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Tel Aviv University: Disabled Children Begin Healing - Magically

A researcher at Tel Aviv University is using magic tricks to make therapeutic exercises more fun for children - with significant results.
By Malkah Fleisher
First Publish: 3/16/2010, 11:10 PM / Last Update: 3/17/2010, 7:07 AM

A researcher at Tel Aviv University is making therapeutic exercises for children more fun – as if by magic.

Dr. Dido Green at Tel Aviv University's School of Health Professionals has discovered that teaching magic tricks to young people with physical disabilities is an amusing and effective way of getting them to develop fine motor skills, according to a report by American Friends of Tel Aviv University. The skills the children hone to perform sleight-of-hand can then be applied to mundane but important tasks like opening doors or dressing themselves.

According to the report, children with paralysis and motor dysfunction problems who are ordinarily hard to motivate, quickly become engaged in magic tricks using sponge balls, elastics, and paper clips. Furthermore, they not only develop the ability to button a shirt or zip a coat – they also develop much-needed self confidence.

Dr. Green started her foundational research at the Evelina Children's Hospital funded by the Guy's and St. Thomas' Hospital Charity, Performing Arts Programme in London. 

She found that children who practiced the skills learned while doing magic tricks for 10 minutes a day for 4 to 6 weeks had significant improvements in motor skills.

The next phase of study will investigate neurological effects which might occur during magic play. She will determine whether practice motivated by magic tricks affects different areas of the brain over time. She hopes to develop her current and future findings into summer camps for disabled children in Israel and the UK.