Growing Up With Luke


Hello everyone!

My name is Brooke Lomma and I’m 20 years old. I’m originally from Connecticut but I’m currently studying abroad in Leicester, England. I’m a sophomore at De Montfort University and I’m majoring in Speech and Language Therapy. My younger brother, Luke, has Down syndrome. He’s 18 years old which makes us very close in age as well as very close siblings. Although we don’t get to see each other as often now that I’m in college, Luke and I remain very close and we video chat whenever we can.

Like any other person, Luke experiences a range of different emotions and does his best to express his feelings to those around him. Luke is verbal, but others can sometimes find it difficult to understand what he’s saying. He can get a bit frustrated when he’s not understood but always remains patient. As a person Luke is funny, outgoing and incredibly loving. He never fails to put a smile on your face and his laughter is contagious. He loves musicals, playing sports and dogs. His absolute favorite food is pizza, although he’s partial to chocolate, too!  

Unfortunately, I don’t remember Luke being born or my parents ever pulling me aside to tell me that Luke has Down syndrome- I was just too young. I’m sure there was a point when they did but it just seems like something I’ve always known. However, I do remember always having a best friend and playmate. Luke and I did everything together. In that way, my childhood was just like anyone else’s. I remember playing outside with him, dancing and singing along to the Wiggles, and many other things that siblings do (including the occasional disagreements). Still, my childhood was also different in some ways. Luke found it difficult to do some of the things other people may have found easy. I remember various therapists coming to visit Luke weekly to help him build up his skills. The physical therapist would visit one day, the occupational therapist the next, and the speech therapist/pathologist another day. At the time I didn’t know there was anything different about that. In fact, I was jealous that I didn’t get to play games and do fun things like Luke did during therapy! However, all of the therapists made a point of including me in his therapy sessions, that way I wouldn’t feel left out. Over time, Luke began to make a great deal of progress in certain areas.  

Although “different” often has a negative connotation, I believe that “different” instead should be something positive. Embracing differences can create new opportunities and is what makes each of us unique in some way. Being included in Luke’s therapy sessions ultimately influenced certain views and decisions I’ve made, especially my career choice. I saw how much Luke enjoyed and benefited from his therapy and wanted to be able to do the same for others. Speech and language therapy became increasingly important to me because of how it allowed my brother to communicate with my family and me. The therapist taught him both verbal and non-verbal strategies which helped him communicate with us. Ultimately, communication is so significant because it enables us to express ourselves as well as build and maintain relationships with those that we love.  

As we continued to grow up, having Luke as my brother also allowed my family and I to get involved with the special needs community. I remember going on Buddy Walks when we were younger and in middle school I was involved with Best Buddies. During the summer I work at a summer school for special needs children and I always try to find other ways to connect and contribute to the community. Being a part of such a caring and positive community has enabled me to connect with other individuals and their family members, as well as share my thoughts and experiences.  

Most importantly, just having Luke as my brother has provided me with so much happiness. His kindness and love for life continue to inspire me to be the best person I can be. One of the most important things that I’ve come to learn is to be kind, compassionate and understanding to others, no matter what their strengths or difficulties may be. Living by those words has allowed me to meet so many wonderful people and embrace the aspects of our lives that make us different.

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Julia ToronczakComment