Having Brother With Autism Helps OTHS Student Grow As A Leader

Focus On Youth, By Phill Potter

Name: Amy McManus

Age: 17

School: Osgoode Township High

Grade: 12

Parents: Marcie and Paul McManus

Siblings: Liam (14) and Wade (11)

Pets: “I have two pets: a dog named Friday (Golden Retriever mixed with Lab and Bernese), and a cat named Jango (a Bengal). They are both such loving pets and have amazing personalities.”

Pet Peeves: “Growing up with a brother with autism, I’ve witnessed several mean glances or remarks made about him whenever we’d go out in public. That’s why I’d say my pet peeve is people that judge too quickly. I think a great way to sum it up is through a quote: “Be curious, not judgemental”. This is a quote by Walt Whitman, however, I only found out about it after watching the TV series: Ted Lasso with my parents.”

Part-time work: “I work as a swim instructor at Poplar Grove Campground. I teach kids of different ages, ranging from six months to fourteen. It’s so rewarding to see kids improve their swimming and become more comfortable around and in the water.”

Favourite subjects: “This year, I’m taking English, French, Biology, Chemistry, Advanced Functions, and Data Management. While I do enjoy all of these subjects, my favourite would probably be Biology. I have always enjoyed the sciences, but there are certain topics in biology that are really of interest to me, such as evolution and genetics. I feel like I just have so many biology-related questions, and every day as I leave my class, I feel like more and more of them are getting answered.”

Reading: “I will read almost anything, whether it be books, magazines or news articles online. But what I enjoy reading most, are just plain old books. I think I owe my love of reading to my grandmother, who has always read with me since I was a little kid. I have some of the fondest memories of her reading me the Harry Potter Series, and her doing her best to put on different British accents (the accents were quite awful, but I appreciate her dedication and effort).”

Favourite Author: “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve taken a liking to authors such as Kevin Kwan and Taylor Jenkins-Reid. They both write fiction novels about the rich and famous. I must admit that these books are a bit more on the soap opera side, but they are just so captivating (and funny) to read.”

Greatest Accomplishment: “An accomplishment I am most proud of, is that I was selected by the camp director of the Ottawa autism charity, Children at Risk, to lead a group of autistic campers at their summer camp, Camp Kaleidoscope, this past year. Camp Kaleidoscope is a summer camp that provides one-on-one support to campers on the autism spectrum between the ages of four to twenty-five years. I was placed in charge of five children with moderate to difficult behavioural challenges, along with their respective counsellors. Each week was a different challenge of ages and program requirements as my assigned group changed.

“Growing up with a severely autistic brother, I’ve gained confidence in my ability to deal with various behavioural challenges when I’ve assisted in taking care of him. I was flattered that the camp director identified that my skill set would be easily transferable to a larger setting with more varied and difficult challenges.” 

School activities: “Before COVID hit, I enjoyed taking part in school activities, such as Rugby and Leadership Camp. Now, with this year’s unusual circumstances, I’m so happy to be a part of my school’s Prom Committee. Our committee, which is comprised of four members, is tasked with organizing fundraising activities to fund the year-end Prom celebrations. I’ve found working in a team environment, with the aim of bettering the year for grads, very rewarding; I am committed to having a high level of grad student participation in all our activities, thereby signalling a more normal (pre-Covid) year.”

Other activities: “Outside of school, I enjoy spending time with my friends and family – playing sports like ringette, soccer and softball, and listening to (and also playing) music. This year is bittersweet for extracurriculars, as there are several that I feel I won’t continue as an adult. Specifically, ringette was a tough goodbye. I can easily say that this year was my favourite season ever, but it also meant I was devastated when it ended, because it meant saying goodbye to an amazing team. Luckily, several of my fellow teammates attend the same school as me, so I still get to see them every day – even if it isn’t on the ice.”

Career Goals: “Next year, I’m off to university! Currently, I am not quite sure where I want to attend, but I will be majoring in biology no matter where I end up going. In the long run, I don’t have a specific career in mind, but I think one that involves working with kids would be ideal.