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Parkinson's disease patients join N.J. rehab facility choir to improve their condition

"ParkinSings" choir brings a special kind of cheer this holiday season
"ParkinSings" choir brings a special kind of cheer this holiday season 02:28

EDISON, N.J. -- It's the time of year when we look forward to holiday choir concerts.

CBS2's Christine Sloan is introducing you to a group that is very special. Members have Parkinson's disease or Parkinson's-plus syndrome and they say singing helps improve their condition.

Sloan met the "Parkinsingers" at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute. They've been practicing weekly for a holiday choir concert.

For them, singing doesn't come easy. Every breath and note takes work because Parkinson's -- a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system -- not only can cause tremors but also changes a person's voice.

"We're exercising the voice mechanism, the speech mechanism, and swallow much, and studies have shown voice and speech can improve," JFK Rehab speech language pathologist Alyson Chananie said.

It's why speech pathologist Chananie, who is also the choir director, convinced her patient Dan Grynberg to join the group.

"My voice, as you can hear, is a little raspy, a little choppy, and low in volume," Grynberg said. "Well, I don't know how to sing. I never could sing. In fact, when I was growing up I was just told, 'Move your lips.'"

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Grynberg and fellow singers like Donna Mastropolo say singing has helped improve their speech.

"It helps strengthen all of the muscles here. It is also good for cognition. You try to learn the music, the song, and put it all together and that's not easy when you have Parkinson's," Mastropolo said. "It's 90 minutes a week that I don't have to think I have Parkinson's. I don't have to think about it all. The camaraderie and the people who are in the group, it's phenomenal. It really is."

"For a person having a difficult time communicating, to be able to have comrades and meet weekly with people who understand what they're going through each day, quality of life boost, is huge," Chananie said.

The Parkinsingers' next performance will be in the spring for Parkinson's Awareness Month.

The public is invited to come.

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