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A Breath of New Life for Children Suffering with Motor Disabilities

Breathe Arts Health Research, the social enterprise developing creative approaches to tackle healthcare issues, has designed a new therapy to help young people suffering from hemiplegia.

With the help of mentors from Lloyds Banking Group, Breathe is looking to expand its work to benefit children nationally and has signed up British Paralympic athlete, Bethy Woodward as the social enterprise’s patron.

Hemiplegia is a condition which severely limits the use of one side of the body, and Breathe designs programmes that help children suffering with this disorder to overcome their disability through the use of creativity and magic, as well as designing programmes to tackle other health problems and inequalities.

This unique approach to therapy integrates specially adapted magic tricks into intensive therapy programmes to improve both the physical health and general wellbeing of the child.

Since 2008 Yvonne Farquharson and Dr Dido Green have been working with a team of clinicians and ‘Magic Circle’ magicians on developing the therapy, and have so far brought the benefits of magic to 50 children with hemiplegia across the UK and Israel, helping them to develop their motor skills and subsequently increase their independence.

Breathe hosts camps for children suffering with hemiplegia where they are taught specially adapted magic tricks by a team of magicians and trained therapists. All of which have been designed with the aim of encouraging the movements required in order to train the affected limbs, thus restoring much of the motor functionality.

Research shows that before attending the magic camp children could use their weaker hand in only 25 per cent of two-handed activities. After the camp, this figure leapt to 93 per cent and they were performing more tasks independently. The long-term aim for the enterprise is to broaden out the service so that it is available to more and more sufferers, and to adapt the programme to work with other health conditions.

The support that Yvonne received from her mentor, Karen Cook of Lloyds TSB Commercial Banking, meant that she was able to take a step back from her day to day involvement in running the camps and start to develop it as a business venture.