Autism and Arts Integration Workshop 

A couple weeks ago two of our education programmers, Brett and Roy, attended a sensory inclusion workshop by Kevin Spencer facilitated by the International Children’s Festival of the Arts.  Kevin is a world travelling magician who uses his love of magic to help others around the world.

Kevin taught the group a handful of magic tricks using paper clips, elastic bands and rope. Sadly, no bunnies were pulled out of a hat. The strategies and magic tricks were used to illustrate how people with autism can learn through the arts.

Kevin is a fantastic speaker, and his presentation was quite inspirational, including photographs and video of some of the classes and people that he has worked with over the years, showing their successes at learning magic tricks and teaching those tricks to others.

In his presentation he made some really interesting and important points.  People with special needs CAN do things!  He said that although society often tells them that they are “broken,” they really are not; they just have different ways of doing things and different talents.  Those who work with people with special needs have to coax out those talents and find ways to set them up for success, not an “epic fail,” as he said.

As Kevin described, the reasons why magic works so well with special needs people are twofold.  First, because magic tricks are so odd and unusual, and NO ONE is good at doing them when they start out, magic puts all people on an equal footing.  Second, magic tricks automatically make people think in different ways, causing those learning and teaching magic tricks to rely more on curiosity and creativity than most standard topics of learning require.