Nova Scotia

Once non-verbal, this boy was picked to sing O Canada at Blue Nose run

If anyone could give inspiration to runners participating in this weekend's Blue Nose 5K run in Halifax, Joshua Cochrane could.

Joshua Cochrane 'loves to serve people' through the gift of music, his mom says

An 11-year-old who was once non-verbal sings O Canada at a Blue Nose Marathon event

5 years ago
Duration 0:50
Yarmouth's Joshua Cochrane was selected to sing O Canada ahead of the Saturday afternoon race, the latest in a long list of the 11-year-old's accomplishments.

If anyone could give inspiration to runners participating in this weekend's Blue Nose 5K run in Halifax, Joshua Cochrane could.

The 11-year-old from Yarmouth, N.S. was selected to sing O Canada ahead of the Saturday afternoon race, the latest in a long list of his accomplishments.

Joshua's mother, Ann Harrington, said her son has helped to raise over $300,000 by singing for various causes over the years, including for Halifax's IWK Health Centre, veterans, fire departments and charities. 

It's all the more amazing because when he was 18 months old, Joshua was non-verbal and diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. 

"We don't push him; he wants to do it himself. In fact there's days that I'm saying, 'Can we just stay home?' He's like, 'No, we've got to do this, we've got to get out there,'" said Harrington. 

"I think making people happy and knowing he's helping people is what keeps him going and encourages him to challenge himself and accomplish more." 

Singing the national anthem, a favourite of Joshua's, was a no-brainer.

"He loves everything about Canada, he loves veterans, he loves anything to do with Canada," said Harrington. 

Getting Joshua to speak

As a non-verbal toddler, Joshua started intense speech therapy after his diagnosis, but that wasn't working. Joshua was clearly unhappy, injuring himself out of frustration. Then, his therapist suggested giving him a day off and played music for him.

"It was like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or something, but as soon as she turned it on, he suddenly stopped self-abusing … he just loved it," said Harrington.

Joshua has not let illness slow down his desire to help people. (Submitted)

The therapist suggested signing Joshua up for music and dance classes.

"I said, are you kidding? He can't sit up. She said let's put him in anyway and we'll see what happens," said Harrington. 

She noticed that despite being non-verbal, Joshua would sing along. That started the ball rolling to get Joshua talking. 

Harrington said her son lives to make others happy, despite his own health problems. 

"He's been in the hospital for a long time himself because he's not well and we've had him hitched to IV poles and feeding pumps. He's dragged them to go into other kids' rooms to sing for them because they're upset. He's a pretty soft-hearted child." 

He's missed at least half the current school year due to complex medical problems, but his mother says he still gets good grades.

'Loves to serve people'

His mother said Joshua loves all music and quickly learns new instruments. He plays drums, guitar and most recently a ukulele. 

When he grows up he wants to be a flight attendant, specifically a flight attendant for the troops when they're travelling to and from missions. He plans to join a cadets program in January.

"It all comes back to helping people. He loves to serve people. Sometimes at home he drives his sisters nuts because he pretends he's a flight attendant," said Harrington. 

"This is how he's been all his life; he's been a pleasant little boy. Yeah, he has his moments, he has autism, so he does have his meltdowns and we just get over it and move on ... just keep going." 

Joshua performed on the main stage of the Blue Nose Marathon Saturday afternoon before the five-kilometre race.