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Finding the Words
Eric Look, who was diagnosed with autism at age 3, uses music to cope and overcome.

Eric Look and his uncle Joe Banas.

Ask Eric Look about pinball machines, and he’ll go on and on about his favorites, their features and his high scores. Ask him about his other passion – music – and the 25-year-old with autism doesn’t always have the words.

“Well sometimes I think of the words to put in, and I think of what music I should add,” he says.

“But what do you think about,” Debbie, his mother asks him as she reaches for his hand. She rubs her fingers along his palm.

“I think of the times when you were gone,” he says.

“When I was gone where?” Debbie laughs after a pause. “To work?”

“To work,” he repeats.

The struggle to find the right words has been a constant in Eric’s life. At age 3, he was diagnosed with autism – a diagnosis becoming more and more common. In 2008, one in 88 children was given a diagnosis of autism, compared to one in 155 in 2002, according to the Center for Disease Control. And males are four times as likely to have the disorder.

Music has been an outlet for Eric, and his first original composition – given the title “Lost for Words” by his mother – demonstrates that. Eric wrote the song in 2009. “He just came up with the melody,” Banas says.

About a year and a half ago, Eric began recording in the basement studio of family friend Ramie Espinoza. The basement is cluttered with old recordings, music equipment and a drum set far too large for the cramped space. And on a rainy afternoon in April, Eric decides he wants to play those drums. “He’s never done that before,” Banas says.

Eric is sensitive to loud noises and bright lights – such as those from a camera flash – though he has improved. “Music has helped him overcome a lot of things,” Banas says. But the loud noise of the drums is still too much for him, and he wears headphones to stifle the sound. He takes a seat behind the drums, fixes the snares and starts playing, tentatively at first, but he’s soon pounding out rudimentary rhythms.

Eric will play at the Spring Tapping event at Rock Bottom Brewery (740 N. Plankinton Ave.) on April 17. A $5 donation gets you two beers and a sampling of the menu. Proceeds go toward Easter Seals Autism Services.





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