Research teams are assessing the long-term effects
of using magic tricks to improve the motor skills of children with
upper limb motor disorders such as hemiplegia and paralysis in an
international project at Guy's Hospital, London, Ichilov Hospital
in Tel Aviv and Tel Aviv University.
The project is the first of its kind and reflects the Charity's
commitment to investing in innovative health interventions,
incorporating the arts into them where possible, and evaluating the
impact on clinical outcomes.
A pilot scheme in 2009 saw Magic Circle magicians working
alongside occupational therapists from the Evelina Children's
Hospital at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust to develop a
series of simple magic tricks that replicate the movements taught
in conventional therapy sessions, helping to make them more
enjoyable and encouraging children to keep up the practice at
Since then, 10 day magic camps have taken place at Guy's
Hospital and in Tel Aviv during 2010, in Tel Aviv in 2011 and again
on the Guy's Hospital site in 2012.
2012's research project, which is led by Breathe Arts Health
Research with a grant of £32,000 from the Charity, aims to build on
the evidence base of the first project to demonstrate that magic
therapy tricks really can improve the clinical outcomes of
Health professionals assess participants two to four weeks
before the camp starts, then again at the camp's start and end to
measure their progress, and at three and six-month intervals to
assess the programme's lasting impact.
Meanwhile, a multi-disciplinary team, including clinicians from
Guy's Hospital, King's College Hospital and researchers at KCL, is
using a variety of tests to study the children's brains, including
neuro-imaging and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.
Dr Dido Green of Breathe Arts Health Research and Reader in
Rehabilitation at Oxford Brookes University is working on a formal
assessment of the programme, which involves evaluating improvements
in independence in daily activities by assessing bi-manual motor
skills as a primary outcome, and performance in bi-manual and
uni-manual tasks as secondary outcomes. This information will help
in developing targeted interventions, while researchers also
analyse the effects of intervention on a range of skills over time,
along with the neurological representation of movement and
interaction of key defined factors.
Dr Green says: "Our research shows that, before the magic camp
the children could use their weaker hand in a quarter of typical
two-handed activities. After the camp they were performing more
tasks independently and using both hands more than 90 per cent of
the time. At the three month follow-up, the children's enthusiasm
was still high and they had significantly increased the number of
two-handed activities they did successfully.
"Evaluation of the camp also shows the magic therapy had a
major impact on the children's independence in daily activities -
helping them to learn tasks such as using cutlery and tying their
shoe laces. These tasks become hugely significant when you
can't do them, so being able to do them has had a
major positive impact on the children's self-confidence,
allowing them to feel the same as their friends."
Amarlie Moore, paediatric occupational therapist at the Evelina
says: "Most children have demonstrated markedly improved hand
skills following the camp, in terms of spontaneous use of the
affected limb, strength, grasp, ability to release, and the timing
and coordination of movements. One child, for example, tended to
avoid using her hand at all. During the camp the strength and
coordination of her affected limb improved dramatically and she now
uses it spontaneously, carrying out actions she was unable to do
The venture reflects the ethos of King's Health Partners,
the Academic Health Science Centre that brings together three
leading NHS Foundation Trusts and an academic partner, King's
College, London (KCL), in a bid to speed up the integration of
research into clinical practice and get excellent services to
patients as quickly as possible.
Yvonne Farquharson, Performing Arts Manager at Guy's and St
Thomas' Charity and Director of Breathe Arts Health Research,
says:"Breathe Magic Camps have demonstrated how injecting
creativity into healthcare can have a significant impact on
clinical outcomes. Robust medical research and evaluation are
essential to proving the value of the arts in healthcare, and the
research data we have collected as part of this project demonstrate
just this. Breathe Magic Camps have been life-changing for those
involved and we are excited about the possibility of rolling out
this new form of therapy to benefit children nationally and
internationally in the future."
To watch the video of the magic therapy
project, please click here