If you have ever been in the crowd at a rock show in the last couple of years, there is a good chance that you have witnessed a boy front-row centre, with a drumstick in his hand. To some, the scene is crazy; to him you are the crazy one, not rocking out. Why would you be there in the first place?
Griffin Klapak is turning 13 this month and he loves rock and roll. At the age of three, he was diagnosed with a form of severe autism. He was nonverbal and had a hard time expressing himself. The frustration would lead to violent outbreaks, bruises and holes in the walls of his family’s home. Jason and his wife hunted for solutions to help Griffin lead a normal life, as normal as a parent can hope with an autistic child. After years of trying to figure out an outlet, Griffin found something he loved in Rock Band, playing the drums, and he was actually really talented and quick at picking up the skill.
“One night, we were having family movie night, something that Griffin really never could be bothered with, so I told him to go learn ‘Hot for Teacher’ on his electronic drum set. He came came back in like 10 minutes and had learned the entire song.
“It turned into a release for him — if he had a bad day or something was bugging him, he would go a beat the crap out his drums,” Jason says. He decided to take Griffin to his first live show and he was hooked. They also enrolled him in drum lessons, but didn’t feel that he was accelerating as he should be. Last year, they happened to be at a free HighKicks show, where they met drummer Matt Doherty. He took on the role of Griffin’s drum mentor.
Griffin is a unique kid that has found a passion in music. In return, he has found a new confidence and ability to talk to people — musicians, for the most part — and even girls. Given it sometimes takes years for anyone to find the outlet that Griffin found on his own, music lives in this kid’s blood.
Broken City will be hosting Griffin’s 13th birthday with the HighKicks on January 11th. The event will also serve as a fundraiser for the Behaviour Therapy and Learning Centre and the Autism Spectrum Disorder Cluster Program at R.T. Alderman School.
By Danni Bauer