How magic can help children improve their motor skills.
Breathe Magic is a programme that adapts magic tricks and performance skills into therapy for children.
The programme is run by Breathe Arts Health Research.
We have supported Breathe Magic from the outset, providing a total of £54,938 via three grants since 2009.
We also provide additional funding to Breathe Arts Health Research to support core business costs and to run our performing arts programme.
For children, motor disorders such as hemiplegia and other forms of paralysis can be physically and socially debilitating. Breathe Magic offers rehabilitation through magic.
Sparks began to fly when the magical skills of David Owen and Dr Dido Green were combined with the Charity’s talented Performing Arts Manager.
Breathe Magic’s home-based pilot got off to a flying start. The scheme sees magicians working alongside occupational therapists to develop a series of simple magic tricks that replicate the movements taught in conventional therapy sessions.
14 children participated in Breathe Magic’s first official magic camp in London. All attendees practised hard to perfect the magic tricks and circus skills that they then performed at the end of camp show.
Research teams began 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.
A real milestone for Breathe Magic was when NHS Lambeth Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) commissioned the programme as a clinical service.
Whether it’s making pennies disappear, spinning plates or juggling two-handed, Breathe Magic aims to create a more enjoyable and maintainable programme of paralysis rehabilitation through the delivery of intensive and therapeutic 10-day magic camps.
During the camps, Magic Circle magicians and occupational therapists work together to devise achievable magic tricks that replicate the repetitive movements taught in conventional therapy sessions, but using engaging methods that captivate the children’s attention.
Rehabilitation through magic also provides an innovative tool to aid and improve the mental health of children living with these conditions. Challenging but attainable tasks build self-confidence, and feeling part of group living with similar circumstances creates a sense of unity.
The team monitor how the exercises affect the functioning of the children’s brains, so that better scientific understanding of motor disorders may emerge. A regular spell of non-invasive tests throughout each camp inform clinical leadership around this largely unexplored area – as well as contributing to improving the magic camps year-on-year.
“Research revealed that the camps have a significant impact on the children’s motor skills and dexterity. Children who only used their weaker hand in a quarter of two-handed activities before the camp, used both hands in over 90% of activities afterwards, and the results were maintained at follow-up appointments.”
Dr Dido Green, Director of Research at Breathe Arts Health Research
“Although HABIT training is proven as an effective treatment for hemiplegia, it involves 60 hours of repetitive sessions. This makes it difficult to keep children engaged through other programmes. Breathe Magic combines these repetitive movements with a fun and social environment that everyone can enjoy. Another main benefit is the improvement in psychosocial skills as the children socialise, gain confidence and learn to perform a show.”
Yvonne Farquharson, Managing Director of Breathe Arts Health Research
“Thanks to the camp, Jack can now feed himself with his weaker hand – something he was unable to manage previously. Doing exercises at home is always a chore, but the magic tricks are something which Jack really enjoys doing. The magic doesn’t seem like therapy to the children, it’s actually giving them a talent which the other kids don’t have at school, and that makes a massive difference to their inner confidence.”
Will Cardwell, the dad of 9 year old Jack, Magician
“At a time when innovation is key within the NHS, Breathe Magic is a prime example of developing new approaches to healthcare which harness the therapeutic benefits of the arts and creativity. Breathe Arts Health Research has shown through clinical research of their Breathe Magic Camps that there is a demonstrable clinical and cost benefit to the NHS.”
The Rt. Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health
Groups of approximately 12 children at a time attend the camps. The children are aged eight to 16 and have motor disorders, predominantly hemiplegia. Hemiplegia is paralysis of one side of the body, often caused by a stroke. Around one in 1,000 children are affected.
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