Abracadabra! – magic-themed intensive therapy for children with unilateral cerebral palsy
Since I joined the Child Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp as a paralegal, I have been keen to learn about innovative and imaginative therapies that may benefit our clients.
In this blog, I explore an exciting intensive therapy programme for young people with hemiplegia called Breathe Magic. Hemiplegia is a form of cerebral palsy that affects one side of the body as a result of a brain injury or stroke, which can impact a child’s ability to perform everyday activities that require both hands and both sides of the body to work together. Breathe Magic can make a real difference to these children.
What does the Breathe Magic Intensive Therapy Programme involve?
As its name suggests, it is a bi-manual intensive therapy delivered by Breathe Arts Health Research which transforms young people with hemiplegia into budding young magicians over 60 hours. Occupational Therapists and Magic Circle Magicians work closely to specially design magic tricks to develop hand and arm function, self-care skills, self-confidence and independence.
The programme is a 10-day intervention delivered over two weeks (plus pre and post camp clinical assessments) followed by three monthly Breathe Magic Clubs. It uses hand-arm bi-manual intensive therapy [HABIT], focusing on the principles of motor skills learning through a structured and task-specific approach. On day 10, the young magicians showcase their newly found talents by performing a professional magic show alongside Magic Circle Magicians for their friends and family.
Since completing the programme, parents have said they are amazed by their child’s new skills, like opening a packet of crisps and getting dressed unsupervised (Fancourt, 2021).
The programme is designed to seem like a non-clinical and non-educational setting. A parent of a child who has participated in the programme, sums this up well: “that’s the important thing, isn’t it, that it’s therapy without being therapy” (Fancourt et al., 2020).
Research has found effective results. One study revealed that after participating in the Breathe Magic Intensive Therapy Programme, beta values across MRI examinations showed a 26.14% increase in levels of brain activation in the affected hemisphere (from pre- to post-intervention) (Weinstein et al., 2015).
The magic of bimanual intensive therapy
Grounded in world-class medical research, the benefits of the programme are:
- Clinically significant improvements in bimanual motor skills and independence
- Improvements in the young person’s psychological wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem
- Developments in children’s self-motivation and independence, resulting in reductions in hours of care and support from parents following the young person’s participation in the programme
- Increased social opportunities for the young person to meet others with hemiplegia and their family to create peer support networks
- Improved social integration in mainstream schools
Overall, I am struck by the uniqueness and creativity behind using magic as a tool for therapy and the Breathe Magic Intensive Therapy Programme. Fun and interactive therapies help children and young people feel comfortable and more engaged – I am inspired to brush up on my card skills!
Click here to learn more about the Breathe Magic Intensive Therapy Programme.
How can we help your child?
In the Child Brain Injury team, we represent children suffering brain injuries as a result of clinical negligence. Many of our clients have cerebral palsy and hemiplegia.
Part of our role is to ensure our clients get the rehabilitation and therapy they need. We understand that each child, as with all of us, has special interests. Whether it’s playing football, painting a picture, or putting on a magic show, we aim to ensure that our clients’ therapies are tailored to their personal needs and hobbies, the costs of which can be funded through their compensation claim.
Other types of therapy that my colleagues have written about include music therapy and trampolining therapy.
If you are looking for more guidance and information about hemiplegia, Contact a Family is dedicated to providing support to children with hemiplegia and their families.
To register your interest or discuss a young person’s suitability for the Breathe Magic Intensive Therapy Programme, please contact Breathe Arts Health Research (or express your interest by filling in their referral form).
Each young person will undergo an assessment with a Clinical Lead Occupational Therapist before being accepted onto the programme. The programme’s main eligibility criteria include; aged 7 to 18 years at the time of the camp, being in mainstream education, being keen to learn magic, being able to follow multi-step instructions and being able to work as part of a group.