Research shows magic tricks can boost self-esteem in children and teens with ADHD

Children and teens with ADHD often have low self-esteem. How can magic tricks help?

A recent study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) found that teaching magic tricks to children and teens with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can help promote confidence. and improve self-esteem.

The single-group study, published in health psychology research, followed 6 children and teens ages 8.6 to 14.3 as they participated in UAB Magic Camp, a virtual magic camp program designed for children with disabilities. The camp met 3 days a week for 45 minute to 1 hour sessions for 4 consecutive weeks, for a total of 9 to 12 hours. Participants conducted pre- and post-camp assessments, and researchers interviewed participants and their parents individually after camp. Using a single-rank Wilcoxon test, the researchers determined that the median rank of post-camp self-esteem scores was significantly higher than the pre-camp scores, at median = 21.5 and median = 19.5, respectively. The overall effect of virtual magic camp on participants’ self-esteem was rated as moderate at 0.64. These findings were supported by the interviews, in which participants described feeling a greater sense of self-esteem during and after the sessions and their parents reported an overall positive impact on their children’s psychological well-being. .1 The study was part of a collaboration between UAB’s Institute of Arts in Medicine, the Department of Occupational Therapy at the School of Health Professions, and Kevin Spencer, an educator and illusionist.2

These findings are important because children and teens with ADHD often experience feelings of low self-esteem, along with other common symptoms such as hyperactivity and/or inattention. Low self-esteem in these children may be caused in part by the negative social reactions they experience, as well as the frequent challenges and failures in school.2 Learning and performing magic tricks can help improve self-esteem in children and adults with ADHD, as the approach is motivational and emphasizes improving perceptual technique, physical, psychological and social. Research shows that magic tricks can also help children who suffer from emotional disorders, as well as those with developmental disabilities such as autism, communication difficulties and behavioral disorders.2

Brian L. Hartfield