Kevin Spencer on Disability Innovation through Magic Tricks

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We are back to discuss impactful healthcare-related innovations, specifically disability innovation. Kevin Spencer is an award-winning magician who is passionate about developing children with autism.

Disability Innovation

Disability Innovation through Magic Tricks

Kevin is a magician known by many as “the kid whisperer.” Years ago, Kevin had a brain and spine injury from a motorcycle accident. During the therapy process, he started learning magic tricks to keep himself busy and motivated. After seeing how well it worked, he developed Magic Therapy, a program that uses simple magic tricks to boost motivation, curiosity, and creative expression.

When first testing the program, Kevin worked with adults but felt intimidated by children. He was hesitant to work with a child but took on the challenge. At first, his tricks weren’t doing anything, but the child became curious and engaged after the second trick. After the session, Kevin noticed the child’s father crying. The father told him that was the first time he had ever heard his child speak. After that experience, Kevin committed to developing children who have autism.

Hocus Focus

Kevin always wanted to be a magician and feels very privileged to use his passion in a way that impacts others. For kids told that they can’t do things, performing magic tricks gives them the ability to do something that a peer or sibling can’t do.

Kevin’s team created an innovative program designed for a school system called Hocus Focus. The magic tricks address the objectives of a child’s education program that develops functional skills. The tricks connect to a common core standard of learning. A teacher can use the trick to deliver academic content, and occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists can use the same trick to work on the child’s functional aspects.

Unlocking Creativity Through the Arts

Kevin and a colleague developed an assessment for teachers to measure the impact of the Hocus Focus program. Dozens of school districts in the U.S use the program, but the most significant market is overseas. There is a greater appreciation of the arts in foreign countries.

I believe we need to bring back the arts to the U.S school system. There are so many things to be learned from the arts with no other way to learn it. Magic tricks give those on the autism spectrum the opportunity to think with flexibility. There is amazing creativity buried inside them, and they need a way to express it. If we can find a way to support them and bring them into organizations, they can unlock unbelievable amounts of innovation.

About our Guest Kevin Spencer

Kevin Spencer is the Director at the Center 4 Creative Arts, a Fulbright Specialist & Subject Matter for the U.S Department of State, a Research Consultant for the UAB Arts in Medicine and Occupational Therapy Programs, and a Faculty member at Carlow University.

Kevin is an award-winning performing magician who has toured the world with his wife and partner for over 25 years. He also serves as a Teaching Artist through the Hocus Focus and Magic Therapy programs.

To know more about disability innovation, specifically on children with autism, listen to this week's show: Kevin Spencer on Disability Innovation through Magic Tricks.

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