It's often hard to motivate youngsters to exercise, especially if they have dyspraxia or more serious physical disabilities.
A new approach from a Tel Aviv University researcher is working to bridge the worlds of behaviour and science to help kids with dyspraxia and motor dysfunction conditions.
The research team are working to improve the physical skills and inner confidence of youngsters by using a trick they like to keep up her sleeve. It's called "magic" or more accurately, conjuring tricks.
Dr Dido Green of Tel Aviv University's School of Health Professionals developed an innovative yet remarkably simple series of therapeutic exercises for children and young adults based on sleight-of-hand tricks used by professional magicians.
Dr. Green and her magicians used sponge balls, elastics and paper clips to teach the children how to perform challenging, fun and engaging exercises.
Making physical therapy fun
"Children with dyspraxia, or more serious motor disorders like hemiplegia, perform routine exercises with their hands and wrists to be able to carry out basic functions such as opening a door, doing up their zipper, or closing buttons," explains Dr. Green.
She is an occupational therapist with a masters degree in clinical neuroscience and a Ph.D. in psychomotor development of children. "Not only did the kids get a kick out of the magic tricks, they loved doing the exercises every day."
Dr. Green hopes to create summer "magic camps" for disabled children in both the U.K. and Israel, and will further investigate the benefits of magic for improving motor development skills in children with more severe disabilities.
Her initial research, now in the process of publication looked at a sample of nine children. "We had a hunch that learning magic tricks could do wonders for kids' movement problems, but we wanted to see if the kids would actually practice them," says Dr. Green.
She needn't have worried. It was a big success!
The children practiced ten minutes a day over four to six weeks, resulting in a significant and measurable change in their motor skills. "It was a big enough effect to make us want to develop further the concept of using magic or conjuring tricks to improve motor learning," says Dr. Green.
American Friends of Tel Aviv University (www.aftau.org) supports Israel's leading and most comprehensive center of higher learning. In independent rankings, TAU's innovations and discoveries are cited more often by the global scientific community than all but 20 other universities worldwide