Music therapy changing behaviours of those with special needs

Guitars hang on the walls in musician Chris Trigg’s Victoria home as he begins to play Hallelujah on his acoustic guitar.

Guitars hang on the walls in musician Chris Trigg’s Victoria home as he begins to play Hallelujah on his acoustic guitar.

His daughter Bear begins to sing the lyrics. This is the first time she’s spoken in 22 years.

“When this happened it was like ‘oh my god’,” said Trigg, founder and director of the Mighty Hughs Foundation, a charitable foundation providing therapeutic music programs to the special needs community in Greater Victoria.

“It’s almost like having your child look up at you at one year old and start speaking fluent German.”

Trigg attributes Bear’s change in behaviour to the Namaste Transition to Community Society’s weekly music program.

The society, founded in 1992 in response to the need for day programs as people with intellectual disabilities left institutions to begin their lives in communities, provides support for 15 participants who seek to become contributing members of their community.

The Namaste music program is the society’s most popular program where more than 150 individuals with developmental disabilities ranging from school-aged children to people in their 80s, gather at a local church and sing and dance with a band to their favourite tunes on Fridays.

“Music isn’t played to be entertaining. The music is done for the participants to be the entertainers. They choose the song,” said Terry Flatt, executive director of the society. “It’s a gathering of people with developmental disabilities where they’re allowed to be who they are . . . they don’t have to fit any social norms and not feel out of place.”

Music has had a profound affect on many of the program participants.

Bear had difficulties socializing with people, especially in large groups prior to attending the program. She would get nervous and had trouble with simple tasks like crossing through a doorway.

“She’s gone from being at the back of that program sitting in the chairs to she’s at the very front right in front of the band, dancing and yelling her head off,” said Triggs, adding Bear has been in the program for the past three years.

“She’s introducing herself, she’s actually socializing. She’s taking that step herself and that’s a remarkable step.”

The Mighty Hughs Foundation is hosting a fundraiser for the society on Saturday, Oct. 17 to help raise $10,000 to open another music program in the Cowichan Valley.

Musicians such as Dave Taylor, former bass player for Bryan Adams, Chiko Misomali from Bif Naked, and Dave Reimer from Barney Bentall will be performing.

The fundraiser takes place from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Distrikt Nightclub (919 Douglas St.) Tickets are $12.50 and are available at ticketzone.com.

 

 

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