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Ottawa, ON


Counterpoint Music Therapy is a health and wellness clinic in Ottawa where music is used skilfully as a therapeutic stimulus to achieve primarily non-musical treatment goals. 

Updates, News, and Special Notes

Updates and news about Counterpoint Music Therapy, music therapy in Canada, music, and special needs.

Another Win for Music Therapy

Landon Coleman

Check out this amazing music therapy feature on the CBC! This woman relearned to speak after a brain aneurysm. Her story is amazing, and melodic intonation therapy is just one of the powerful ways that music therapist can use music to change lives...

" therapy gives her another way to communicate"

Landon Coleman

I was going over some of the work that the folks at my alma mater, Concordia University, have been doing in the world of music therapy. I found this video to be so inspiring. Here is the parent of a child on the spectrum speaking about what music therapy has meant for her daughter; what she has learned through music therapy and how she has developped:

Marianne Bechard, at Giant Steps in Montreal, does a great job, and it is so nice to see the government funding this video project that will bring more prominence and exposure the work music therapists do with children with special needs. 

In other news, our Wine and Cheese evening approaches! If you'd like to come on Friday and find out more about music therapy and special needs in Ottawa West, RSVP on our Contact Us Page or email Landon Coleman at

Autism and Music... (Pt.1)

Landon Coleman

My interest in the relationship between music and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) began after meeting a few exceptional children during my studies in music therapy at Concordia University before moving to Ottawa.

While interning at a special school I was introduced to several children on the spectrum with perfect pitch. These children had amazing abilities in discriminating pitches from one another, remembering pitches and melodies, and learning to play instruments. In one instance, the music therapist (MT) I was shadowing asked a child who had just entered the room to listen to three notes played simultaneously on bells and to identify the pitches on the piano. The child, who was seven at the time, casually sat down at the piano and picked out each of the notes one by one, something that only highly-trained musicians can do with any accuracy or consistency.

The others were just as incredible. They would play along on the piano with songs they had only heard once before or pick out the pitch of a whirring fan in the room next door on the piano. One would remember the pitch of the first note of our introductory song from week to week. These little ones had communication, behavioural, and social difficulties and yet, in some of the most basic musical skills, they surpassed what the vast majority of adults can do.

My interest in this relationship between ASD and innate musical talent grew and I started investigating it. As it turns out, there is some good research about the exceptional talents of some children on the spectrum. Here’s a short summary:


Jones et al., The Institute of Education in London, 2010:

This study tested 72 adolescents with ASD against a control group for pitch discrimination skills, asking them to distinguish which of two pitches was higher, louder, and longer. The results concluded that about 20% of those in the ASD group performed well above average on the question of which pitch was higher. In other words, some of the adolescents with ASD had an amazing gift for discriminating between different notes.

Bonnet et al., McGill University, 2009:

This study was similar to the one cited above. However, this study emphasized that the enhanced pitch discrimination capabilities of some people on the spectrum seems to be linked with language delay. In short, those with ASD who have language delays may also have an enhanced capability for pitch discrimination.

Stanutz et al., McGill University, 2014:

This study shows even more conclusively that children with autism spectrum disorders demonstrate elevated pitch discrimination ability as well as enhanced long-term memory for melody.  Again, the link with language development was emphasized in this study: ”The results indicate an aspect to cognitive functioning that may predict both enhanced nonverbal reasoning ability and atypical language development.”


So why does this matter?

Well, for one thing it’s interesting. Some of these researchers are proposing that heightened awareness of pitch may actually be an obstacle for some children with ASD in their normal language development. That is, for some, an increased focus on the sound of speech might hinder the process of understanding language.

For our purposes though, this matters because music is an area where some children on the spectrum can really be successful. They have skills that are amazing and desirable.  They may have some other deficits, but those challenges can be faced by emphasizing the unique skills that the child does have, boosting that child’s confidence, and making sure that they know that they are exceptional.




Bonnel A, McAdams S, Smith B, Berthiaume C, Bertone A, Ciocca V, Burack JA, & Mottron L (2010). Enhanced pure-tone pitch discrimination among persons with autism but not Asperger syndrome. Neuropsychologia, 48 (9), 2465-75 PMID: 20433857

Jones CR, Happé F, Baird G, Simonoff E, Marsden AJ, Tregay J, Phillips RJ, Goswami U, Thomson JM, & Charman T (2009). Auditory discrimination and auditory sensory behaviours in autism spectrum disorders. Neuropsychologia, 47 (13), 2850-8 PMID: 19545576

Stanutz, Sandy, Joel Wapnick, and Jacob A. Burack. "Pitch discrimination and melodic memory in children with autism spectrum disorders." Autism 18.2 (2014): 137-147.

Article from Ottawa West News, May 29, 2014

Landon Coleman

“Music Hath Charms To Soothe…”;
Westboro Tunes in to Music Therapy.


His grandparents spent their retirement playing Hawaiian music at seniors’ homes and hospitals. It was their example of service to the community that inspired Landon to seek out and pursue music therapy as a career.

“They would play anywhere from 4-6 times a week—in their 80s! At a certain point, I thought, listen, they were really sharing what they had; they found a need and they filled it. I have this skill set and there are certain populations who could really benefit from having music in their lives.”

“When I first heard about music therapy, I thought it was just like what my grandparents did: they played music and made people feel better.

But actually music therapy is even more than that. Music therapists help clients achieve all sorts of individualized goals. It’s not just about feeling better.

By using music, we can help kids with autism practice communicating better through musical interactions. Music therapy is helping adults with Parkinson’s maintain their gait through strong rhythms. People with speech impediments such as stuttering can benefit from music too. It’s really interesting stuff.”

Only three years ago, Arizona congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, after having the speech-producing area of her brain destroyed by an assassin’s bullet, was healed through the use of music therapy; it has been shown to be an effective, evidence-based, therapeutic tool. Music therapy was compelling enough to change the way that Coleman interacted with music and provide a career path for him.

After finishing graduate work in music therapy at Concordia University last year, he became a member of the Canadian Association for Music Therapy (music, moved to Ottawa, and started Counterpoint Music Therapy, a clinic focused on serving kids and teens with special needs.

“I really don’t perform too much any more, but the work I do is fulfilling and basically scratches that musical itch for me. As a performing musician, I was always looking to connect with audiences; now I’m still playing every day, but I get to use music to help people better connect to the people around them and to themselves.”

Photo Caption: Westboro’s Landon Coleman uses music to reach and teach children and adults with specific communications needs. 

 by Tim Thibeault.