Posts Tagged ‘Autism’

IT’S MARCH…

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

I haven’t been writing in my blog nearly as much as I once did.  Much of that is because I’m connected to so many people through Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare that you know my day-t0-day activities without having to write them here.  But I know that some of you aren’t connected with me so, please, take a moment and do that:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/kevinwspencer

Twitter: @kevinspencer72

The last few months have been incredibly busy.  In January and early February, we toured in Florida performing for wonderful audiences in beautiful places and warm temperatures.  In February, we moved the show to the Midwest where we toured Iowa – where we also performed for wonderful audiences in beautiful places and COLD temperatures!

After a nice run through Iowa, the team flew back to Virginia for a few days while I made a visit to Kansas State University to work with some of their drama therapy students.  Over several days, an amazing group of people gathered to prepare for an exciting research project happening this summer at the Flint Hills Summer Fun Camp.  We will be exploring the impact that learning/performing magic tricks can have on the executive function skills of children with Autism and ADHD.  This will be the first multidisciplinary, arts-integrated intervention model designed to document this type of program!

After a few days in Manhattan, KS, I drove back to Kansas City to present a 3-hour workshop at the Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders.  This was a wonderful opportunity to share the Hocus Focus program with special educators across the U.S.  The workshop was overwhelmingly received with more than 40 schools signing up to participate in future research.

Once things wrapped in Kansas, I was on a plane to College Station, TX where I would meet up with the rest of the team.  We had a great show and spent several days working in the area:  3 television interviews, 1 newspaper interview, 1 radio interview, 8 workshops for 205 special education students in 7 schools, and 2 professional development workshops for 53 teachers and therapists.  It was a productive week!

We drove on to Amarillo for a performance at the Globe-News Theatre.  This is a truly spectacular theatre – one of the most unique I’ve ever seen.  The audience was amazing and we wrapped it all up with another standing ovation.

As I write this, I’ve been partnering with Lone Tree Performing Arts Center and Developmental Pathways in Colorado.  It’s been a busy week working with a variety of young adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities throughout the Metropolitan Denver area.  But it has been an amazing experience!  Tomorrow is the last of our events here and then I’ll be on a flight to Virginia on Sunday to spend 36 hours at my house…just in time for another snow storm.

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – IASE

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

It has been a very busy summer so far.  I was home for only a couple of days after my trip to Tobago before making another trip to Vancouver, B.C.  This time, I was attending the International Association of Special Education biennial conference.  This was a gathering of special educators from38 countries around the world.

IASE-OPENING

I had the privilege of presenting some research on the benefits of learning magic tricks for individuals with autism.  And I was able to show a quick video clip of the documentary I’ve been working on, MORE ALIKE THAN DIFFERENT. You can watch it below.

MATD-video-image

The conference was a fun time to connect with some old friends and to form some new relationships.  As a result, I have some very exciting projects in the works…but more on those later. There’s a lot to write about but I need to organize my thoughts first.

I know this is quick entry but I’m sorting through some photos from Magic Camp in Ohio from last week.  I’ll be sharing these with you soon!  In a couple of days, I’m off to Atlanta to speak at the Southeast  Homeschool Conference on how to engage students in learning through the arts.

I NEED YOUR HELP PLEASE

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

For more than 3 years, I’ve been working quietly on a project that I believe is going to be amazing.  It’s a unique documentary on the power of simple magic tricks to bring about positive change in the lives of people with disabilities.  This film shares the real stories of real people from all over the world and their efforts to overcome what others might consider “impossible” odds.  Most importantly, it’s about hope – the hope and confidence they gain by achieving the “impossible.”  Their stories are phenomenal, encouraging, and life changing!

Check out the Indiegogo Campaign by clicking the image below – and, please, think about making a contribution.  Every little bit makes a HUGE difference!

These are my goals with the Bag of Tricks crowd-funding campaign:

  • To change people’s attitudes and perceptions about individuals with disabilities;
  • To raise awareness of international disability issues and provide opportunities for individuals with different abilities to share in the global society.
  • To begin a meaningful conversation about the power of the arts in our communities to challenge, transform, inspire, and change lives.
  • To raise money to finish the documentary – filming some international projects, editing, music, distribution, legal fees, etc.

Almost every person in every society around the world has been touched in some way by a person living with disability.  Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, extended family, and friends – all have been impacted by the life of someone with a developmental or intellectual disability, including the almost epidemic explosion of autism spectrum disorders.

Everyone who supports people with disabilities is, in some way, an advocate for their best interests.  The future of individuals with disability is contingent on the perceptions and attitudes of those without disability.  It is pivotal that we stop focusing on their disabilities and start appreciating their abilities.

In spite of international laws and policies, many people with disabilities still find themselves pushed to the margins of our societies.  And almost all encounter prejudice, bullying, insensitive treatment, and discrimination.  These attitudes and actions cause their world to become smaller.  Their opportunities become more limited, and, ultimately, they withdraw from the wider community.  That’s not acceptable – and that has to change.  I can think of no better time than NOW to confront these attitudes in a positive way and jump-start the change that can make a difference in their lives.

Please consider making a donation to this cause.  And if you can’t contribute, then share this campaign with other through Facebook, Twitter, Email, Phone Calls, or just plain old Word-of-Mouth!

A WEEK IN NEW JERSEY

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

I have to apologize again for not being as prompt as I should be in writing this blog.  My days have been slammed – and so have my nights.  The performance schedule is busy and that’s a great thing.  But beyond the shows, I’m also working in many of these communities with special education students, clients in rehab hospitals, and conducting continuing education training sessions for educators and therapists.  And I’m trying to wrap up my Certification in Autism Students while writing a research paper on the Social and Cognitive Benefits of Integrating Magic Tricks for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum.

We have had some great shows this season – enthusiastic audiences and strong responses!  Our week in New Jersey was no exception.  The opportunity to work in two schools and two rehabilitation hospitals in Somerville was a great way to start the week.  You can reach more about it on the previous blog post

From Somerville, we made our way to Vineland in the southern part of New Jersey.  Our performance was scheduled for Friday night in the Guaracini Fine & Performing Arts Center…

…but, on Thursday, Chase and I had the chance to work with some college students.  I taught them a few magic tricks with the express purpose of improving memory, concentration, sequencing, and creativity.  They did an outstanding job!

On Friday, when we arrived at the theatre, we were greeted by Chris and the technical crew.  This would be our second time on the stage at CCCNJ.  Greg and his team are great, fun to work with, and very professional.  They were ready to get the show loaded in, set up, and ready for the audience.  The day rolled along very smoothly – scenery, lighting, focus, cues, etc.

The audience for the Friday performance was fantastic!  Meeting them in the lobby afterward is always a highlight for me.  Hearing their comments about their favorite illusion or moment in the show makes it all worthwhile.

After Vineland, we were on our way back north to Somerville.  This would be our 4th or 5th performance at the Theatre at RVCC working with Alan and his team.  It is always such a pleasure to work here (dare I say like family?) – and after two days working in the community, I was looking forward to the show!  I took lots of pictures during the day AND this audience was wonderful – engaged and responsive to all the illusions.  It was the perfect way to end a week in New Jersey!

BACK HOME IN THE USA

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

I’m back in Virginia after a fun and productive adventure in the UK and Ireland.  After several days of sightseeing, it was time to put on the “educator” hat and prepare for the conference.  The DISES International Round Table was an educational experience to say the least. The setting provided for an opportunity to listen and share with special educators from around the world.  The informal atmosphere was perfect and allowed presenters to provide a different perspective on international policy and advocacy for individuals with special education needs.

The International Round Table took place on the campus of St. Angela’s College in Sligo, Ireland.  The setting was peaceful with spectacular views.  And, each afternoon, attendees gathered together to see some of the historic sights close to Sligo.

My presentation was on Hocus Focus - the effectiveness of using magic tricks in the education process of students with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  It was well received and everyone in our group even learned a few tricks along the way.

In the evenings, many of us were able to get together for great music and fun in the local pubs – the traditional gathering places of friends in Ireland.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the final banquet at the Castle.  Chase and I were booked to fly back to the states from Belfast, UK.  We left immediately after a group tour of Carrowmore Tombs & Knocknarea to make the 3 hour drive.  We didn’t realize that Thursday, March 12 was also Marching Day in the UK.  As we drove through small towns toward Belfast, traffic was re-routed several times in order to accommodate parades of the Orangemen marching through the streets.  I managed to snap one photo while Chase got some video.

We made it to Belfast around 8pm and decided to return our rental car and just spend the night in the hotel.  We had to be there at 4am in order to check in for our flight anyway and hotels would be difficult to find in Belfast on Marching Day.  As it turns out, we were asked to leave the airport so…off to find a hotel.  The Ibis Hotel in City Center was able to provide a room for the short night.  As our taxi driver pulled into Central Belfast, he pointed out several columns of smoke where the riots were taking place.  And, once checked into the hotel, we were cautioned by the locals not to stray to far on the streets.  Things had already turned violent in the city.

We were up very early in the morning and on our way back to the Belfast City Airport.  We checked in our bags, got our boarding passes and made our way to the gate.  First stop would be London Gatwick Airport where we would transfer to US Air for the flights to Charlotte, NC and then on home.

After we boarded the flight to London, one of the USAir representatives found us on the plane.  He wanted to confirm our baggage claim numbers and then assured us the bags were on the flight.  That was great news!

We landed in Charlotte and made our way to Immigration.  Once we cleared immigration, it was time to claim our bags, get through Customs, and drop them at the re-check counter.  The only problem – one of my bags was missing.  After being confirmed on the flight in London, I was surprised not to see it at baggage claim.  As I write this, it still hasn’t showed up…and I’m guessing it’s stuck in Customs on Charlotte.  Hopefully, it will be here soon!

MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM – PITTSBURG, KS

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

After a heartwarming and inspiring day in the Pittsburg Elementary Schools, it was the day for the performance – Friday the 13th. When I made my way downstairs to have breakfast at the hotel, I found two articles in the area papers.  The first was in the JOPLIN GLOBE talking about tonight’s show.  The second article was in the MORNING SUN, the local paper.  It talked about the show as well but it also featured yesterday’s activities with the Hocus Focus Project.  It was a great article and included some fun pictures of the students.

We arrived at Memorial Auditorium promptly at our scheduled time to find Jason and the guys ready to load everything in…from the truck, down the ramp, onto the lift, and up to the stage.

Before everything was lift to the stage, I got this cool shot from the stage looking down into the pit…that’s where all the cases were. This is what several tons of magic equipment looks like from the top!  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get all the cases in the picture.

The day went very well.  After load in, KOKE12 News from Joplin arrived to do a quick interview, get some “behind the scenes” footage, and put a story together for the 5pm news.

Doors opened at 7pm and the gathering crowd in the lobby made their way into the auditorium.  It was exciting to see so many families at the show.  We have performed here in the past but, without a doubt, this was our largest crowd in Pittsburg.  There were literally hundreds of tickets sold today keeping the box office people busy!

The audience was GREAT – excited, enthusiastic, and energetic.  We had wonderful volunteers throughout the show and I was especially pleased with how beautiful the stage looked.  All of us enjoyed working with Jeff, Jason, and the entire team at Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium.  I’m already looking forward to coming back!

PITTSBURG, KS – HOCUS FOCUS

Friday, April 13th, 2012

This was our first day in Pittsburg, KS.  Tomorrow night – Friday the 13th – is the show at Memorial Auditorium.  Today started early.  I was up at 5am to get ready for the KOAM Morning News.  Jeff, manager at the Auditorium, picked me up promptly at 5:45am to make the drive to the television studio.  We arrived and Brandon, the morning show producer, welcomed us to the station.  I had the chance to meet Tawnya in the Green Room and, later, Dave stopped by as well.  I had two spots – one to talk about Friday’s show and the other to perform a trick…and teach a trick!

After morning television, Jeff and I went to one of the local restaurants for breakfast.  It was relaxing and a great chance for us to visit.  We finished our food and drove back to the hotel to pick up Alan and Chase.  All of us would be visiting four area elementary schools for the remainder of the day taking the Hocus Focus project to some very special students.

Our first day in Pittsburg was a great one!  I’m looking forward to the show tomorrow night!

TWO AMAZING DAYS IN MINNESOTA

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

It was a bit of a challenge getting to Minnesota – all that was going on with the truck – but it’s been a great two days in Burnsville, MN.  After getting settled into the hotel and renting a car, I had some activities that I knew would be incredibly gratifying.

Yesterday, I spent some time with the therapists at The Courage Center – “a Minnesota-based non-profit rehabilitation and resource center that empowers people with disabilities to realize their full potential in every aspect of life.”  I have such a passion for sharing with therapists new ways they can motivate their clients to get involved in their treatment.  And most of the clients here are children – and what child doesn’t love magic?  We had a great time learning how simple magic tricks can be used to help kids develop skills.  One of the therapists shared this comment with me via email:

Kevin’s passion for his trade and his clients! He is so full of benevolence; he made me laugh and cry. I know I sound like I am writing a movie review in the newspaper…but honestly he made an impact in my life. I feel so blessed to have been able to meet Kevin and I look forward to utilizing magic in my future Occupational Therapy sessions.

This morning started off in Minnetonka at Scenic Heights Elementary school working with two group of special education students.  Dr. Kathy Johnson from Saint Cloud State University (SCSU) met me there.  Kathy’s students at SCSU were a big part of the international research that was done with the Hocus Focus project.  She has been working with this school for several years with the Chinese immerse program sponsored by SCSU. Kathy and I first met at RIGA 2010 in Latvia and then again at the East Asian International Conference on Teacher Education Research in Hong Kong.  She made the arrangements for me to work today with the students at Scenic Heights – and they were fantastic!

After lunch, we drove over to Lionsgate Academy – a charter school for 7th-12th grade students on the autism spectrum.  When we arrived, the students were very excited about watching some magic.  When they discovered that they were going to LEARN some magic, they got even more excited!  Watching them learn and few tricks was inspiring; but when each one of them stepped to the front of the room to perform the trick and share their story, that was priceless!  Performing magic has a way of removing barriers and allows students to open up and be themselves – no fear, no judgement, only support and applause from their peers.  They were all so eager to get up there and perform…and that’s really an amazing feat for anyone on the autism spectrum as social skills are one of their biggest weaknesses.  Not today – these kids were performers!

Tomorrow is the show at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center - 7:30pm.  It’s a beautiful venue – and it should be a fun show!

PEABODY AUDITORIUM – DAYTONA BEACH, FL

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

This marked our first performance at Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach, FL.  It also closed our Florida tour for 2012.  And it was a GREAT way to end the tour!  Everyone at the Peabody made our time there easy and fun.  Load in, set up, and tech rehearsal were all ahead of schedule. But it was the audience that made the evening perfect.  We had a large enthusiastic crowd of all ages ready to have a good time.  Volunteers were excited to be on stage and their energy really moved the show along.  In the lobby afterwards, I had the chance to meet literally hundreds of people.  It was the perfect ending to a perfect tour!

Earlier in the week, Kevin Poor and Jill Jaquet had mad arrangements for me to visit a very special school in Daytona Beach.  The Monarch Academy is a center that targets children on the autism spectrum.  I was able to meet with the teachers in the morning and then work with the students.  I love these kids and, more importantly, I’m thrilled that the people at Peabody Auditorium are so willing to explore things in the community that can have a big impact!

THANKS TO EVERYONE AT PEABODY FOR A GREAT TIME IN DAYTONA BEACH!

THE FLORIDA THEATRE – JACKSONVILLE, FL

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

I’m not exactly sure how many times we’ve performed at the Florida Theatre but it’s always a fun gig for us.  We arrived into town on Tuesday night, even though the show wasn’t until Friday.  Wednesday morning started very early.  Kendall (from the Florida Theatre)  picked Chase and I up at 4am – yup, that’s early!  We met up with Tracy Conley from ActionNewsJacksonville at the Alden Road Exceptional School.  Starting at 5:30am, we did our first hit of the morning.  We did several more interviews throughout the morning…made the noon news…and then again at 5pm.  Thank you Tracy for all that great exposure for the Hocus Focus project and the show at the Florida Theatre!

Starting at 8am on Wednesday morning, I conducted two professional development workshops for teachers at Alden Road Exceptional School.  This is an amazing school for students who have profound developmental disabilities ranging from physical dysfunctions to autism.  The teachers here are incredibly special.  This is a job they do because they want to impact these kids lives – not for the money.

After working with the teachers on Wednesday, I had the chance to let them see in practice what they learned in theory.  On Thursday, Alan, Chase and I spent the day teaching magic tricks to students with exceptionalities – physical and mental challenges that would dampen the spirit of most of us. Yet, somehow, these kids were filled with life and laugher that was only magnified with the mastery of each trick.  This is always one of the most inspiring experiences I can have.  Watching these kids learn magic tricks and then perform them for their peers is awesome.  At the end of the day, they presented me with this giant “thank you card” that they made and signed.

After two amazing days at Alden Road Exceptional School, it was time for the show at the Florida Theatre.  Performing here is like coming home. Erik, Kendall, Katie, Saul (and the IATSE 115 crew), Danny, Lisa, and the entire team at the theatre take such great care of us.  Today was no different.  The show went up quickly, thanks to a great crew.  My guys did a great job as well – allowing me to go to my dressing room and get some work done for most of the afternoon.

Doors opened at 7pm for the 7:30pm show…and we held the show until 7:40pm because of the huge walk-up ticket line!   The audience tonight was fantastic – definitely the best audience we’ve ever had at the Florida Theatre.  There were families, kids, adults, seniors, and tons of 20-somethings all there to experience the magic.  The energy was great – cheers, applause, and enthusiasm for each of the illusions.  The volunteers used in the show were wonderful (including Tracy from FOX30 who ended up in the Spikes of Doom).  After the show, I had the chance to meet hundreds of people in the lobby and hear their favorite moment.  It was the perfect day!

THANK YOU JACKSONVILLE FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT – AND THANK YOU FLORIDA THEATRE FOR A GREAT TIME!!