Kevin Spencer has been a magician for more than thirty years.
“I saw my first magician perform when I was five years old. And I can remember then vividly telling my mom: When I grow up, I’m going to be a magician.”
But early in his career, a bad car accident changed the focus of his work.
“The car I was in was crushed by a tractor trailer. I woke up in neurological intensive care with a closed brain injury and a lower spinal cord injury and spent almost a year in therapy just trying to regain the skills I’d lost as a result of the accident.”
“So Alex: What’s the magic word again?” “Abracadabra”
His experience made him think about using magic tricks as a tool for therapy.
“We are gonna pin the dollar bill over like this.”
“We know from research that magic is therapeutic. But we also know from research that all of the movements that are required to perform a magic trick are the same kind of thing that we would be working on more traditional forms of therapy.”
So Spencer started conducting workshops all over the world, teaching magic tricks to children and adults with varying degrees of disabilities.
“So working on motor skills, cognitive skills, perceptual skills, social skills and when you’re done, you actually have a really cool magic trick you can show somebody when it’s all over with.
“Yes, like that.”
And that social interaction also helps kids gain confidence.
“One, two, three”
That was the case with Liam Shannon who is on autistic spectrum. Mastering a few simple tricks make the ten years-old feel a variety of emotions.
“Wow, that’s so great!”
“It made me feel ‘wizardy’, serious, happy, proud…. it was great!”
“I think it just made him feel good about himself. Because he realized he had accomplished something. He’d seen it, he observed it, he learned it, and he did it.”
Spencer said seeing kids like Liam come alive during a workshop is the best magic of all.
“We can be on a stage and get the applause of thousands of people, and that is nothing compared to the smile that comes across a kid’s face and when they say ‘Look! I did it’ and it’s like, ‘yeah, you did!’”
Kevin Spencer plans to devote more and more of his time with people with disabilities, to help them discover their inner wizard. Julie Taboh, VOA News, Germantown, Maryland.