Research Shows Magic Tricks May Boost Self-Esteem in Children and Adolescents with ADHD


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

adhd_chrupka/Adobe Stock

adhd_chrupka/Adobe Stock

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

The single-group study, published in Health Psychology Research, followed 6 children and adolescents aged 8.6-14.3 years as they participated in the 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 completed assessments both before and after the camp, and researchers interviewed participants and their parents individually after the camp. Using a Wilcoxon single-rank test, the researchers determined that the median rank for self-esteem scores post-camp were considerably higher than the scores pre-camp, at median=21.5 and median=19.5, respectively. The overall effect of the virtual magic camp on self-esteem of participants was considered moderate at .64. These findings were supported in the interviews, in which participants described experiencing greater feelings of self-esteem during and following the sessions and their parents reported an overall positive impact on their children’s psychological wellbeing.1 The study was part of a collaboration between UAB’s Institute for Arts in Medicine, the School of Health Professions’ Department of Occupational Therapy, and Kevin Spencer, educator and illusionist.2

These findings are important, as children and adolescents 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 adverse social feedback they experience, plus frequent challenges and failures in school.2 Learning and performing magic tricks may help improve self-esteem in both children and adults with ADHD because the approach is motivational with a focus on improving perceptual, physical, psychological, and social technique. Research shows that magic tricks may also help children who experience emotional disturbances, as well as those with developmental disabilities such as autism, communication difficulties, and behavioral disorders.2

The researchers of the UAB study suggested that future research focus on the holistic impact of camps like the UAB Magic Camp on children and adolescents with ADHD, and include measures of psychosocial attributes like self-efficacy, social skills, and social functioning.1


1. Yuen HK, Spencer K, Kirklin K, et al. Contribution of a virtual magic camp to enhancing self-esteem in children with ADHD: a pilot study. Health Psych Research. 2021;9(1).

2. Learning magic tricks can help self-esteem of kids with ADHD. News Release. University of Alabama at Birmingham. October 6, 2021. Accessed November 11, 2021.

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