Ludotherapy is a form of psychotherapy for children that uses play situations for diagnosis or treatment.
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effectiveness of teaching magic tricks to young patients as a method of play therapy (ludotherapy) as a means of diffusing anxiety in pre and post-operative treatments.
METHOD: In a separate study, Italian researchers discovered that approximately 60% of all children suffer from anxiety prior to minor surgery.
High levels of anxiety prior to surgery lead to higher risks of complications following surgeries in children.
In the study, researchers compared pre-surgery anxiety levels in 40 children aged 5 to 12 who were about to have minor surgery. Half of the children had a clown or magician along with a parent while waiting for surgery and during the delivery of anesthesia. The other half had only a parent and medical staff present.
The results shows that the children who had a clown or magician present until they fell asleep experienced significantly less pre-surgery anxiety and, consequently, required less anesthesia.
(SOURCES: Vagnoli, L. Pediatrics, October 2005; vol 116: pp e563-e567. News release, American Academy of Pediatrics.)
Building on this study, psychologists, social workers and volunteer magicians (in collaboration with IBM Ring 204 in Rome) were integrated into pediatric units of several hospitals in Italy to advance both psychological support and play therapy activities with children preparing for treatment.
When possible, employees and volunteers met with children at home prior to the hospital stay so that when the child arrived at the unit, they saw a familiar face.
CONCLUSIONS: This has been an ongoing program since December 2005. This therapy method, when integrated with conventional medical treatment, provides psychological support for young patients and their parents in pediatric units as it enhances and reaffirms the basic concepts of Gelotogy – the psychological and physiological study of laughter and its effects on the human body.