Magic as therapy

Magic tricks are being used to help rehabilitate children with hemiplegia, a condition that results in a lack of control of one side of the body.

The Breathe Magic Camp, a 10-day intensive therapy programme for children age 7-19 years, took place in London and Birmingham this summer. Specially adapted magic tricks were used as a form of physiotherapy to help children regain skills to help them in everyday tasks like buttoning shirts and using a knife and fork. “Breathe Magic not only improves the functional ability of children with hemiplegia, but also boosts their psychological wellbeing and self-confidence,” said Breathe Arts Health Research founder Yvonne Farquharson, as published in the Birmingham Mail. “Over five years of research and development we have carefully shaped an evidence-based clinical intervention and we’d like to see more children with hemiplegia across the country benefit.” Specialist occupational therapists work alongside Magic Circle magicians to teach magic tricks designed to develop hand and arm function, cognitive abilities, self-confidence and independence in this programme, which features 78 hours of intensive therapy. The organisation claims participants have seen clinically significant improvements in two-handed motor skills and independence at the end of the course. These were well maintained at the six month follow-up assessments. During the course parents had daily updates from their child’s magic trainer and watched the magic show at the end of the 10 day programme. The programme is recognised and approved under the NHS NICE guidelines and won the NHS Innovation Challenge Prize for Rehabilitation in 2015-2016. It was developed in 2008, when Magic Circle magicians collaborated with occupational therapists and academics from the Evelina London Children’s Hospital at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust to design a creative approach to therapy. The Breathe Magic Programme’s Parent Information Pack provides more information about the course and possible funding routes for children with hemiplegia.
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