Tommy’s viewers often ask about Tommy’s channel name “lookyus”- how to say it, what it means. Here’s the long answer!
In 2006, Tommy asked to have his videos shared on YouTube. I needed a name for his channel, and thought of Ellen Degeneres, hoping she might see Tommy someday! I had some footage of Tommy dancing with his signature moves (lol), and with Matrix, his Autism Service Dog at the time, that I thought Ellen would enjoy! Like Ellen, Tommy has a special ability to get others dancing, including dogs! You may recall that when she began her talk show, she’d say “Looky you on the Looky Loo!” referring to the screen she used to show photos and videos sent in by viewers. I came up with the word “lookyus” (pronounced Looky us (as in “look at us”), as a small tribute to Ellen.
OK, I make it sound like it was about Tommy. I must admit, it was kind of also about me! I’ve always dreamed I’d meet Ellen, having been a devoted fan since she began her career as a standup comedian. I loved her sitcom in the early 90s, a time in my life when Tommy was being diagnosed with Autism, and humour was a stress reliever which kept me going! In April 1997, we took Tommy to Los Angeles for an Autism therapy not yet available in Canada, as he was 5, still non verbal, and very unreachable. Wondering how we would get through everything- well, it was all a huge struggle. Ellen’s coming out episode aired while we were there. Just knowing Ellen was somewhere in that city, that huge city of Los Angeles, that night, made me feel less alone in my own fears. Her courage gave me strength to face our own unknowns.
Over the years, Ellen has made me laugh on days when it was difficult to carry on. She, and Tommy, have made me see that it’s wonderful to be different and to be proud of who we are. I’ve always valued kindness and humour above all else – both are a universal language. Ellen’s choice to remind her viewers to “Be kind to one another” as she ends each show fills me with hope. No matter how difficult autism is sometimes, the kindness of others always buoys my spirits. It is kindness that gives hope when things get tough. Early on, I promised myself that no matter what Tommy learned about this world, he would know and experience kindness, and learn to be kind towards others. Though he is an incredible athlete, with many other great qualities, I find the greatest compliment is when someone comments that Tommy is kind, polite, thoughtful, and honest. That means the most to me.
I hope Tommy gets to dance with Ellen someday. And that I can just call her up sometimes, and say “Hey, Ell. It’s me.” (Like Ed Grimley’s dream of meeting and becoming friends with Pat Sajak. It would be really decent, you know, I must say!) You never know! It could happen. It really could!
-MaryAnn (Tommy’s mom)