Breathe Magic Intensive Therapy Programme - Breathe

Our Research

Breathe Magic Intensive Therapy Programme

Rigorous research has been undertaken into our flagship Breathe Magic programme

The Breathe Magic Intensive Therapy Programme is a clinically effective, fun and engaging approach to therapy which has been running since 2010. The programme has supported many young people with hemiplegia; a weakness or paralysis affecting one side of the body caused by an injury to the brain.

Grounded in world-class medical research, the award-winning Breathe Magic Intensive Therapy Programme gives young people access to 78 hours of intensive therapy and transforms them into young magicians! Specialist occupational therapists work alongside Magic Circle magicians to teach magic tricks designed to develop hand and arm function, self-confidence and independence.

Approximately 1 in 1400 young people have a diagnosis of cerebral palsy of these it is thought that 0.8 young people in 1000 live births has a diagnosis of hemiplegic cerebral palsy in the first few years of life and a further 0.2 young people in every 1000 acquire hemiplegia later in life following a brain injury (Contact, 2020, Oskoui, 2013 & Sellier, 2016).

Due to inconsistencies in service provision across the UK the majority of young people with hemiplegia have no access to intensive bimanual (two-handed) therapies despite this approach receiving a ‘Green Light’ in systematic reviews (Novak et al., 2013 & 2019) and despite being supported by NICE guidelines (CG145, 2012 & 2016).’

Breathe Arts Health Research has designed, researched and delivered an innovative treatment incorporating specially selected magic hand tricks that provoke specific two handed actions and interplays and theatre skills into the a Hand-Arm Bimanual Intensive Therapy (HABIT) and goal oriented therapy programme for children and young people with hemiplegia.

The two weeks at Breathe Magic have made such a difference to Ben in using his right hand, independent living, resilience, confidence and self-esteem. I am so glad he had the opportunity.
Jackie, mother of Young Magician Ben

Effectiveness of the programme on hand function and independence:

Research into the programme found that Breathe Magic increased usage of the young peoples affected hands by 61%. This was sustained after a follow-up 3 months, regardless of age, severity of movement restriction, or nationality, (Green & Farquharson, 2013) a further study showed that 92% of children had improvements in bimanual ability and 75% of the young people maintained their improvement after a follow-up 6 weeks later (Myers, Green, Schertz, Shiran, Geva, et al. 2015).

Our research, and research from other magic camps, shows that participants had clinically significant improvements in bimanual (two-handed) motor skills and improved independence and participation in daily activities. These skills were well maintained at the 6 month follow-up assessments.

Following Breathe Magic young people and their parents report improved movement skills and a greater ability to perform physical daily tasks at 6 months follow up and reductions in hours of care and support from parents following the young person’s participation in the programme due to their newfound independence (Fancourt, 2020).


92% of children had improvements in bimanual ability and 75% of the young people maintained their improvement after a follow-up 6 weeks later

Effectiveness of the programme on neuroplasticity of the brain in young people:

Following participation in intensive Magic HABIT neuroimaging showed that there was a 26.14% increase in level of activation in the affected hemisphere from before to after the intervention (shown in beta values), and a 34.75% improvement at follow- up (Weinstein et al, 2015).

Further studies showed increased white matter integrity was detected in the corpus callosum and corticospinal tract after the 60 hours of therapy in about half of the participants. This was associated with better hand function and the improvement was maintained in bimanual independence and unimanual hand function at follow-up.

Young people with greater overall brain damage (higher radiological score and decreased cortical activation in the affected hemisphere in fMRI) had greater improvement in bimanual function post-treatment. Diffusion tensor imaging in the PLIC (posterior limb of the internal capsule) and CST (corticospinal tract) indicated more white matter damage in some participants was associated with greater improvement in bilateral function following intervention (Schertz et al, 2016). Children with ipsilateral, bilateral, and contralateral cortical spinal tract connectivity, improved equally in HABIT interventions (Friel, 2021).

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