March 15, 2018 5:59 pm

Innovative music therapy in Calgary hopes to help people walk again

WATCH: Jill Croteau reports on a kind of therapy being used to bring hope to those living with debilitating neurological conditions.

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Research is proving how the power of music can help people with mobility issues on a journey to healing. Combined with traditional physical therapy, music therapy is helping patients living with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions. A team at Calgary’s Synaptic is offering a six-week pilot project for clients.

“When people come and tell us their goal is to be able to hug their children or feed themselves or play with their grandchildren, you know you’re a part of something so much bigger,” said Uyen Nguyen, Synaptic’s executive director.

READ MORE: Music therapy program at Calgary’s Foothills hospital expanded

Music therapist Elle McAndrews is introducing pattern-sensory enhancement and auditory stimulation.

“Maybe they don’t speak a lot or have movement,” McAndrews said. “And to see them tap a toe and shake a shoulder, or suddenly have them smile and sing along, is really incredible.”

Music therapy class at Synaptic

Jill Croteau

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Clients like Dale Ohlson are encouraged by the music therapy. Ohlson developed dystonia after a traumatic car crash.

“It was like someone turned the light switch off in my neck.

“I couldn’t walk anymore. I had to crawl on my hands and knees for eight-and-a-half months,” Ohlson recalled.

But he has rediscovered a new hope.

“My goal has always been the same: to be able to walk again. I’m stubborn – I will do it.”

After decades of chronic back pain, Jack Wylie is hoping music therapy helps him truly “live again.”

“I feel embarrassed the way I walk and the way my life has been…it’s been a struggle,” Wylie said. “I’d love to be able to kick a soccer ball with my grandkids.”

The Synaptic pilot project was still accepting clients as of March 15.

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