdravkovski hopes to change that and use the national recognition not only to show her pride for her home state but also to let parents with autistic children know that there is a treatment out there.

“I’m hoping that we can take all of that and take it national,” Zdravkovski said. “Because that would be a huge shift.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robert Guttersohn at rguttersohn@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5006.