FAQs for Parents

What is the Breathe Magic Intensive Therapy (BMIT) programme?

The Breathe Magic programme is a fun, clinically effective programme for young people with hemiplegia, aimed at significantly improving their bimanual (two-handed) function. Using the NICE-approved model of Hand-Arm Bimanual Intensive Therapy (HABIT), the programme involves consistent and repeated encouragement of use of the ‘helper hand’ for a total of 70 hours.  The main method for this is the teaching of magic skills, using specially chosen tricks that require the young people to use both hands together to complete the magic sequences, as well as focusing on their performance and communication skills, and goals for activities of daily living. Taught via a two-week summer camp (plus follow ups) at which everything – from opening doors to shaking hands and mealtimes – is two-handed, the research shows that the programme delivers a significant, sustained improvement in two-handed function for most young people that attend.


Who runs the programme?

The programme is delivered by renowned arts in health organisation Breathe Arts Health Research, through a highly experienced team of specialist Occupational Therapists, world-class Magic Circle Magicians and project support staff. The Magicians lead the magic teaching, but they work closely with the OTs to ensure all young people are developing their use of their ‘helper hand’.  Each young person also works 1:1 with an Occupational Therapy student to support their individual needs and progress, supervised by our own Clinical Lead. You can find out more about the whole team on our About Us page here.


How old does my young person have to be to attend?

We accept young people ages 7-18.


What are the criteria for my young person being accepted onto the programme?

The Breathe Magic programme has been designed to be especially effective for young people with hemiplegia, usually caused by Cerebral Palsy or another neurological condition.  The programme is also most suitable for young people ages 7-18, in mainstream education, who can follow multi-step sequences taught in a group setting.  They also should have an interest in learning magic!

If your young person falls outside any of these criteria, or if you aren’t sure, please do still get in touch; our clinical team screen all potential applicants so they will work with you to establish whether the programme will be suitable for your young person.


How long is the Breathe Magic programme?

Your young person will be in the programme for a total of 6 months.  The main activity is a two-week camp (Mon-Fri for two weeks in a school holiday) but also includes 3 club days in the 6 months following this camp, usually held on Saturdays.  We complete a clinical assessment with your child before camp, one immediately after camp and one after 6 months. Exact dates of the programme are posted on our website in mid-September for the following year.


How long are the camp days?

Each day on camp lasts from 10am to 4pm, except the final day which runs from 11am to 9pm to accommodate a Magic Show (a final performance put on by the young magicians).


Where do the camps take place?

The camps take place in different locations across the UK; past camp locations have included London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Surrey and Cheltenham. The details on the dates and exact locations for 2020 will be decided in mid-September and posted on the website as soon as possible.


Are the camps residential?

No, parents are expected to drop off and collect their children each day. The children are set light magic homework for each evening which is handed from the Magic Trainer to the parent at collection time each day.


Are the camps catered?

Yes, we provide a healthy snack in mid-morning which can be cut up or eaten using two hands and a cooked lunch or sandwiches at lunchtime every day. On the final day we ask for the parents to provide a packed dinner.


Does my young person have to attend for the whole programme?

Yes; in order the full benefits to be realised it is essential that each young person in the programme attends all 10 days of the two-week camp, plus all three follow up club days.


What are the assessments for?

The assessments are a crucial part of the programme.  They enable our OTs and Magicians to tailor their teaching and therapy for each young person at camp, as well as enabling us to write follow-up reports which are shared with our young magicians’ GP, parents, school and Occupational Therapist. The assessments are also key in helping us developing our evidence base around bimanual therapy.


How does the programme funding work / how much does it cost?

Because we receive variable and limited external funding, in order to help cover our costs for the programme we ask each family to contribute £3,400 per place. Breathe Arts Health Research is a not-for-profit organisation, so the magic programme is not a private therapy, this is purely to cover costs.

The Breathe Team will offer you advice and support with funding.  Many of our families choose to fundraise in their communities, schools, or via local charities and do so very successfully; we can support you with this and give you lots of suggestions, as well as putting you in touch with families who have fundraised in the past.

Other families prefer to self-fund their young person’s place on the programme themselves.  If you feel this is the best route for you, we can be flexible in setting up payment plans and tailoring these to your individual family’s needs.


Are any places subsidised or free?

Beyond the self-funding and fundraising routes, some families may choose to submit a request for funding to their local NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).  The BMIT programme follows a NICE-approved model so many families have had success with these applications, however this depends very much on where you live, your CCG’s budgets and what other services are available / have been accessed by you in your area.  Individual funding requests to CCGs are made via your GP and the Breathe team can support you by providing evidence of the programme’s effectiveness and a letter of clinical recommendation.

Breathe Arts Health Research also builds relationships with individuals and businesses, many of whom decide to offer their support in the form of donations to our bursary fund.  This means we have a limited amount of funding available that you can apply for to fund part of your child’s place, if you are not able to self-fund / fundraise or if NHS funding requests are rejected. Whilst we do not means-test for bursaries, our bursary pot is small so we have to allocate these funds very carefully. We therefore encourage our families to pursue this option only as a last resort.


My child doesn’t have hemiplegia but the programme has been recommended to me, can my child still attend?

Each young person will be screened by our Clinical Leads as part of the enrolment process and it will be at this point when a decision is made about whether your young person will benefit from the programme. Historically we have had children with quadriplegia attend and we know the programme can benefit several neurological conditions. The decision made by our Clinical Leads about each young person’s suitability for the camp will depend on a range of factors and a conversation with parents or guardians will always be had before a final decision is made.


How do I sign up?

The first step in signing up for a place on camp is for a parent or guardian to complete our Breathe Magic Intensive Therapy Programme Referral Form here. Healthcare professionals working with a young person should ask parents/guardians to complete the form.  We will then be in touch with you within two weeks to arrange a follow up call and screening.


How do I know if my young person has a place on camp?

There are several steps before your young person is fully accepted onto the programme. First you (the parent or guardian) should complete the referral form here, then one of our Clinical Leads will be in touch to confirm whether the programme is suitable for your child; this will include a call with you followed by a skype screen with you and your young person, in order for us for them to establish your young person’s clinical needs, eligibility and motivation for the programme. The Clinical Leads will also be able to explain in more detail about some of the fundraising options available to you.   Once your young person has been accepted onto the programme, we will keep in touch to finalise the logistical information for the camps.


The Breathe Team are always on hand and happy to talk through any questions you might have about the programme; you can email us at info@breatheahr.org or phone the office on 020 3290 2013.