Posts Tagged ‘special education’


Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

We spent last week working in Ocala, FL.  The adventure started with a two performances – one in Lecanto and the other in Ocala.  We’ve performed in both venues twice in the past and this time the audiences were even more enthusiastic and excited.  Two great crowds for these shows!  And two great crews as well (thanks Andy).


Here are a few pictures of set up from those two days:

From-the-grid2 From-the-grid From-the-grid3 From-the-grid4

After the performances, I spent two days working in the community.  The first day was at the Hillcrest School working with some very special students.  I love these working with these kids – they are simply amazing!


I did 6 workshops here throughout the day with more than 100 students.  The following day, I went to the Key Training Center locations in Lecanto and Inverness to conduct workshops with adults with disabilities.  I can’t begin to put into words how awesome this experience is for me.  Check out these expressions!!

Laughing-Clips Smiling-and-Amazed Rope-guy Knot-Proud

Today we are driving to Andalusia, AL for two days of community outreach and a public performance!


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.


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.


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.


Friday, June 14th, 2013

I arrived in Tobago last night after a long day of flying. I was up at 4am, at the airport by 4:45am, and on my first flight at 5:30am. With connections in Charlotte, Miami, and Trinidad, I finally arrived in Tobago around 10pm.  Several of us are staying with Alice, I arrived in Tobago last night after a long day of flying.  Several of us are staying with Alice, one of the leaders of DISES.  We arrived at her house close to midnight.  I dropped my luggage in my room and was fast asleep.  This morning, as I stepped out onto my veranda-style balcony, I was able to see the view of the island for the first time.  It was breath-taking!

View from the room

The following morning, after everyone was awake, we made our way down the hill to Cheeno’s for breakfast.  This is a small, quaint restaurant in the village of Castara.  The breakfast menu is extensive – bacon and eggs or bacon, eggs and toast.  The food was excellent and the service was charming.  These small villages have a way of making you feel at home even when you’ve never been there before.  They did make one request of us…don’t feed the chickens.

Chicken Sign

After breakfast, we explored the village.  There is this amazing area close to the beach where a group of woman bake bread they sell on Saturday.  All kinds of bread but I was especially intrigued by the coconut rolls and tarts.  We’ll be heading back on Saturday to buy some for sure!  But check out the oven.

Ladies baking bread

Bread Oven


After a late breakfast, we drove back up the mountain to Alice’s house.  It didn’t see as though the rain was going to stop anytime soon Susan, Kristen and I decided to make the best of it and explore the rainforest behind the house.  The trail leads down the hill to a river and waterfall that dump directly into the bay.  By the time we made it to the river, we were drenched.  Taking the plunge into the waterfall was a no-brainer…and the water was so nice!


The challenge of hiking down the hill is that you also have to hike back up!  What we thought might be really difficult wasn’t actually too bad.  We were soaked from head to toe…and ready for a hot shower!

After Hike Drenched


We chilled out for a bit in the afternoon, took our showers, and then all of us drove make down the mountain for dinner at Marguerite’s.  Rhonda was our hostess and the menu options included stewed fish, stewed chicken, and stewed goat – all service with vegetables, salad, beans and rice.  I went with the stewed goat – and it was amazing.

Goat for dinner


After dinner, we walked over to Marvin’s – one of the local gathering places in the village.  It was a great time to enjoy each other’s company and relax.  After great food and company, we drove back up to the hill and talked well into the morning…bedtime came around 2:45am!


Saturday, April 13th, 2013

After a few days at home, it was time to head out again for our tour in the Midwest.  First stop, South Dakota!  Eli, Chase, and I left Lynchburg and three days later, we arrived in Aberdeen, SD.  There had been plenty of advertising in advance of our show including this article in the ABERDEEN NEWS.



The first day in Aberdeen was spent working in several places:  first at Project Search and then in some of the schools with incredible kids.  We worked in elementary, middle, and the high school with students who could improve their skills through learning some simple tricks.


Actually, the high school workshop was one of the most fun!  In the photo below, I’m doing a little magic for a group of high school guys.  You can see the expression on their faces as five $1 bills turned into $500.


After a few tricks, I spent some time teaching all of them a trick or two.  One of the students, Josh, learned several tricks but he also had great stories.  Once again, the Aberdeen News captured the day in a nice feature story.



The next day started with a radio interview on one of the local arts programs.  This was broadcast live – and I love these kinds of interviews!  They are spontaneous and you just have to go with the flow.

Following the radio interview, Chase and I were on our way to St. Luke’s Avera Health Hospital to do a 3-hour continuing education workshop for physical and occupational therapists.  When we arrived at the Hospital, Dalita (the director of rehabilitation) had everything ready to go.  I walked into the conference room and we kicked into gear.  It’s amazing to me how quickly 3 hours can go when everyone is fully engaged in learning.  Chase and I spent the afternoon working with clients in various rehabilitation departments until about 5pm.


Eli spent the day driving to Sioux Falls to pick up Keith and Cindy at the airport.  Unfortunately, horrible weather was also moving into the region – horrible as in ice and snow storm!  As a result of all the bad weather, all flights were delayed in/out of Chicago.  They finally landed a few hours late and, by that time, ice  was destroying Sioux Falls.  Trees were breaking.  Power lines were snapping.  Roads were in rough shape, covered in ice and snow.  This turned into a BLIZZARD with more than 20 inches of snow falling.  Thankfully, they made it back to Aberdeen safely and we had avoided the storm.


As it turns out, this was not the end of the adventure.  Once they made it back to the hotel, Cindy started to become very sick.  By 3:30am, we were in the emergency room at the very same hospital where I had done a workshop earlier in the day.  She had picked up a virus or (most likely) some sort of food poisoning during the day.  We spent the next several hours at the hospital trying to get her feeling better.



After getting Cindy back to the hotel around 7am, I grabbed a couple hours of sleep before it was time to drive over to the Aberdeen Civic Theatre to start setting up for the evening show.  There’s no way Cindy was going to be able to do a show so we were also going to have to do a little “adapting” to pull it all together!  Chase and Eli did a great job of splitting up her responsibilities during the show.  In the end, it all came together well.

We pulled into the loading area, Stacy and Dawn were there to meet us…along with a crew of guys to help get unloaded.  Let the day begin – again.



I made a couple of trips back to the hotel during the day to check in on Cindy.  I wanted to make sure she was resting comfortably and that she was taking the medications she needed.  Stacy was so understanding in all of this and even put together some chicken broth for me to take back to her.

When I returned to the theatre, it was almost time for the doors to open.  The guys had figured out most of how the show was going to run – who was going to do what – but we still had one issue to resolve.  I had promised many of the people in the Aberdeen community that I would, in fact, be “cutting someone in half” during tonight’s show.  It doesn’t make any difference how many new, cutting-edge illusions you have in a show.  If you don’t cut someone in half, it’s just not a magic show!  With Cindy sick in the hotel, Chase volunteered to step into her place.  And he did a great job with the performance!



After the show, the snow started coming down in Aberdeen.  We had been spared for the last 3 days while much of the state was slammed with snow.  Interstate 90 from Sioux Falls to Rapid City was closed.  And city officials were still trying to pull together things in Sioux City.  As we o up on Thursday morning, it was clear that we were not going to be going anywhere today.  I was supposed to be doing some Hocus Focus work in Sisseton – a small community about 90 miles from Aberdeen.  At 5:40am, the decision was made to close schools…which means I got to stay in for the day and try to catch up on some work.




This morning, we left Aberdeen for Grand Forks, ND…show here on Saturday night at the Chester Fritz Auditorium.  And guess what?  It’s snowing.


Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

I had a great weekend…and a busy Monday!  After being home for a couple of days, we were off to New Jersey for a Sunday matinee performance at SOPAC.  This would be our third or forth time working with Brian, Raf, and Josh…and we always have a great time there!  We had a near capacity house of the show and the audience was fantastic.  It was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Once the show was over, Cindy and I jumped into a rental car to make the drive into New York City.  I was booked on the national television morning show, FOX & FRIENDS on the Fox News Channel.  March is national Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Awareness month.  I was invited to be a guest on the show to talk about the role the arts can play in helping those with disabilities improve many of the skills they find challenging.

I was on the “curvy couch” as they call it with Gretchen Carlson.  She has such a great way of making you feel comfortable and conversational.  She and I first met about 10 years ago and we’ve remained friends since that time.  If you missed the main interview, you can watch it HERE:

After the main show is over, there is an internet-only program called the “AFTER-THE-SHOW” show.  This happens on the set but it streams live on the Fox News website.  I was asked to stick around and be on the show where we talked more about the BAG OF TRICKS documentary that I’m working on.

You can watch that interview HERE:

And I finally have a website pulled together for the film.  Please check it out at


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!


Monday, November 26th, 2012

The fall performance tour has wrapped up but I’m still doing some outreach work with different venues.  Today, Chase and I fly to Flint, MI to work with two of our favorite people –  Christi and Wendi at The Whiting!  Christi has worked very hard over the last many weeks to put together a great residency program for us with the Hocus Focus project.  I’ll be writing and posting throughout the week….so stay tuned?


Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

We arrived in Oxford, OH on Sunday night in advance of some of the work we would be doing in the community in the two days prior to the performance at Miami University’s Hall Auditorium.  Patti and David worked hard to pull together some really exciting opportunities for me.  On Monday morning, David stopped by the hotel to pick me up (along with Chase and Eli) to drive over to the University.  They had scheduled Hocus Focus presentations for two different Introduction to Special Education classes on campus.  This is a great opportunity for me to demonstrate the power of the arts in the education process with future teachers.  The earlier they are exposed to these concepts, the more likely they are to actually use them in the classrooms.  After a powerpoint presentation, we started learning some easy magic tricks.  After mastering each one, students participated in a task analysis of each to see how it could be aligned with national or common core state standards of learning.

They were fast learners – and they were able to see the value in “arts integration” for not only special education students, but all learners in general.

In between classroom presentations, we managed to grab a pretty awesome lunch (thank you David) at one of the local restaurants.  Great food! One more activity helped close out a fantastic first day in Oxford – a visit to The Knolls, a residential community for seniors.  We worked with some of the residents there, teaching them a few tricks but (more importantly) sharing stories, smiles, and some laughs.  What a fantastic first day!!  You can see more pictures on the Miami University Facebook Page –  HERE and HERE.

Today (Tuesday) was another great day.  We started off on the Miami University campus working with two groups of students in the University’s mentoring program – one group in the morning and one in the afternoon.  These are high school students who are working to improve certain skills – and many of those goals can be achieved when you learn a magic trick.  This is my favorite picture of the day.  Austin is an amazing young man that will attempt anything – nothing slows this guy down and he did some incredible tricks today.

Tomorrow is the show at Hall Auditorium at 7:30pm – there are still a few tickets available so come have some fun!  Click HERE to buy tickets!


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!


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!